As I look at his obituary pictures, I can’t help but feel a sense of longing. I wish I could have known him – that other side of him that his family, friends, and colleagues are sharing in their photos. They’re all smiling and laughing, hugging each other, and radiating a genuine sense of happiness.
He was one of our main ICU physicians, a brilliant man who could meticulously turn a critically ill patient around. With him on our team, there was always hope for our patients. But there was another side of him that we, his nurses, knew all too well. He was angry, short-tempered, and would scream at us without hesitation. Even though we were experienced ICU nurses who knew how to provide excellent care, we feared him. He showed us no respect, degraded us, and made us feel like failures. There was nothing we could do to gain his respect.
Every time he walked into our ICU, we wanted to hide because we knew the screaming would begin – the relentless verbal abuse. Management wasn’t there for us, and we were left to deal with it on our own. Eventually, he left us and went into his own private practice. We finally gained some peace and began to rebuild our self-esteem. We were there for the patients, putting tattered multi-system organ failure patients back together again.
A new team of intensivists slowly came to us one by one, and we were restored. We began to create a new ICU unit filled with respect, camaraderie, and shared expertise. I’m sad that despite how brilliant he was, he couldn’t find joy or happiness with us nurses. Somewhere, he had a demon that walked through our doors and terrorized us.
I’m glad he had some happiness elsewhere, though. His pictures show us that other side of him that we never knew. We wanted to respect him, but his anger was too much for us to handle. Whatever he was facing, we may never know. Rest in peace. I wish we could have known him.
Debbie Moore-Black is a nurse who blogs at Do Not Resuscitate.