A la carte

I work with different doctors almost every day. What I’m doing depends on the doctor I’m working with or which doctor I’m on the phone with at the time. It can be super frustrating.

Doctor A wants things done this way when they are in the department. Doctor B wants to do it a totally different way. Doctor C doesn’t care how its done as long as it’s done. None of the docs actually communicate their wants with the nurse until the nurse does it the way they don’t like. Oh, and Doctor D on the phone wants the test done with contrast but Doctor E ordered it without. As the nurse, I’m just supposed to make it work. It’s as if I should be able to read minds.

Sometimes it feels like doctors order from a menu when they give orders to nurses. A little of this, some of that, a few of those… I just wish we could all get on the same page. Let’s pick a method and stick with it. Why is this so hard?

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Decision made…

So…

If you remember some blogs ago, I posted about applying for NP school.

I didn’t get in.

sad failure

I felt like sh*t. I felt small. I felt insignificant. I felt like a failure. I was super bummed about it.

Was…

You know how you make a plan and then allow the opinions of others to make you veer from your plan? Yeah, that happened. Let’s go back a little, shall we?

If you have been with me for a while then you know I have been wanting to go back for a Master’s degree for quite some time. I have bounced between where in the nursing field I wanted to specialize. I have had people tell me I would make a great teacher. I love teaching people about things I know. Teaching is something I have grown to really, dare I say, love. Months ago I was talking to one of my coworkers that has been a nurse forever. I told him about wanting to get my DNP ultimately. His response? “Great! Get your MSN in education and then come back here (the academic hospital where we work) and get your DNP! You’ll make a good teacher”. Prior to even talking to him, the “education” path had been floating around in my mind. I kept pushing it away because according to everyone else, that’s not the “money making” field. As far as most people are concerned, there’s no reason to go back to school unless it’s to get a degree that is going to make you way more money. Forget doing what I like to do. Forget wanting to make a difference in the medical field. Forget wanting to help others. Will it make me more money?

I got sucked into that mindset.  A DNP will make me more money and I need to get it now. Forget getting an MSN and then a DNP, that’ll take too long. Nope, I’m going BSN-DNP STAT!

I was introduced to a program that had the BSN-DNP option. Great! I expressed interest and quickly found out I did not have the GPA currently to do the DNP program.

denied

I could do one of the NP tracks though. Oh… Okay, I guess. I mean, I wasn’t really looking to be an NP but according to everyone else, it was the way to go. So I applied for the NP option. I filled out the application (3 times because the system kept losing it which was probably my first red flag), updated and sent in my resume, completed the essay, and got glowing references (which I ended up having to scan to my email to send to the advisor because the reference link wouldn’t link back to my application because of a glitch, second red flag), and I waited…

And waited…

And waited…

For four weeks.

And then the rejection email and the pity party.

So after all of that, I had to really sit down and think all of this through.

What do I enjoy doing? Where do see my career going? How do feel I can be the best benefit to others? What do really want to do?

I. Like. Educating.

DAMMIT SHAUNELLE, YOU’RE AN EDUCATOR!!!!

I am planning to start school in April. I got accepted into an MSN in education program at the same university that I obtained my BSN from. I should have my degree in about 1.5-2 years if I can buckle down and do this full time. I am not doing what everyone else wants me to do. I am not going for the big bucks (if I wanted big bucks nursing is probably not where I should have headed anyway). I am going to do what I feel is going to make me happy in the long run. It may take an extra step or two but I am going to do things my way.

 

 

 

CIDP

In nursing, we are always learning something new. Sometimes we learn about a new med. Sometimes we learn about a new use for a med. Sometimes it’s a new side effect. Sometimes it’s a disease you weren’t aware of.

As I’m writing this, I just came across a disease I never knew existed: chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy.

Say that five times fast!

I had a patient that had an MRI of the brain and complete spine ordered (that’s at least two hours) and the reason was “CIDP”. I have never come across this abbreviation before so I had to hit up good ol’ Google to find out what it is.

Turned out to be very interesting, at least to me.

What is it?

