Last month the “singing doctor,” Brandon Rogers, was killed in a car crash. Rogers was a wonderful, avid singer as well as a dedicated doctor. He was well known across social media for donning a lab coat and stethoscope while performing videos. He was given the opportunity to perform with Boyz II Men after one of his performances of their song went viral. Rogers also auditioned with the popular show, America’s Got Talent. Unfortunately, Rogers never got the chance to get past that first audition or even see his performance aired on television.
On June 11th, Brandon Rogers passed away after the car he was riding in crashed into a tree. The driver, a fellow medical professional, fell asleep at the wheel on the way home from a long shift. The driver sustained minor injuries, Rogers lost his life.
Whether we realize it or not, this is becoming an epidemic across this country. All too often I see social media posts making light of doctors and nurses falling asleep in unusual, funny places. Some have fallen asleep underneath their desk, others on empty gurneys in hallways. Some are asleep on top of a pile of paperwork, some with their heads leaned against lockers in the breakroom floor. People find it funny. Where will the next one pass out? How funny will their predicament be the next time?
“It’s impossible for your ER physician to treat you properly when his hands are shaking and his vision is blurry because he hasn’t been able to eat in 18 hours.”
It’s not funny. It’s a problem. These people in “silly” positions are often times sleeping in places and positions that a normal person would never consider; dirty floors and cramped chairs and questionable gurneys. But what most people don’t think about as they scroll through that comical article is the fact that these people are sleeping there because their bodies have given out on them. Their brains are shutting down and their legs are giving up. They haven’t slept in 16, 20, 36 hours. They’re sleeping under a desk in the ER because they’re exhausted beyond comprehension. They’re literally no longer able to function.
I’ve been there. I spent five years in that industry. I’ve worked everywhere from nursing homes to hospitals to small town clinics. Believe me, the “sleeping in a funny pose” situation is not cute. I’ve worked upwards of 18 hours shifts with barely even a lunch break; often times sneaking bites of snacks under the desk while filling out charts. I watched a fellow employee pass out cold in the floor on a long shift because she’d worked over 12 hours without anything to eat and very little to drink. Her blood sugar levels were at a startling 42. She could have lost her life.
I’ve been on the inside as those ER doctors hide beneath their desk, trying to sleep for just 15 minutes; the hospital bustling around them, patients becoming irritable and impatient. But he’s going on hour 36, and his eyelids are heavy as lead and he can’t concentrate. I’ve been the one to come home after an 18 hour shift and literally fall asleep on my living room floor, still in my scrubs, covered in God only knows what, because I knew I’d never stand a chance at making it to the shower.
I have worked a 15 hour pull, only to turn around and have to be right back less than 6 hours later the next morning. You walk in the door facing the decision of whether to shower, eat, or sleep. Usually sleep will win out, whether you want it to or not. You go back to work, hungry and exhausted and barely showered, just to do it all over again. It is not so glamorous and giggle-worthy when you’re the one doing it.
As healthcare workers, we’re expected to put our lives on hold. We’re responsible for your health and well-being and often times even your life. We’re the ones that save you. We’re the ones that hold your hand as you’re losing your family member. We’re the ones making sure that you’re safe and as comfortable as possible, whether it be a minor car accident or the end of your life. We’re there. We’re invested.
We’re giving you CPR for four hours. We’re making sure your mother dies as peacefully and comfortably as humanly possible. We’re the ones rushing your seven year old daughter in for an emergency appendectomy, or the ones doing 20 hour long surgery on your father’s brain cancer. We are your life line, so to speak.
So why are we being forced to suffer? Why are we worked to death for laughable wages? Why are we being treated like your slave instead of someone whose only concern is to help you?
The healthcare industry has a problem; one that can potentially be deadly. Not only is the health and safety of the employees at risk, yours is too. There’s no possible way for a surgeon to perform competently when he hasn’t slept in 36 hours. It’s impossible for your ER physician to treat you properly when his hands are shaking and his vision is blurry because he hasn’t been able to eat in 18 hours. It’s not always the doctor or nurse’s fault, but your care and health may be in jeopardy.
We all scream that our healthcare team works for us and they should put our care as their top-most priority no matter how much time it takes. Then we’re angry and suing when something goes wrong as a direct result of their treatment and work environment. I don’t blame them for suing. If a sponge were left in me after surgery I’d be fighting mad too. But when do we take a step back and realize where we should lay the blame? Could you work under the conditions they do? Should anybody have to?
These people are busting their asses for you. Everyone seems to think that a career in healthcare is a get rich quick scheme. The truth is, most of us are coming home to shitty apartments, with student loan bills covering our table. In most small towns, like where I worked, we’re getting paid half of the average wages for the same job, and working double the time because our healthcare system is too cheap to hire any more hands than what’s absolutely necessary. We’re losing time with our families, and our health, both physical and mental, is in shambles more often than not. All so we can take care of you.
Being a nurse or even a doctor isn’t about the money. If it were, there wouldn’t be any. It’s about dedication, and a betterment of the greater good. We hold your hand as your four year old son slips away from leukemia, and we come home and slide our backs down our closed front door, and cry and punch the floor until we can’t fucking breathe. We rejoice with you when you finally receive that cancer free bill of health. We take you home with us every night. Our heads and hearts are full of you, no matter where we are. We miss our children and our family, and we miss Christmas and birthdays, all in an effort to do our best for you. We deserve a decent standard of living. We deserve a fucking break.
Healthcare as a whole needs to be turned upside down and have the hell shaken out of it. Better laws need to be in place to ensure that those who are taking care of you are allowed to take care of themselves. We need to eat. We need to sleep. We need a better solution to this cheapskate, money hungry industry before someone else loses their goddamn life. We need to make sure that Brandon Rogers didn’t die in vain. We need a change.
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Andrea is a freelance writer based out of Kentucky. She is the mother to a 3 year old little girl and step-mother to a 6 year old boy. She’s been married to her husband and best friend for 5 years. She enjoys fishing, camping, hiking and the occasional glass of wine by a bonfire.