Can We Turn Our Nurse Role Off?

Chatting with a friend while driving my beat up Honda in stop and go traffic on the freeway, I saw something alarming. An elderly gentleman was nodding asleep at the wheel in the middle lane! My non-Nurse passenger described me as going in Steven Seagull action mode to save his life and potentially the life of others. As if in CPR class, I pointed at her to call 911, where we were met with a message that we were on hold.

I pulled my car to the shoulder, walked to this man’s car and woke him by knocking on his passenger window. He very politely told me that he was fine and there was no problem here. When I told him I saw him nodding at the wheel, he repeated that he was fine. He did agree to put his hazards on but he was unwilling to pull off the road. I noticed he had a wedding band on and I asked him if he could call his wife. That was met with a dismissing smirk.

I returned to my car just in time for 911 to take our information. The man continued to drive in stop and go rush hour traffic nearly scraping the divider on a slow turn. He came to a complete stop and this time was willing to pull over to the shoulder.

When I walked to his window, I could hear his wife on speaker and was hopeful that this familiar voice would help reason with him. I told his wife that he was sleepy and too impaired to drive. She told me that he had an illness and really shouldn’t be driving. From my short encounter with this stubborn, independent man, I could only imagine how challenging this conversation might be at home for them.

At the end of the day, his boss picked him up and drove him home and they arranged to get the car the next day. Hopefully he was counseled by the police officer or his physician about future driving. As Nurses, we see and respond to emergencies all day at work that it becomes second nature.