On the Other Side of the Rails


It’s Dark Outside

Christian "Paige" Owen, MSN, RN, CEN

It’s dark outside as I gather my things.
The pager goes off with the chaos it brings.
My mental awareness lit up like the roads,
anticipating the story and care that follows.
The radio blares with another report.
This one’s not much different from my last time at court.
The blatant abuse and blunt trauma by force
no longer takes me aback, I’ve heard the same things before.
I call the department to confirm the arrival.
My patient is waiting, just a couple more miles.
I turn on the music to drown out the noise
consuming my brain, just focus on poise.
It’s dark outside as I bring in my gear.
The nurse gives report, the advocate’s here.
I walk in the room and give her my name,
remind her she’s safe and the exam, I’ll explain. But first,
Consent is drawn up, her questions all answered.
Tears well up again, remembering the encounter.
I write as she speaks, the photos I gather
of trauma that happened, her face bruised and battered.
Concern for her safety,
detailed stories repeated,
all for the purpose of diagnosis and treatment.
Swabs carefully collected, dried, labeled and packaged.
Paper bags full of clothing and evidence salvaged.
Prophylaxis reviewed and lab tests are ordered,
Law enforcement at bedside, the case now reported.
The advocate provides more resources for healing.
I sign chain of custody forms. Third case this evening.
Report off to the nurse, bid my patient goodbye.
The odds not for certain if I’ll testify.
I give her my hand with hope deep in my soul,
of restoring her safety and sense of control.
I pack up my things and maintain my composure.
The trauma she faced may be physically over,
the emotional damage has yet to sink in.
Another victim of violence, my shift comes to an end.
The pager turned off, but my mind is still reeling.
The downfall of humanity, this sickening feeling.
Why does this keep happening? Why can’t it just stop?
Anger wells up inside, my objectivity lost.
It’s dark outside as I crawl into bed,
the hope of relief and deep sleep soon ahead.
Fear of the nightmares, in cold sweat I’ll awaken,
recalling the stories of innocence taken.
It’s dark outside.

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Guest Contributor

Christian Owen

C. Paige Owen (MSN, RN, CEN) is a doctoral student and instructor of nursing residing in Houston, Texas. Prior to her current teaching position, she served for over a decade as an emergency and forensic nurse. She uses writing as a therapeutic outlet to cope with her own feelings associated with caring for victims of violence. The poem, It’s Dark Outside is a reflection of her experience as a sexual assault nurse examiner and the emotional difficulties felt, specifically grief and frustration towards the frequency of intimate partner violence. She can be contacted by email at [email protected].

How to contribute

We encourage submissions from any reader who has been touched by the healthcare system. Some contributors may be involved directly in patient care and might want to share the impact a patient, family, or colleague had on them. Others may want to write about life “on the other side of the rails” …those moments when the caregiver becomes the patient…or maybe sees healthcare from the vantage point of a family member. Inquiries can be sent to [email protected]

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