Putting some teeth into nursing

Putting some teeth into nursing

Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN, serves as editor-in-chief, Nursing 2012.

Ever noticed that nurses can find themselves in some pretty strange situations? On a recent flight home, I was minding my own business enjoying an excellent novel. My seatmate was engrossed in his newspaper. Lo and behold, from out of the blue came a set of flying dentures. They materialized from the seat in front of me and landed right in my lap. I flinched in surprise—causing them to roll off my lap and disappear.

Then an elderly man popped up from the seat in front of mine and declared, “I’ve lost my teeth!” He must have been in the middle of a cough or sneeze when his hand came up to cover his mouth. As his teeth flew out, he inadvertently volleyed them backward. Horrified, my seatmate sprang into action, handing me napkins left over from his lunch. But my full attention was on locating the dentures now somewhere on the floor. Astonished that I’d even try to retrieve them, he offered several more napkins with the admonition, “Here, use these if you’re actually going to pick them up.” I smiled politely and took the napkins. But despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find the missing teeth. I apologized to the toothless man and promised to help him when the plane landed.

I intended to make my way to the restroom to clean up, but turbulence hit and the seatbelt light illuminated. As I settled back, I pulled hand sanitizer out of my bag and noticed my seatmate staring at me. He finally said, “I’ve never seen anything like that happen before.” I replied, “No, that was a new one.” He remarked that I didn’t seem to be fazed. Without thought, I answered easily, “I’m a nurse.”

“Ah,” he said, “that explains it. You’re aghast but not screaming aghast.”

Suddenly, my formerly silent seatmate was full of questions about why anyone would want to be a nurse. And of course he asked that familiar question, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?” (Funny how the human psyche tends to fixate on the dark side.) I told him that I’d been in trauma and emergency nursing for 27 years; he could probably use his imagination. Then I shared that being a nurse has allowed me to touch the lives of people in true need. That’s a gift.

With a look that combined incredulousness and envy, he said, “So you really enjoy what you do? Even if it involves flying dentures…?” Picking up my novel, I smiled and confirmed, “Wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Until next time—

Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN
Vice-President, Emergency, Trauma, and Aeromedical Services
Christiana Care Health System