CIDP is rare. It’s a disorder where there is inflammation in the nerve roots and peripheral nerves. It also destroys the myelin sheath over the nerves. This inflammation and destruction interfere with signal transmission. Patients notice muscle weakness, impaired motor function, and it’s typically noticed on both sides of the body.

How is it diagnosed?

According to the rare disease database put together by NORD (National Organization for Rare Diseases), the symptoms of CIDP progress slowly. Patients notice “symmetric weakness of both muscles around the hip and shoulder as well as of the hands and feet”. These symptoms must continue for at least eight weeks without improvement to be considered CIDP. Patients may also undergo EMG’S, nerve conduction studies, lumbar punctures, and MRI’S to help lead physicians to the diagnosis.

Why do symptoms have to persist for so long, you ask? Great question.

Turns out, Guillain-Barré syndrome is kind of an acute form of inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. With GBS there’s typically a preceding virus or illness. GBS progresses over three or four weeks. The symptoms plateau, get better, and don’t re-occur.

The extended period of time is to differentiate CIDP from the acute forms. With CIDP, the symptoms don’t get better without treatment. GBS is usually related to an illness while CIDP doesn’t really have a known cause yet.

How is it treated?

Corticosteroids and immunosuppresants are the standard treatments. According to the NORD article I linked to, IVIG has also been proven effective. It seems that plasma exchange has also been an effective form of treatment. However, both forms of therapy only last a few weeks and the patient may need intermittent treatments.

I spent about an hour reading about this disease because it was so new to me. That’s something I’m trying to make sure I do, read up and learn about the new things I come in contact with here in the hospital. I know I can’t learn everything. That isn’t going to stop me from trying though!

Pause and plan

All hell is breaking loose.

It looks like it’s not going to get better any time soon.

You are really close to the point of tears.

Pause. Breathe. Let’s plan this out.

It’s time to break out those critical thinking skills and use that time management you have been developing.

Look at the situation as a whole, is it as complicated as it seems? Can things be broken down into multiple manageable tasks instead of one giant ball of “what the actual hell”?

Start thinking. Which patient is the most critical? Can someone check on your other patient while you attend to the patient circling the drain? (You know what, the cup of ice is going to have to wait.) Which tasks are the most important? What tasks can be delegated? Do we really need to go to CT right now or can we see if we can push it to a later time when things are a bit more calm? So there are 5 patients in the waiting room, they all came at the same time. All of them are here for their scan. That’s great but you only have two scanners so let’s take each patient one by one.

The point is this: you are one nurse. One. Singular. Nurse. You CANNOT do everything at the same time and that does not make you a failure. Don’t panic. Take a moment. Pause and plan. Use your resources. Who can help you? Align your tasks from most important to least important. Tackle what is most important first.

More importantly understand this: there are only so many hours in your shift. There is only so much you can do. If you have to pass on a task or two, don’t feel like you failed for the day. Nursing is a 24-hour job. You are not super-human. Sometimes you can’t do it all. Understand that’s okay.

Appreciated

A while ago my nurse manager came down to the department I was in to check on me.

My nurse manager came to check on me.

The day was turning into a hot mess and I had to get help from our sister nursing department to help get things back on track and help me put out the flames. After things started to calm down, my nurse manager came down to where I was to check on me and do you know what she said? “Fred, I am so glad I hired you.”

Say. What?

Did… Did she just show appreciation for how hard I was working?

HOLY HELL MANAGERS DO THAT?!?

Turns out, good management does. I cannot even count how many times either my nurse clinician or nurse manager has popped up in the department giving us updates or just checking in.

I have never really had that happen before. In fact, I was so unused to it that the first time my nurse clinician came down to the department checking in I thought I was in trouble! I really thought I had gotten reported for something and was about to be written up! That is how little I was used to seeing management (unless they were asking if we updated our whiteboards).

I was talking to another floor nurse, in fact, the one from the last blog, and telling her about management coming and checking in and she was also flabbergasted. She, too, was only used to seeing management whenever there was an issue.

That’s sad.

