I’m a nurse, and the worst patient

I am a nurse. I am very proud of that, I mean, I have a whole blog dedicated to being a nurse!

However, I am the worst patient.

Lately I have had to be a patient far more than I want to be. (Here is a link to my blog post on why I have had to be a patient frequently.)

I don’t know how to stop being a nurse and sit back and be the patient. I don’t know how to shut up and listen. I want to talk. I want to tell the doctor what I know. I want to be in charge of my care. I want to be the nurse.

I don’t like not running the show when it comes to my own care. However, this situation is aggravated by the fact that I don’t even know what is going on with my health. I feel completely helpless… and humble. I now understand the fear my patients have when they are coming to get scanned. As you all know, I work in radiology and a majority of the patients I work up are there to get scans to either see if they have cancer or to see if their cancer has spread. They are coming in dealing with the unknown. The fear, the anger, the tears, the blank stares, I understand why my patients exhibit so many emotions. It’s the unknown. I am going through it now and I am pretty sure I have gone through a lot of those emotions. I am blessed to not have cancer but having to go from seeing a family doctor, to a pain specialist, and now to neurologist, all because I have spreading neuropathy is scary. I don’t know what is wrong with me and as a nurse that drives me nuts.

I am a nurse, I help people get as healthy as they can. My job is to literally fix people and yet here I sit unable to fix myself because I don’t even know what’s wrong. I feel so helpless. I want someone to say “This is what is wrong and this is how we fix it”. I want to fix myself like I fix everyone else. I want to nurse myself back to health.

I don’t even know where to begin so friends I ask: do you have any suggestions for not going crazy as I work through this?

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Dear administration

Dear hospital administration,

Hi, I’m just a lowly nurse here in your hospital but may I make a suggestion?

Please, PLEASE include the staff that will be working in a new area in the design of that new area!

I know you think you, the architect, and the contractor know what’s best but you don’t. YOU DON’T. You all look at what looks good. I mean, everything looks great on paper. What you aren’t paying attention to is whether or not the area will function for staff.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked into a new area and immediately started picking out what doesn’t work, what needs to be moved, and what needs to be completely redesigned. I’ve seen areas opened and then closed so it could be “remodeled”.

Stop it!

You could save money, time, and stress by doing it right the first time. Let us be a part of the planning process. Let us be a part of the “walk through”. Talk to us and find out what we do and don’t need in the new area. Talk to US! It will benefit everyone in the long run, I promise…

The kids are alright

This is my last week of shadowing in the PACU. I’m ending my week in pediatric pre and post op.

😒

I have been a grown up nurse my whole career. Med surg, small ICU, STICU, that’s what I know. I know how you fix an adult. I know nothing about children.

I am not good with kids. I’m uncomfortable around them. I’m not used to kids. I am out of my element.

I feel so freaking awkward!

I am so useless in here. It’s not because the nurses aren’t teaching me. The PACU nurses have been amazing. I just don’t know how to handle kids. I have none of my own. I don’t want any. I have no maternal instinct. I have little patience for crying. I’m just not good with kids and I’m well aware of that.

So here I sit, on my phone, typing up this blog while on lunch, hoping I survive a few more hours so I can go back to my adults in radiology on Monday…

OR 4

I’ve been shadowing in the pre and post op unit for the last week. I am still a radiology nurse but I’m up here learning a few things. In MRI we give some of our patients propofol to sedate them so they can tolerate the scan and then we recover them afterwards. My department has me floating in PACU to evaluate how PACU recovers patients to see if there are things we need to bring back to our department. I’ve been enjoying myself so far. Today I am following the sedation nurse. We are in OR 4.

OR 4 is where they are doing all the abortions today.

I wasn’t prepared.

I have no children and have never been pregnant. I have no desire to have kids. Honestly I’m not fond of them. I am pro-choice. I consider myself pretty liberal. I don’t judge women who choose to have an abortion.

I was still not prepared.

