Healthy nursing

I’m fat. I don’t say this to elicit responses of “aw don’t say that!” or “you’re thick, not fat!”. No. I say this because it is what it is. I am about 50 pounds overweight. Forget the BMI. I will always be borderline obese unless I get down to a weight that I am not comfortable with. I have hit a weight in which it has become uncomfortable. I have hit a weight that affects my work. I can’t walk up a flight of stairs. My knees hurt. My scrubs are all tight in the thighs and they are all a large at least. Don’t get me started on trying to do CPR. Two minutes of chest compressions and I am about to die. I’m telling the patient to participate in physical therapy while looking like I need it too. I’m 34. That’s not ok.

I know when all of this started. My back got really bad last year stemming from an old work-related injury. Being the hard-headed nurse that I am, I ignored it until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. My coworkers, who have been awesome at helping me not stress my back anymore, convinced me to go see an orthopedic doc. I finally did in October of 2017. Several appointments and a bilateral L4,5 and S1 denervation later, I finally feel like myself again. The back pain has decreased dramatically. So now I have no excuse. I used to go to the gym regularly to destress. I am going back. I still have my gym membership and dammit it’s time I use it!

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I want to be the nurse that can grab the code cart and not need a breathing treatment by the time I get it to the room. Not cute…

I am giving myself six months to drop these 50 pounds. I’m realistic. I know if I try to give myself too short of a timeline I will get discouraged. I want to be a healthy nurse again. My patients deserve me at my best.

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Charge

I’m a charge nurse on my unit. I actually wasn’t comfortable taking on that role but my coworkers thought I would do well so I said ok.

Some days I regret that decision.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy having new responsibilities. I like seeing nursing from a different perspective. I rather enjoy the decision making that is left in my hands.

I do not enjoy the stupidity that I encounter. For instance, our OR and ER are fully aware that because of the way EPIC is set up, we need an admission order placed by the physician so that bed center can place the patient on our bed board. If the patient is not on our bed board then we cannot pull them onto our unit list and thus we cannot get into their chart once they arrive to our unit. If we can’t get into their chart then we can’t see their orders. If we can’t see their orders then we can’t carry them out. They know this. It never fails, however, the doc will call us to tell us they need a bed but not put in the order. Once they arrive to the unit, they want to look at us crazy because we can’t start carrying out their orders and draw admission labs. It is now to the point that if the admission order isn’t in then we just don’t take report. Why? Why do we have to go through this!

I also do not enjoy the micromanaging. There is a list that charge nurses have to carry out each night. I have to check and see if everyone’s admission database is done, whether each patient has an up to date blood band, whether each patient has ICU and blood consent, whether each patient with restraints has an up to date restraint order, and whether or not each patient has a daily weight. Because heaven forbid we hold nurses accountable for their patients! I understand some of the list. I know when I have patients I rarely check the admission database. There are typically too many other things taking place for me to worry about that at 0034 in the morning. Consents though? As the nurse, I should be checking those. I feel like it’s micromanaging. More importantly, how are nurses going to form the habit of checking for consents and active blood bands if I am always doing it for them? It is my least favorite thing to do and everyone knows it.

Overall, I am still glad that I decided to become a charge nurse. I have a greater understanding of why assignments are the way they are sometimes. I understand how difficult it is to decide who is getting the next admission. I understand the frustration involved with moving patients out just to make room to get patients in. I realize now that the reason I am just learning of the admit I am getting, because ER is on the phone to give me report, is because the charge nurse is just learning of the admission as well. Things that I used to take as a personal strike against me no longer bother me. I realize the charge nurse doesn’t have the time to spiteful. It’s too damn busy for all of that. Being in charge has given me a whole new perspective.

Nursing and mental health

Nursing and mental health go hand and hand. Nursing is hard. Nursing is hard not just physically but emotionally. We hold everything in because we are the ones that are supposed to help. We heal. We often forget that we can sometimes be the ones that need healing.

I was diagnosed with depression years ago, years before I became a nurse. I was placed on meds that I no longer take, I’ll explain why later on. Nursing school didn’t help, it just kept me so busy that I couldn’t take a moment to acknowledge the depression. Nursing, especially in a hospital that I hated, added anxiety attacks to the picture. I would wake up at night in a panic without being able to pinpoint why. That made me feel worse. I felt like an idiot for panicking over nothing, which made me hate myself even more. It was a downward spiral.

Before nursing school, when I first voiced suicidal ideation, my parents sent me to therapy. That is when I first received the diagnosis of depression (my mother died when I was 16, I watched her take her last breaths, I shut down big time). I was placed on trazodone and Zoloft. I hated it. I went from feeling depressed to feeling nothing at all. So I stopped taking both of them (don’t be like me) and instead stuck to therapy. It worked for me. She helped me come up with other ways to manage my mental illness. It worked for quite a while. Then enter nursing school and full-time nursing. I ended up back in therapy but due to my schedule I just couldn’t keep up with it. Hey, I’m a nurse, I can figure this out on my own. I’m tough. I’m a fixer. I’m a healer. I help everyone else so why can’t I help myself?