I don’t place 100% of the blame on management, though. I know they are encountering the same problem. Their higher-ups only want to discuss what they are doing wrong, give them unrealistic expectations, and unrealistic time-frames to complete the unrealistic expectations. Meeting after meeting they get bombarded with complaints. It’s a miserable existence and I can totally understand why so many nurse managers leave the job.

This is a bigger problem with how hospitals are a business focused more on numbers than patients. It trickles down. Miserable management creates miserable staff, and that leads to the high turnover rates in the nursing field.

No one feels appreciated and that needs to change.

I am lucky enough to work in a department where I actually feel appreciated. Yes, we have our foolishness just like every other area in the hospital. However, I find myself far less stressed in this position. I want more nurses to be able to feel this way. I want it to get to a point where seeing management becomes a positive thing. I wonder how we, as a group, can change this?

That’s… unfortunate

A majority of my patients cannot read and know nothing about their medical care.

That’s… unfortunate.

In fact, it’s scary.

My patients have to fill out a checklist before having their MRI or CT scan. It asks numerous questions about prior procedures and certain health issues.

So many of my patients can’t fill out the questionnaire. In fact, a lot of my patients don’t even know why they are having the scans! They are here because they have an appointment. They don’t know which doctor ordered the scan, what is getting scanned, or what the particular doctor even does for them. It’s sort of the mindset that “if the doctor ordered it then I should do it”, no questions asked.

That is frightening. Those of you that have been following me know I am big on patient education. With how fast paced my department is, I don’t have the time I would like to have to educate patients. And let’s be real, at this point I can’t teach someone to read. I guess what is so disappointing to me is the fact that it’s just glossed over. It’s accepted. The lack of patient education, understanding, and participation has become the new norm. I can’t stand it. I want patients to understand what is going on. I want patients to be a part of their plan of care. I want patients to be set up for success.

Apparently, I want to live in the NCLEX world where everything is perfect and everything runs smoothly.

I want my patients to be happy and healthy. Sometimes I feel like I am being unrealistic.

 

Burn out

I had a nurse shadowing me that was applying for a position in radiology. She seemed very nice and very knowledgeable. She is currently working at the bedside and decided it was time for a change. We began conversing about the job I currently do and how different it was from bedside nursing. Let’s be honest, my job can have chaotic moments but for the most part it is chill. I wanted to hear more about what made her want to transfer into our department.

Surprise, surprise… She was burned out. She started sharing why she was burned out. She felt unappreciated. She felt mentally exhausted. She was frustrated. I knew exactly how she felt. We swapped stories of our nights of hell. She was curious as to what made me leave the ICU and transfer to radiology. I was honest… I was burned the hell out at the bedside! I worked bedside for eight years. Eight years of endlessly cleaning poop, call bells ringing simultaneously, angry family members, unsafe staffing ratios, little to no lunch break, and management asking “did you update you white boards?”. I realized I was just over it. Now I will say this: I loved working in the STICU. It was hell on wheels some nights but I learned so much.

And that’s the thing, I feel like walking through the nursing “flames” made me a better and more rounded nurse. At this point I can handle just about anything you can throw at me. Being a beside nurse is what really made me a good nurse. While it was stressful, I don’t think I would change anything if I could go back in time and do so. However, I realized I was done and exited bedside nursing stage left.

I recognized I was burned out. I felt it. I could see the change in my patient and family interactions. I literally drove to work with anxiety because I just KNEW the night was going to be a sh*t show. I had to take benadryl just to sleep. Things were not okay. So I made a change. It looks like she is ready to make a change. I commend her for recognizing that. In fact, I commend any nurse that recognizes they have reached the burn out stage. More than that I deeply respect nurses that not only recognize they are burned out, they start making the necessary changes to beat burn out. Know when you feel burned out, it is okay. It is just fine to leave the situation you’re in. You are not running. You are not “abandoning” anyone. You are doing what is best for you.

Have any of you (nurse or not) ever had to leave your job because you knew it was making you miserable?

Disconnect

Have you ever had one of those shifts that you take home with you?

You know the one… Maybe a patient died despite you giving your everything yet you still feel like you could have done more. Maybe you stood up for what was right and got belittled by the doctor anyway. It’s one of those shifts that just doesn’t go away when you clock out and leave. How do you disconnect from those shifts?

