ATLANTA, GA – “I’m going to do it and you’re not going to stop me!” This is what nurse Adele Ryans said with stern conviction to her charge nurse at shift change last night at Georgia Medical Center (GMC). “You haven’t had the day I had. I need to do this. For me. Please.” Charge nurse Annie Macpherson sighed and nodded her head, acquiescing. Ryans pulled up the paging system and typed: 73529. Within seconds, she received a call back.
“Hello, this is Steve, returning a page?”
“Are you… are you the masseuse on call?” asked a desperate yet giddy Ryans.
“Yes, I am, and how can I help you?”
“I need your help on unit 36, my legs and back are killing me, absolutely killing me,” begged Ryans. “You must come at once.”
“I’ll be there in a jiffy.”
Ryans and Macpherson are two of the nurses in the know. Not many people are in the know, but they are. You try not to abuse the system but desperate times do call for desperate measures. Which is why, when you absolutely need one, there’s a masseuse on call at GMC: 73529 spells RELAX. And Ryans needs to relax.
“Yessssss…. right there!” expressed a relieved and now mellow Ryans as Steve Richter, the on-call masseuse and hero, worked on her tense neck, trapezius, and lats. “So… many… admissions. So… many… family members. So… many… drug seekers. Why… are… all.. of my patients… on… contact precautions? So… many… gowns. And those… damn… crappy… disposable… stethoscopes. So… hungry. Just… want… one… graham cracker. I love mmmmmmassages. I wuv mmmmmmassages. Me soooooooo happy…”
Richter and his fellow on-call masseuses have noted that the stressful work conditions at his hospital have morphed pleasant and lovely nurses into a giant tense knots of stress, realizing that “at minimum” each nurse needs a ninety-minute session to massage “all the hospital evil” out of their bodies and get them unwound and feeling close to normal again.
We asked Richter what a typical night on call at GMC is like for him.
“Well, more nurses are taking advantage of what we can offer,” Richter explained while his pager goes off five times in a row. “We’re busier than ever but that’s a good thing. For us and them.” He toggles through his pages, shaking his head in disbelief. “Wow, it must be a full moon tonight: three back massages, one tight iliotibial band, and a foot massage.” His pager goes off one more time; his eyes widen. “Oh man, that foot massage is emergent! I gotta go take care of this; this ICU nurse has been on her feet for twelve straight hours!! That ain’t right! If I don’t get there fast, her feet may very well fall off and we CANNOT have that!”