I am my own worst enemy.

I wear a smile for my patients and my coworkers. I am happy Fred the nurse. I’ve got a smile and a joke. My patients love me. My coworkers love me. Everyone believes I am ok. I look like I’m ok. I also spend most of my off days sleeping, I’m talking 12-13 hours. I don’t want to leave the house unless it’s to get food. I isolate myself from my friends, my brother is my roommate and he may not see me the whole day. I have dark thoughts that I know I should not be having. I wake up with my heart pounding feeling like some unknown thing is wrong and if I don’t fix it the world will implode. I am Fred the nurse and I have depression. I am Fred the nurse and I am not strong enough to battle this alone. I am Fred the nurse and I am strong enough to know that I need therapy again. I am Fred the nurse and I will get out of my own way. I am Fred the nurse and I will be ok.

 

So many diseases!

I had no idea there were so many diseases until I became a STICU/transplant nurse. Our unit takes care of surgical and trauma patients of all different types (except cardiac, we have dedicated units for that). While trauma is not easy, it can sometimes be a little more straightforward. Most of the time, if it’s bleeding make it stop. If it’s broken, fix it. Every trauma case is different of course but the path you take is typically easier to identify.

Surgical cases are a whole different story. I have come across so many different diagnoses that I have never even heard of. My first time hearing about Budd-Chiari syndrome was with a liver transplant patient we just treated. I have had to spend so much time looking up things on the internet trying to figure out why my patient has 70cm of small bowel left. I have learned about spinal disorders, blood disorders, neurologic disorders. I spend a lot of time asking our specialties to explain this diagnosis or that surgical procedure.

I love it!

Granted, I can’t tell you half of what the hell was explained to me. I can’t remember a majority of the diseases I have looked up. I have “nurse brain”. I know it for as long as I need to know it and then I purge it with alcohol to make way for the next round of sh*t I need to know. No shame. I plan on doing what I see some of our med students and residents do. I am going to get me a small notebook that I can leave in my locker at work and document the diseases that I come across. I haven’t decided if I am going to just list the name of the diseases or try and include a description with each so I can look back through the notebook and learn. It’ll probably be the latter.

Hopefully, I can start sharing some of these diagnoses and diseases with you all.

Gory Glory

I’ll admit it, I like the gory stuff that nursing involves. We recently had a crush injury admitted to our unit and when they took down the bandage I was all up in there! I wasn’t the only one. My coworkers were all up in it too.

The gory things never really bothered me. I have always been great at doing wound care. The bad wounds were the ones I really got into. I think that is why I really wanted to get into a trauma ICU at a true trauma center. I wanted to play in that fun stuff. Blood is just a part of the job. If there is blood coming out of the body I just need to replace. I can do that. Foot falling off? No problem. Blood spurting everywhere? Let me apply some pressure. Ribs cracking while I do chest compressions? Well, that just means I am doing a good job.

And then there’s mucus…

I HATE MUCUS. Nothing turns my stomach like the sound of a trach that needs to be suctioned. I don’t know why it bothers me so much. But that’s not the worst of it. When there are mucus bubbles popping up around the trach… Grossed_out

Before I go into suction I definitely have to take a moment to get myself together.

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Resident-splaining

One thing that absolutely drives me nuts is having a new resident come to the trauma unit, that I have worked on for almost three years, and “resident-splain” something obvious to me!

What is resident-splaining? It’s when a resident condescendingly “explains” something to you that they assume you know nothing about because you’re just a nurse…

I’ve had a resident (not a very good one at that) start to “explain” calcium in the blood to me. Why? Well, we had given quite a lot of blood products and I asked about giving some calcium as the ABG showed the ionized calcium was low. This is common. Massive infusions almost always drop the serum calcium due to the citrate used in the unit of blood (if this is new to you, here is an article that explains it rather well). Like I said, I know this. Trauma nurses are typically very aware of this because, you know, we give a lot of blood. Trauma… Bleeding… But hey, I’m just a nurse.

Now, she’s not giving me the calcium I need. She starts explaining calcium in the blood and why I should go by the ionized calcium instead of the calcium level on his BMP. Remember, I told her the ionized calcium on the ABG was low… Ionized. Calcium. The level she is currently explaining to me. That level. That’s not enough, she’s not even looking at me while she is talking and it’s in a very condescending tone.

Bruh.

I finally stop her with this statement: “I’m well aware of the purpose of an ionized calcium which is why I told you what it was on the ABG that I just ran (can you hear the attitude in my voice?). I don’t need an explanation, I need calcium. Can you order that or did you need me to throw that order in real quick?” Her:

*blank stare* “Oh, yeah I can put that in for you…” *quickly and quietly begins ordering what I need*

I had no more issues with her for the duration of her rotation on our unit.