What do you do to not let shifts like that drag you under? How do you keep it together and stay sane?

Being in the department I am in now, I haven’t had one of those shifts in a while. I can still remember having those shifts while I worked in the ICU though. In fact, I still can’t listen to “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. I can still see the mother of the patient holding the phone to her 16 year old daughter’s ear. I can hear the song playing from the room. I can remember how heavy my heart felt knowing how hard her mother wanted her to fight. I remember how much it hurt to know her child’s injury was so severe that she would not survive.

Things like that stick with you.

Over the years there have been many shifts that I have taken home. There were shifts that almost broke me. It wasn’t until years into my nursing career that I learned how to disconnect… And not feel guilty about it. That was the other thing, I felt guilty about turning “it” off. I felt like when I tried to leave work at work I was not being a “caring” nurse. I felt like I was being cold and heartless. I had to learn that in order to continue to be a caring nurse, I had to mentally and emotionally take care of myself first. I couldn’t give from an empty vessel. I had to really practice some self care.

So now, I read. I write. I go jogging. I cook. And for the love of all things good, I use my PTO! I’m taking time off dammit! I may not go on vacation but I am a full believer in the “staycation”.

What do you do to keep yourself sane?

Resolutions

I want to start 2019 off with some nursing resolutions to help me guide my year. I am normally not a person that believes in the whole “new years resolutions” thing because I make the same ones every year and never stick to them lol! This is a little different. These resolutions aren’t about me losing weight or magically getting out of debt. This is me making myself a better nurse. So, here are my “resolutions” (I almost don’t even want to call them that):

  • I am going to make a conscious effort to stop complaining so much at work. I mean, I honestly work with awesome people and my job isn’t that hard.
  • I am going to join some sort of national nursing organization. I want to keep up with standards of practice that are being discussed.
  • I am going to start an NP program. I applied but I keep finding reasons that maybe I shouldn’t do it. I am going to do it dammit!
  • I am going to join and actually participate in one of our nursing committees. I always say I am going to join but I never really do.
  • I am going to start back riding my bike to work so I can get that first bit of exercise in. I actually used to feel invigorated when I got to work but I stopped because of an ankle injury. I have been using it as an excuse ever since.
  • I am going to try and get either my PCCN or my CCRN. I have done 5 years of critical care and I am currently having to do ECCO for progressive care so I might as well get some kind of certification.
  • I am going to try and make sure I provide more positive feedback to my coworkers. Everyone needs to be told they are doing a good job every now and then.

It’s not a long list but these are things I am going to try and carry with me throughout all of the year instead of giving up by the end of January.

I am curious to hear if any of you have some “nursing resolutions ” you plan on trying to carry out?

 

 

 

 

The future

What do you think we will see in the future with medicine? We seem to be making advances everyday. To me, that is a great thing. The further we advance, the better we can treat.

I have been a nurse now for eight years and just in this amount of time I have seen medications be introduced and then recalled for some side effect they weren’t anticipating. We now have a cure, a cure for hepatitis C! How wonderful is that? I have seen advances in procedures. I have been trained on new medical equipment because what we were using was considered obsolete. I can only imagine the changes nurses that have been working for decades have witnessed. I would love to just sit and listen to some of those stories!

Of all the advances there is one that I am waiting for most of all: a cure for cancer. I lost my mother and my grand-mother to cancer. I talk to patients all day that are here to get scans to check if their cancer has come back or spread. It is personal to me. I want cancer gone. I don’t want to see another child with a brain tumor. I don’t want to see another woman with breast cancer. I don’t want to see another man with prostate cancer. I wish cancer could get cancer and die.

I have this naïve little hope that in the next ten years or so someone, somewhere, is going to be the one to achieve that break through. I have this hope that I will turn on the news and hear the broadcaster say “scientists have finally found a cure for cancer!”. I keep hoping that the cure will happen in my lifetime.  I am only 35, I hopefully have plenty of years left in me. Come on scientist, do this favor for me ok?!