The Country Club

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

If mommie dearest only knew.

Here I was sitting in the banquet room. A room full of retired nurses celebrating with upper management. They were praising us for our retirement. Praising us for our blood, sweat and tears, massive overtime hours with little to none potty breaks., praising us for our missed time with our family like Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving to name a few.

It was nice.

Waiters, with their white gloves serving us tea and coffee and a fine meal with adorable desserts on the side. Crystal chandeliers hanging above at each table.
A long termed chaplain to pray over our food.
A Senior Vice President cheering us on.

It was nice.

But maybe I’m what Prince use to sing:
Maybe I’m just like my mother… she’s never satisfied…
Mommie dearest use to call this Country club: “The blue bloods”
Dad moved up the corporate ladder. We had the big house. And the lake house and boat. And the private school.
What we didn’t have was the acknowledgment of alcoholism, as daddy eventually became a non-functioning alcoholic.
Mother would have done anything to be a member of this elite country club…

As this upper echelon group talked to us praising us, they interjected how we could volunteer to help the nurses in the hospital like give out dinner trays to the patients, assist in feeding some of the patients, assist in turning and repositioning patients…. And loads of other “opportunities” to volunteer for the corporation. The list was endless.

It was nice.

As they each gave their speech, my mind drifted off…..
How I was so tainted by several hospital systems. How I dedicated 46 years of my life to nursing. Emergency Department Nursing, Surgical/PACU Nursing, Surgical Trauma ICU, ICU, CCU, Behavioral Health Nursing…

Nurses week would come and go every year. And we were honored by a cookie, shoestrings, a rock, half eaten pizza, lifesavers….

I reflected back on all of my trauma and triumphs during this career.

Management attempting to write me up for calling out sick while my husband was dying,
because I had to call out sick frequently before leave of absence was initiated for me.

Mandatory overtime.

During Covid there was nurse desperation, while travel nurses were paid over $100/hour, we were offered an extra $5/hour… maybe.
My list is long.

There was sadness in my heart.
Sadness for the little old lady in ICU who lived on borrowed time but wanted to teach me how to knit. And so she did.

Holding the hand of a near catatonic mother as she starred at her dead daughter in ICU who had just plumaged 5 stories to her death.

The mother that called me relentlessly of her son paralyzed from the neck down. Drugs and no seat belt.

The little 6 year old girl brought into the ER. Long blonde hair with eyes black as coal. Catatonic after being molested by her momma’s boyfriend. While momma was out playing bingo. My heart shred as I still tremble inside.

Or the time a daddy that had a near fatal heart attack, but survived from a CABG and ECMO and cardiac rehabilitation. Survived in time to walk his pride and joy, his daughter, down the aisle on her wedding day.
My list is long.

I have survived any tragedy that comes with nursing.
The good nurses. The bad nurses. The bullies. The good management and the bad management.
I am a survivor. I am resilient.
But I am human.

Thank you for this fine meal.
The memories will always be engraved in my head.

I was escorted out to my car by an attendant.
A beautiful bouquet of flowers in my hand.
A lifetime of memories.
And yes…. I will “volunteer” for your corporation…. For $50/hour not including differential.

Mommie dearest would have been jealous that my final destination in nursing was…
The Country Club!!!!
It was nice.

When the glass slipper doesn’t fit.

By: Debbie Moore-Black, RN

I was raised in the 1950’s-1960’s. Our traditional family was the mom that stayed at home, cooked, kept the house clean, and dad who worked his way up the Corporate ladder.
He was a weekend dad.
And she was a trapped and miserable mother and wife.

I remember the storybook fairytales like Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and later the Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the beast.
Eventually the woman in distress finds her male hero to save her day. To ride off with him on that white horse.
And I believed the fairy tales.

Towards the mid 1960’s-1970’s I was well aware of the women across the country screaming “women’s liberation.”
And I payed attention to this new unrest in our country.

I was raised to believe that men are stronger. The stronger sex. They would care for us females, the “weaker sex.”
But the reality was woman wanted freedom. They wanted out of the house. They were tired of that trapped feeling. Women wanted to be college educated, have good jobs and with good equal pay.
What women’s liberation missed was the need for good dependable childcare. If the mom and dad were both equally employed outside of the house, who was going to care for their children? And I mean good and affordable childcare.
Somehow we missed the mark on this. And our life became near impossible.

Now, not only did we have the good jobs, we still had to clean the house, cook the meals, care for our kids because our husbands or male significant others didn’t seem to have those “nurturing skills.” So we had to do it all!!

I bought the myth. The fairytale.

I grew up with constant negativity. Mother was negligent and dad became a non-functioning alcoholic.
I was aware by the age of five that I was fat and stupid and ugly. A frequent message from my parents.

And not having an ounce of self esteem, I met what I thought was my Prince Charming. And he threw breadcrumbs of love towards me. And I grabbed onto those crumbs tightly. Because I was starving for love and affection.

