A Nurse Goes Into the Hair Salon..


Who would have thought that nurses and hairdressers are, under a shocking number of circumstances, plagued by the same frustrations and guided by the same principles? The parallels are actually uncanny. It's one of life's little known truths.

I approach haircuts the way most people approach their annual flu shots - not much fun, but necessary. My hair is long and straight and has been worn in an identical non-style since I was about, oh, four years old. I give the same instructions wherever I go: please cut the barest minimum off the ends. To me, a successful haircut is one that is nearly undetectable.

This was the situation last month when I visited a pleasant, bustling salon in Provincetown, Massachusetts. My hairdresser and I started into the usual "what do you want?" chit-chat. I told him, this friendly, relaxed, trim, middle-aged man wielding a wide-toothed comb, that I am a nurse. "Wow." he said, "That's hard work."

"How about you?" I asked, "do you like what you do?"

I watched his T-shirted chest fill with a slow and steady inhale while he considered his answer, and then he said, "People have no idea how stressful it is." I issued a sympathetic nod. He continued. "I'm here for ten hours a day, trying to make people happy. Manage emotional problems while giving technically good service. I've got to coordinate the staff, the schedules, the complaints, the supplies. There are times that I have to lock myself in the bathroom for some peace."

"I totally get that." I echoed, thinking of the staff bathroom at my own clinic, with its vase of silk flowers and orange-scented air freshener, an island of tranquility in a sea of patient and provider chaos.

"Well, what do you do to relax?" I questioned, ready to launch into my nurse's self-care spiel. "Do you travel? Go out?"

"Honey" he laughed, "I stay put. I don't need any extra hassle. I get up at six every morning, go to the Point Inn to have a coffee and watch the sun rise before work. I try to keep up with new developments in hair and go to workshops to stay current. After spending all day here, the last thing I need is more stimulation." I thought about how, after a full day at work, there are times I can barely manage a coherent conversation.

He picked up a pair of sharp, silver scissors with one hand, and sprayed a coat of conditioning spritz across my head with the other. The tools of his trade, remarkably similar to a nurses', were worn on a tool belt at his waist, the hairdressing equivalent of scrubs with deep front pockets.

Now this soft-spoken man was on a tear. "Most people don't realize that hairdressing isn't a glamorous job. I had this student here once. I asked the kid to wash a woman's hair. He went back to the sinks, but refused to do it. When I asked him what the problem was, he told me that the client's hair was too dirty."

I laughed. The hairdresser did, too. I couldn't help remembering the first time that I, as a student, was instructed to suction a tracheostomy. I'd thought to myself, This is definitely not what I thought nursing would be like.

By the time he was done with my hair, we were like-minded professional colleagues, this hairdresser and me. And I'd learned something I never knew before, that the poor people who live with nurses and hairdressers probably have to endure identical long-winded venting sessions after a day at the office.

Copyright 2007- American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN.ORG)-All Rights Reserved


Articles in this issue:


  • Masthead

    Editor-in Chief:
    Kirsten Nicole

    Editorial Staff:
    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
    Robyn Bowman
    Kimberly McNabb
    Lisa Gordon
    Stephanie Robinson

    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
    Liz Di Bernardo
    Cris Lobato
    Elisa Howard
    Susan Cramer

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