I’ve read about abortion. I know people that have had them. However, I have never actually seen an abortion and after today I don’t need to see anymore.

It’s emotional.

One was because of fetal deformity. Most were not. The reason didn’t matter. You could see the anguish in some of the faces of the patients. Some were stone faced and I couldn’t really tell how they were feeling. A 16 year old seemed not to really have a full grasp of what was really happening. One lady cried and expressed her feelings of guilt the whole procedure.

It’s was a lot to deal with.

The procedure itself was different than I expected. Mentally I has to steady my nerves to watch how the fetus was removed. Typically I stayed at the head of the table with the patient for their comfort… And my own. I tried to focus on the patient and not the procedure so I could keep my emotions out of it.

This is definitely something I could not do on a regular basis, if I could ever do it at all. This experience is something I definitely won’t forget.

I still remain pro-choice even after today. Now I understand what women go through not just physically but emotionally when having to make this choice. It’s so much deeper than what I understood.

The complainer

Don’t be the complainer.

You know the one, nothing ever goes right for this nurse. They are the ones that come in and start complaining before they even clock in. They always have the worst assignment. They always have the worst shift. Everything is always wrong.

Two total care patients that only really need repositioning? “OH MY GOD WHY DO I HAVE TWO TOTAL CARE PATIENTS????”

Four walkie talkie patients that are self care? “GREAT THEY ARE GOING TO DISCHARGE SOMEONE AND I’M GOING TO GET AN ADMISSION!”

Float to an easy unit with cool ass staff? “WHY IS IT MY TURN TO FLOAT???”

Go home.

Why are you even here? Why are you even a nurse? What did you expect from the health care field? No, our jobs are not a roses and sunflower fields every shift. Sometimes our jobs suck, horribly. Honestly though, if every shift is your worst shift ever and it’s like that no matter where you work… I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it’s not the job, it’s you.

I mean, you’re the common denominator here. It’s time for you to face the facts: you’re miserable at your job because you’re just miserable as a person. Maybe you should work on that…

ABG’s, what do they mean?

Arterial blood gases… Chances are if you work in a progressive care or intensive care unit you have seen ABG results or you will.

If you’re like me in the beginning, you have no idea how to interpret the results. For the longest time I had no idea what I was looking at. I knew the pH was indicative of acidosis or alkalosis, and that was the end of it. Once I started working in an ICU I wanted to really understand what the results meant. I made one of our respiratory therapist teach me how to understand the results (he was awesome and was happy to help). It turns out ABG results are not too terribly difficult to interpret. You are trying to obtain three key pieces of information:

  • Is the patient acidotic or alkalotic?
  • Is this a respiratory or a metabolic issue?
  • Is the body fully compensating, partially compensating?

While there is plenty of information on the ABG slip (or in the chart if your unit doesn’t have an ABG machine available) you can come up with the answer by looking at three key results: pH, paCO2, HCO3.

One of the ECCO learning modules I did had this handy little chart that made it easier to interpret the results. I thought I would share it with you all in case there is someone out there confused like I was, but may not have a quick resource available.

That’s it. This little handy chart has helped me a lot. It took what was, for me, a larger amount of overwhelming information and broke it down into something I could use. Here’s how to use it:

Look at the pH, is it <7.35 (you’re acidotic) or >7.45 (you’re alkalotic) or is it normal? Circle which side of the chart your value falls in. Then look at the PaCO2. We are looking at carbon dioxide in the blood here. Repeat the previous steps and circle where your value falls. Then look at your bicarb, HCO3. Circle where that value falls.

Remember pH tells you if they are acidotic or alkalotic. Now that you’ve figured that part out, it’s time to figure out if this is respiratory or metabolic. Look at your chart, is the CO2 circled on the same side as the pH? If yes, it’s respiratory. Is the bicarb circled on the same side as the pH? If yes, then it’s metabolic. Now, are we compensating? If you are partially compensating then you will have one value on the other side of the grid. If you are fully compensating then your pH will actually be normal.

