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Information for people contemplating
a career in emergency medicine and
other medical specialties

By Kevin Pezzi, MD

1. Do the traits of black nurses differ from white ones?
2. A nurse beats up her boss.

Q: I know a Caucasian physician who prefers to work with white nurses, not black ones. In his opinion, black nurses tend to be stubborn, corny, and rude. I work as a minority affairs officer for a nursing school, and I want to help minority people, so I don't intend to pick on black nurses. I just want to know what your experience has been.

Answer by , MD: Stubborn, corny, and rude? Not in my experience. I am not in the habit of categorizing people by race, so the color of my co-worker's skin is so irrelevant to me that I never think of it until they or someone else mentions it. For example, one of the plastic surgeons that I knew years ago once complained that I called him in the middle of the night about a patient only because he (the plastic surgeon) was black. Wrong. I called him because he was the plastic surgeon on-call, and I had a patient with a mangled hand who needed a plastic surgeon. Until he made that baseless accusation, I gave zero consideration to his skin color. Furthermore, I liked him because we'd gone through residency together. People who share such hellacious experiences tend to form a common bond.

In my experience, the black nurses were, if anything, somewhat more classy and dignified than the white ones. Furthermore, they also seemed more receptive and less defiant; ergo, less stubborn. Yes, I've worked with some Caucasian nurses who were gems, too, but you asked about tendencies, so I must generalize.

The worst nurses I worked with were white, but I worked with far more white than black nurses, so I won't paint with a broad brush and claim that white nurses are second-rate.

One of my friends who is a white nurse with years of experience working with black nurses claims that the latter tend to be feisty and "won't take crap" from anyone. In other words, they aren't submissive. I've met white nurses who were also feisty, but the ones who stick in my mind do so because the battle lines they drew were so nutty that only a pit bull on steroids would bother fighting such wars. For example, as I mentioned elsewhere in this site, I once worked with a 20-year-old white nurse who, after her whopping two years of education and before she'd even passed the RN examination, refused to repeat an EKG she'd done that I told her was performed incorrectly. Instead, this novice wasted 15 minutes of my time on a busy night in the ER repeatedly refusing to redo the EKG, which she deemed to be acceptable. After arguing with that twit for so long, I told her the phrase that Donald Trump has since made famous:

"You're fired."

Nothing like a good ol'
fight in the hospital, eh?

BTW, the model pictured was not
involved in the fight. Obviously.

UPDATE: My friend the nurse mentioned above later read this page and asked me, "Didn't I tell you about the nurse at Grace Hospital?"

"No," I replied. "Which one?"

"The one who beat up her boss."

"What?" I was incredulous.

"Yes. She was in her early 30s, black with a really pretty face, and she always wore a dress and a nurse's cap. That's what really stuck out about her—that cap."

"So what happened?" I eagerly asked.

"She asked her supervisor for vacation time, but her supervisor—a petite white woman also in her 30s—refused her request, so she beat up her boss. Really gave her a good beating in her office."

"What happened to the nurse?"

"They fired her, and the supervisor was off work for a long time. When she came back, she seemed more subdued and cautious."

My friend then speculated that the supervisor may have been required to obtain more management training in people skills, because she thought that her prior abrasiveness may have contributed to the attack.

In any case, while beating up a supervisor who refused a vacation request may seem extreme, there is no shortage of employees with a short fuse. For example, a white male nurse once challenged me to "step outside" to fight in the parking lot. He had an inexplicable compulsion to touch and rearrange instruments on a sterile field while I performed surgery in the ER. The worst part was that he never washed his hands or donned sterile gloves before doing that, and he refused to stop when I told him to do that.

I don't know what prompted him to request the brawl, but he had other bizarre behavior. Judging by his speech and the odor of alcohol on his breath that seemed to spike after his breaks, I was virtually certain that he was boozing it up during those times. Some of his nursing co-workers told me that General Motors fired him for drinking on the job. If you know how cowered they are by the UAW, you know that only the most hardcore drinkers are ever fired for boozing it up while building cars. Thus, I had corroborating evidence that the nurse was continuing his pattern of drinking on the job. I requested that he submit to a blood alcohol level test, but he refused. More surprising than that was the fact that the nursing administrator in charge of the ER didn't reveal the slightest bit of concern about his drinking. What she said instead caused me to wonder if she had a functioning brain in addition to her mouthwateringly gorgeous body. If you're interested, you can read the rest of this story (and many others) in one of my free books, True Emergency Room Stories.

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