Ask the (Student) Nurse!

What does gangrene smell like? Is it safe to drink with Wellbutrin? What is pica?*
Welcome to Persephone Magazine’s new medical advice column!

Blue stethoscope I’m Julie, and I’ll be answering all your questions about illnesses, medications, and all manner of health issues. I’ve been a medical writer and editor for over a decade, and I recently decided to switch from writing about medicine to practicing it, so now I’m becoming a registered nurse. I’m here to help with all your health problems; although this column will be woman-focused, I want it to have an inclusive perspective: we’ll be talking about health and medical issues for everyone, including men, people of color, gay and transgender folks, and people of all ages.

So ask away! Are you worried about whether the side effects from your new birth control are normal? Are you transitioning from female to male, but you’re not sure whether breast binding can be dangerous? Want to know how hard it is to become a nurse?** I’m here to help! And if you don’t have a question, but there’s a medical issue you want me to address, that’s fine too. Please note, nothing on the Internet can substitute for seeing a real, live medical professional, so if I suggest that you would be better off talking to a doctor, please listen to me! You can contact me at

*Moldy Gouda or old Brie; a few drinks are fine, unless you are prone to seizures, which Wellbutrin can make more likely; and eating weird stuff, like chalk or dirt, respectively. Changing gangrenous dressings has ensured that I can never enjoy fancy cheese again.

**One of my many textbooks is 2,500 pages long. I am not kidding. When I started school, I stacked up all my first-semester textbooks and put them on a scale. They weighed 28 pounds–more than my 3-year-old daughter. You think your doctor knows a lot? Fuggedaboutit. Nurses know everything.

Image credits: Hypodermic needle: by Zeathiel on Stethoscope on

By Queenjulie

I’m becoming a nurse because I really like sticking needles in people. I also like gangrene, benign cysts, crepitus, and weird lung sounds. I watch videos of IV insertions on YouTube for fun, and I make my kids let me practice using my stethoscope on them. I no longer hold my husband's hand while we're watching tv; now I hold his wrist so I can keep an eye on his pulse rate. He's remarkably tolerant.

6 replies on “Ask the (Student) Nurse!”

LOL! I was going to post some pictures of gangrene, but I thought that might freak people out. I love gangrene! It’s so barbaric, and yet surprisingly common. People who have diabetes and don’t take care of themselves, especially their feet, get gangrene when they get a little cut on their foot and can’t feel it because diabetes causes nerve damage and poor circulation. It’s crazy looking–it’s black with specks in it, and you’d think a human being couldn’t survive with black, crunchy body parts, but they do!

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