Eventually we married. I was in love. I was quite naive. And the marriage became a farce. Many infidelities from my husband.
The degradation of knowing that and not being able to fix that.
He was a great father to our three children.
But the sadness was knowing that he really didn’t love me.
The sadness was knowing we were stuck in this dilapidated 2 bedroom trailer on 5 isolated acres.
I felt trapped. He had no desire to move out, to have a better life for us and our children, to get a better job or a second job, to stop being unfaithful.
Instead, it was up to me. With therapy, I expressed my sadness and my fears. I got a second job and now I worked at two different hospitals, working 60 hours per week, and I carved our family out of poverty and depression and isolation.
And I finally had a deposit for a house.

After 30 plus years of marriage, my unfaithful husband died of liver, pancreatic, lungs and lymph node cancer.

As I reflect, as a woman, maybe we are the stronger sex.
I see many men as weak and unreliable.
And though I would love to have a trustworthy and loving relationship with a man, I can’t see their soul, so I stay away.
I’m certain there are good men out there.

I see the good men in my son and son-in-laws and I’m thankful for the love they give to my daughters and the love my son gives to his wife.

But I can’t go through the trauma again
of allowing someone to step on my heart.

And I realize, for me
The glass slipper doesn’t fit.
It never did.

Behavioral Health: Game over.

By: Debbie Moore-Black, RN

He was a tall healthy psychiatric technician. Experienced in this line of work. He was a CNA but he wanted more. He wanted to help heal the troubled. The forgotten. The neglected.
And behavioral health was his niche.

Every day he would lead the way with therapy sessions in this group. This was Intensive management. The intermittent home for the paranoid schizophrenics. Bipolar. MDD. They came in all shapes and sizes. Wealthy. Homeless, from prison. Neglected and abused from an earlier life. Parents with mental health issues passed on to them. Verbally and physically abused. Neglected of love and comfort and basic needs of living, of shelter, of a stable mom and dad.
Beaten physically and with constant verbal abuse.
And nowhere to turn.
No skills to fall back on. Distraught, lonely and vacant were their lives.
Jonathan was the best psychiatric technician. We could always trust him. We always felt safe when Jonathan was working.
He loved his patients. He always went the extra mile.
Until that fateful day.

Corey was a loner. Never graduated from high school. He was a drifter and easily went in and out of prisons.
He was born with cute chubby cheeks and dimples but birthed into poverty, neglect and violence. His 13 year old mother and his grandmother cared for him. But he only remembered physical and verbal abuse. He didn’t know his dad. In prison for murdering a friend from a drug deal gone wrong.
He remembers mom opening up dog food to feed him. The rats. He remembers well. And the best thing he could do was escape the filth, the decay and the lack of love from his hardened mother.
Schizophrenia was a common thread in this bloodline. With no medication compliance, no follow ups with free therapy sessions….

Corey had several felonies. Sexual assault. Robbing a bank, brutally mangling a stranger.

He was stuck in jail but he knew the rules to get a free pass out. Even if it was temporary!
In the jail cell he knew the tricks: like
put a sheet around his neck and threaten Suicide. Smear your feces on the wall. Stop eating or drinking…..
And he would be admitted.

We called our unit “Hotel Hilton”. Because it was luxury compared to the jail cells.
Three hot meals, refreshments, therapy sessions, basketball games in the gym, medications to calm you down, quiet your anxiety and anger and medication to let your restless soul sleep.

They came in frequently to our unit. Some wanted to be called the Virgin Mary. Or Jesus. Or cousins to Beyoncé or P. Diddy.
Some saw the FBI gazing at them through the cameras in the ceiling. Or the computer chip that miraculously planted into their brain by aliens.
We had them all.

Corey was hungry and at lunch he asked for “double portions”
Jonathan, the tech said he could only get him double portions from an MD order.
That could take time to get a physician approval.
Corey was angry and agitated. He wanted more food now.
Corey put Jonathan, into a headlock. And attempted to strangle Jonathan. Jonathan went limp and fainted.
Our male tech was dazed and confused, wheeled down stat to the Emergency Department . A CT scan was done to his brain.
Jonathan took a workman’s comp leave.
But he never seemed to be the same again.

I had been assaulted twice in this unit. A fist right to my jaw knocking me down to the floor. A beating to my head.
Several other nurses have been assaulted also.

I sent a email to our managers and CEO. Stating we had to be pro-active in this unit for safety. How we needed PSO’s (Public Safety Officers) in our unit 24/7. How they needed to make rounds every hour. How we needed some type of alarm device in our pockets should we be attacked.
And nothing has happened.
I received a verbal “reprimand” for adding the CEO to my email. I was told “He is not a part of our chain of command”
And nothing was done to ensure our safety.

Besides receiving my own therapy for PTSD for being physically attacked twice by these patients, my biggest fear was not being able to retire without some great injury coming my way.
A simple “snap” To my neck and then I’d know it was
“Game over”
I made it out alive but swore to myself “Never again”

Hospitals have those cute catchy names and phrases like “Excellence in care”, “dedication beyond measure”, “Enhancing Life”, “Incredible medicine, Incredible people”….. and the list goes on across our country.
Some of these catchy phrases are merely smoke screens…. Because the healthcare workers that are in the trenches…..
We know the truth.