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Most NYC dwellers, including myself, do not have a car. We rely almost exclusively on public transportation. In the course of my career, I have commuted on regional trains, subways, buses, bike-sharing programs, and of course, my own two feet. Navigating public transportation in the crowds and the temperamental weather patterns of New York is a triumph and a skill. 

Over the years, I have learned the written and unwritten rules of New York City travel. It goes something like this: leave early, be ready to give up your seat to someone who needs it more, ride your bike as if no one else is paying attention, ride on the left of the escalator to climb and the right to stand still, wear those snow boots twice a year (but on those two days you desperately need them), expect delays, take your backpack off on the train, never use a speakerphone in public, let others off the subway before getting on, and so on. Thankfully, today I live so close to my job in Hell’s Kitchen, my commute is nearly nonexistent.

The Work

I have noticed subtle differences in the patients we see, the procedures we do, and the teams we work with in NYC, compared to when I worked in the suburbs. It is only in the city that I have experienced proximity to fame, both in the patients and physicians. One of my first jobs as a nurse was at a well-known dermatology practice where we did Mohs procedures, as well as cosmetic dermatology. The practice saw many celebrities.  

This challenged me to put certain nursing principles to work: taking an egalitarian approach to our patients, and being especially mindful to protect their privacy. I have since had many similar experiences with patients in the OR. Working with renowned surgeons, I have to remind myself that I am there for patient care, not surgeon care. My work is to care and advocate for the patient, not to placate the surgeon — although of course, I do prefer when everyone’s happy.

Clinically, in the city, we see different traumas than in the suburbs. For example, we seldom see major traumas from automobile accidents because the city congestion precludes high speeds. Also, many patients come from elsewhere because they know the names of hospitals and physicians in New York, and have experienced failed treatment elsewhere. For this reason, we see many patients with highly complex cases.

A Day in the Life

I work a 7-3 shift Monday through Friday. Because I live so close to work, I wake up at 5:55 am. That gives me enough time to have coffee, do a brief meditation, take a shower, get dressed, and get to work early enough to change into my OR scrubs. Occasionally I’ll wake up earlier and do stretching and a workout. From there, the day is like any OR: fun, fast-paced, and unpredictable. I work as a head nurse of certain specialties, which allows me the autonomy to take breaks when the workload allows, rather than relying on relief staff. Sometimes that means I’m able to go home and relax or run an errand, and sometimes it means I take smaller breaks throughout the day of five or ten minutes to have a bite or clear my head. Although my shift ends at 3 pm, I leave after most of the day staff because I need to prep for the following day, or to assist with nursing needs as they come up. 

Most days I’m home by 3:45 pm. I often take a nap, food prep for the next day, then head to a dance class or meet up with a friend. I have a late dinner with my fiancé and work on one of my art projects: another way I keep my head clear and soul happy. Recently I’ve learned to sew and have started making clothing for myself and others. I’m lucky because, in NYC, I can decide I want to learn a new skill and then quickly find a resource. There is no lack of teachers and services in NYC.

The last thing I do before bed is catch up on homework. I’m in school for my MSN in informatics and my MBA. Schoolwork calms me and I get into bed with a leisure book between 10 and 11 pm. Other days I forego all these activities and allow myself to enjoy the home that I work to have. Sometimes I need to relax after being on my feet all day, rather than pound the pavement, and I give myself that time off. I’m kind to myself so I can be kind to my patients and my coworkers.

Latest posts by Nancy Swezey, BSN, RN, CNOR (see all)
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