bad date

The Bigger Purse

I don’t know what I would have done right after high school if I hadn’t gone to college.  I was too hot-headed to go into the military back then and would have laid out the drill instructor breaking me down to build me back up (or died trying).  But I wasn’t ready to be in college right away.  I had a less-than-desirable childhood and little of it prepared me for being on my own.  Don’t misunderstand, I was ready to have a different identity, rather than the moniker placed upon me by my Argyle peers “Doug-Hanson-the-welfare-man’s-son.”  Crippled from years of emotional and mental abuse by parents and my peers, I was woefully shy as a young man first out on his own.  Looking back, I was actually handsome and very well built due to years of body-building.

muscle Erik002

I attended UW-Platteville for my first year of college as a criminal justice major, my eye on becoming an FBI agent.  Before long I realized that career was incompatible with a stable family life, the only thing I wanted as much as being a college graduate.  I grew restless in Wisconsin and packed my Renault Alliance with all my earthly possessions and Dad, and made the trek to Arizona.  A few years later I was the Manzanita Hall Council President at Arizona State, an older student among the teens and early twenty-somethings.  Heads full of ham surrounded me.  One older gal stood out, not just because she was more mature, like me, but because of her blue eyes and long, wavy dark hair.  In the elevator one day, I finally summoned the courage to ask her out on a date.  “Hi, I’m Erik.  How would you like to go for some Thai food and see Isaac Stern at the Gammage Auditorium?”  To my delight, she smiled and said yes, then scrawled her phone number on a torn off piece of paper.

blue eyed brunette

On a Wednesday night, I picked her up in my brother’s program car from work, a Pontiac Grand Prix.  I took Buffy to the Pink Pepper, a more classy Thai restaurant with white tablecloths and fine crystal.  The food was to die for–very exotic and yummy!  I was stoked.  I had a very attractive woman on my arm and a world renowned violinist to top the evening off.  I held the door for my date as we entered the Pink Pepper and the hostess soon led us to our table.  As Buffy looked around the establishment, I could tell that she had not been there before.  She seemed pleased, but slightly uncomfortable.  The moment the hostess walked away, Buffy said “Just look at that crystal!  I wish I had brought my bigger purse!”  I waited for her to laugh, or make any indication that this was just a really bad joke.  Nope, no such luck.  My heart sank.  I thought “oh, a classy dame!”

classy dame

I don’t have a poker face.  It must have shown how truly disappointed I was in her and that comment.  I don’t remember anything she said after that.  When dinner came, I gobbled it up like a cowboy at the evening campfire.  Manners be damned–there was no one to impress here.  My quietness must have been disconcerting to her because half-way back to the Gammage Auditorium, Buffy or Tiffany or Bunny or whatever-her-name was, suddenly remembered that she had to study for her history mid-term that was tomorrow…on a Thursday!  What BS!  I happily drove her white trash buns back to the loop drive in front of Manzanita Hall, made a point of remaining silent as she got out, and then peeled away.

I was 23, handsome, had a nice ride, and had two tickets to a show that would be like no other.  I called up a few different friends, but all had something going on and could not join me for the show.  So I went to see Isaac Stern, front and center, all by myself–except for the few thousand other strangers who filled the seats at Gammage.  What a show it was!

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health care

So, you’re a male nurse?


ER

I work in a busy emergency room in a mid-sized city in the Midwest. We see approximately 50,000 patients per year between our ER and our free-standing ER in an adjacent community, our lil’ sister ER. From a numbers-crunching standpoint, ERs don’t really make money–they are the “loss-leaders” for the organization. In short, if we call ourselves a hospital, we have to have an ER. This is how and why I became a nurse: I had been a criminal justice major at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville my first year of college, headed down the path to becoming a G man.

FBI agent

Looking back, UW-Platteville was a fine place to earn my first degree, but wanderlust set in. By chance, I met my cousin Rosann in my home town in December, 1986 at her mother’s funeral. She invited me to come visit her in Tempe, Arizona where she lived and practiced law. We were having dinner one day in Mesa, AZ at TGIFriday’s and she asked me what I would be majoring in at ASU. I replied that ASU’s criminal justice program was not well-developed so I thought I would major in business, for lack of a better plan. Rosann knew I wanted to go to grad school some day so she suggested I look into the nursing program. I wrinkled my nose, confused, since I was a male…after all. Rosann, a master reader of non-verbal cues, said “oh, those are old stereotypes! Besides, how else do you plan to pay for graduate school?” I can be won over with logic, so I checked into nursing program at ASU and set a new course.

Man enough

I floundered at first, even had one wretched bitty tell me that I was not fit for nursing (who squelches the dreams of the young and boundless)? I petitioned the Standards Committee to take an additional independent study in adult critical care and pediatric critical care and chose the neonatal ICU for my leadership and management rotation. I went right into the pediatric ICU in Phoenix upon graduating in 1994. Since then I have cared for a hemicorpectomy patient (cut in half), post-op Norwood procedure babies born with non-functioning left ventricles, meth lab ‘victims’ with 90% burns, and gunshot victims.

sick picu babe

How many hands have I held while another soul breathed his final breath and no one else was there to comfort him?

soul leaving body

I have spent the majority of my time in the intensive care setting while dabbling in leadership roles along the way. I have held the title of Nursing Administrative Coordinator, Charge Nurse, Preceptor, Unit Coordinator, and Assistant Nurse Manager.
Most people don’t make much of an issue of me being a nurse and a male. The Neanderthals who do cause the soundtrack from “Deliverance” to play in my mind…with a banjo accompaniment.

john voigt deliverance

When elderly ladies coo over me being a “male nurse” it causes a moment of wonderment while I ponder what part of me exactly looks feminine (I resemble a balding, blonde, grizzled polar bear with a nice smile). To me, the ‘male’ is obvious.
Nursing is not the underpaid profession it once was, unless you practice in Guam or Iowa…or in a clinic setting. In Madison, WI, new grads start at around $32 per hour. Some handily make a six figure salary as a nurse, working full time. I happen to be the type of person who does not need accolades from on high–my reward is the work itself. My work earns me a first-hand look at my fellow man at his best, at his worst, and all shades of gray in between.

male nurse

I get a front-row seat to witness the human condition. To me, at this point in my career, it does not matter that I happen to be male–choosing a career in nursing remains the single best decision I have ever made.

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