Can you see this patient today?
His appointment is tomorrow,
he came all the way from Nebraska.
Can you work extra tomorrow,
we are short, just four hours extra?
Would you be able to work Christmas this year?
I know, I’m sorry, you’ve worked most of them
but Sally’s mother is dying.
Can you work extra weekends?
When she quit, that put us in such a bind.
We need you in now, a mass casualty alarm.
I need you to be on this new committee.
You’ll have to work harder today,
Ben’s child is sick, no one can come in.
You’ll have to go home today, the census is low.
No, you don’t get paid you’ll have to use vacation time.
Can you come in, there is a disaster alert?
Can you move any of your patients?
I know it’s 7 pm, but the ICU is full;
we have a code blue coming in.
We have a new consult; I know it’s time for you to leave
but this patient is sick and needs to be seen.
There is a new computer update
we have to chart even more data.
No, I’m sorry you can’t have your child’s birthday off
we really don’t have the extra help.
You will need to prove you are competent,
here are twenty tests to take each year.
No, we can’t hire more relief, they cost too much to train.
No, you can’t get a raise, yes I know
the cost of living here has skyrocketed.
Our study shows we pay what local hospitals pay.
The cost of your health insurance is going up again.
Yes, I know I wish it included natural medicine too.
We want you to take a survey to tell us
how happy you are working for this organization.
The patient you just saw has no insurance.
The patient you just saw cannot have that test,
his insurance company is denying it, can you call them?
The patient you just saw is complaining about you.
The patient you just saw wants to change providers.
The patient you just saw fainted in the waiting room.
The patient you just saw asked for your phone number.
Can you be on call tonight?
Oh, you were on call the last four nights in a row?
You’ve gone without sleep for 48 hours?
How can that be, you only have 15 people on your list?
Can you take this extra shift?
Your last patient just called they are on their way,
their child was sick and they had to find a babysitter.
The patient in room 301 has taken a turn for the worse.
The patient in 222 wants to leave, now!
There was a large crash on the highway can you stay?
You missed one of the medications on discharge,
Medicare isn’t going to pay for their stay.
You forgot to add this to your patient’s record.
You forgot to chart his allergies
You really need to lengthen your history and physicals,
we can bill higher if you chart more.
Can you see this patient during your lunch hour?
She called complaining of incisional drainage.
Can you call this patient back today?
She sounded like she was in a lot of pain.
You’re going on vacation again?
You say you really want to retire?
What would you do in retirement?
You spent so much time and money on your career
You have so much respect in the community
Everyone loves you, you’re the best!
You say you would never have entered healthcare
if you had to do it all over again?
What can I do to help?
It’s too late?
Are you sick?
Are you ok?
I Should Have Said No
Can you see this patient today?
Lynn Kincanon has been a nurse for thirty-six years. The first fifteen were spent in intensive-care units and emergency rooms across the US. For the past twenty-one years, she has been a nurse practitioner in cardiology and cardiovascular surgery at The University of Colorado Health, in Loveland, CO. “I do a lot of performance poetry, as well as creating poetry shows that include music and storytelling. I have published two chapbooks, one produced with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. I am currently writing a book of poetry about my work experiences that includes observations about life and death experiences, both in the human form and in the natural world.”
About the Poem
“This poem is a culmination of everything, written at the end of my career. While I have loved my work as a nurse practitioner, looking back I realize that a great deal of my life was consumed by a work ethic that I’ve come to see was bringing me close to burnout. This poem was inspired by a New York Times article about doctors and nurses being taken advantage of by the healthcare system.”