It’s irritating. So so irritating. I’m far too outspoken to have someone resident-splain things to me. Don’t try me buddy…

Know your meds

Nursing school will lead you to believe you need to know every medication, ever. You should have your pharmacology book memorized.

That’s a damn lie.

There are new medications being advertised every month. There’s no way you can possibly keep up. There absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, know the medications you are giving to your patient!

Before passing meds take a moment to look and see if you know what medication you are giving and why. If you don’t know a med, look it up. Medscape, Epocrates , even Google are only a few clicks away. Your pharmacy is only a phone call away.

Let’s say you notice that your patient is on midodrine and propranolol. You know the midodrine is to help your patient maintain their blood pressure since they tend to run lower. You’re not familiar with propranolol but you know that suffix. You remember that “olol” was rammed into your head as a beta blocker for hypertension. Wait, what? Why is your patient on meds to raise and lower their blood pressure?! Better hold that propanolol right? This is the perfect moment to stop and look up your meds. A few minutes of research and you learn that propanolol is also used for tremors. Nevermind, guess that med might need to be given.

This is why I keep Medscape on my phone. I take a few moments and look up a med I don’t know just to make sure I know what and why I’m giving something. It doesn’t take much time at all and I feel safer giving my meds. Also, if you have that family member in the room that questions everything, you look like a genius when you can answer each question they throw at you about what you’re giving. They don’t need to know that you just looked all of this up before walking into the room! A few moments of pause can make you much safer.

Helpful hint

So you’ve put in an naso/oro- gastric tube. Great! Did you verify placement? If so, how? Did you immediately get gastric contents back when you aspirated? Did you listen and confirm placement in the stomach? Did you use the CO2 detector that some institutions have?

I ask because I ran into a situation in which an OG tube was placed in the ER before my patient was sent to me. Helpful. Thanks. Except it wasn’t helpful at all. My new admission’s abdomen was quite distended despite the OG tube. I connected the tube to wall suction and got nothing out. I changed the canister and tubing just to make sure it wasn’t something wrong on that end. Nothing. I listened and couldn’t quite say with 100% certainty that I heard it in the stomach. Hmm… Not sure I want to use this…

And then he vomited. A lot. And kept vomiting while I held the yankauer in his mouth to keep him from aspirating.

Nope, that OG wasn’t in.

So, I took it out and decided to try my luck at placing an NG instead of an OG. As soon as the tube hit 60 cm in depth contents start pouring out. No need to auscultate that! Hooked it to suction and in about five minutes I got a full liter of contents out of him. Oh look, his abdomen isn’t as distended now…

I say all of that to say this: verify placement! However you choose to do so, make sure you KNOW that the NG or OG is in the stomach and not curled up in the back of the throat. Have someone verify it behind you if you aren’t sure. If all else fails, take it out. I would rather you send me a patient without a tube than send me a patient with a misplaced tube.

Go pee!

Hey… Hey you, busy nurse, go pee!

I know you have a blood sugar to grab. I know your other patient wants his 250th cup of ice. Yes, someone has labs due as well. Go pee. Seriously. It’s OK. All those things that you need to do will be there when to get back. I’m sure there is someone you can delegate some of your tasks to. You have to take a moment for yourself.

Go pee. Your bladder will thank you.

Forever alone

Sometimes I feel “forever alone” when I am around non-nursing people. As a nurse I get to be a part of something amazing. I’ll always be proud I am a nurse. I don’t feel like my profession makes me better than anyone else. I do feel like my profession changed me.

I have seen death first hand.

I have had to hold back tears while a family kisses their 16 year old goodbye. I have watched a person suffer in the ICU because the family guilted them into remainding a full code, and endure multiple surgeries that ultimately wouldn’t fix anything, until they finally passed away in that bed. I have watched families lose hope as the transplanted organ fails. I have had to comfort patients after a devastating diagnosis.

I have had my ass handed to me at work.

I have worked 12 straight hours without being able to eat or even stop to pee. I have dealt with physical and emotional abuse at the hands of patients and their loved ones. I have been talked down to by medical professionals that feel they are above me thanks to a difference in degrees.

I hold it all in when I’m with family and non nursing friends. When people say my job is “easy” since I work nights and everyone is asleep, I just laugh. When people are certain I’m “paid” because nurses make “so much money”, I just stare blankly. I listen to people complain about their jobs intently while they dismiss my complaints because I knew nursing was hard.

It can make you feel alone.

It’s not all family members and not all non-nursing friends but enough to make me not talk about my job unless I am talking to a select few. It’s why the nursing community is so INVALUABLE to me. We can swap stories about the worst of the worst. We can laugh about some seriously dark sh*t with no judgment! We understand each other. The nursing community keeps me from feeling “forever alone”. Sometimes we are all we’ve got 😁!