I’m a person that needs to see something in action so let’s do a couple of examples:

Note let’s break out the chart:

pH is low so we know the patient is acidotic. The CO2 is on the same side as the pH. The bicarb is on the opposite side of the grid so the body is trying to compensate. We have respiratory acidosis, partially compensated.

Let’s do one more:

Bust out the handy dandy chart!

The pH is high so we know it’s alkalosis. The bicarb is on the same side of the chart as the pH but the CO2 is on the opposite side. Here we have metabolic alkalosis, the respiratory system is partially compensating, that’s why the CO2 is high.

I would like to mention one thing, if all your values are on the same side of the chart then it most likely means the one of the systems of the body aren’t compensating.

Hopefully this post is able to help someone out. If you have any other hints, tips, tricks let me know!

Teach back

Get your patients to “teach back” what you have taught them. Get them to repeat what you have taught them. You may be surprised at how little information your patient has absorbed from the education you have given. Using the “teach back” or “repeat back” method can help you gauge just how much information your patient is retaining.

With the “teach back” method, it’s exactly as it sounds. You get your patient to teach you what you taught them. This method is really effective for education that involves hands on training. Things like changing a colostomy bag at home, changing a wound dressing, giving tube feeds, doing peritoneal dialysis, etc all require a lot of teaching. These are thing you want to make sure your patient understands before they return home. When you get them to teach it back to you then you know that they have an understanding of the information they have received. As they are teaching it back, you can correct them if necessary and give them little hints to help them with the process.

“Repeat back” works well with information that may not require as much hands-on work. I found that it works well with my patients that are being sent home with multiple prescriptions, especially different inhalers. I had a patient with COPD and asthma (and yes, she still smoked, how did you know?) that had both Symbicort and an albuterol inhaler. She ended up on our unit from a bad asthma attack. When she started to get wheezy I took her the albuterol inhaler to help open her up and she refused. I couldn’t understand why. She said “that’s not the one I need for my asthma, I need the other one”. Confused, I asked her if she was referring to her Symbicort. She said yes, that’s the one she takes when her asthma flares up. She took her Symbicort whenever she felt tight or wheezy and took her albuterol twice a day. OH, nooooooow I know why you’re in here. I tried explaining to her that the Symbicort is for her COPD, not asthma. She argued with me for a good 10 minutes that I was wrong. I had to not only print out information on Symbicort but also have the doctor talk to her before she accepted that she has been using her meds wrong this whole time and that is why she was in the hospital. Upon discharge I made her repeat the education I had given her and show me which inhaler was her twice daily inhaler for COPD and which inhaler was for her asthma. I felt comfortable that she understood her meds upon discharge.

I think this teaching our patients about their health is where the medical system is lacking. Often, we are in such a rush to get people out so we can get people in that we just assume the patient understands because they didn’t ask any questions. Often, it’s the opposite. Some are embarrassed to say they don’t understand. Some can tell we are in a rush and don’t want to bother us by asking us to repeat what we have told them. It is up to us to make sure our patients are leaving with a full understanding of their health and their medications.

TJC

So The Joint Commission is here this week…

Yay.

If you don’t know, TJC is an accrediting body for hospitals that makes sure we are doing things according to acceptable standards. In all honesty, it’s a good thing. It makes sure we are on our sh!t. I am okay with that.

However…

When TJC visits it turns every unit into chaos! What do I mean? Well, each hospital gets a “heads up” that TJC may be visiting within a date range. This sends every manager and compliance officer into a panic. Typically it goes a little something like this:

“Is this dated?”

“When does that expire?”

“Move this stuff out of the hallway and even though we have no true place to store it, FIND SOMEWHERE!”

“Do you know where the evacuation plans are for this unit?”

“Where are the fire extinguishers located?”

“How long does it take the purple wipes to disinfect?”

“What about the gray wipes?”

“And the red ones?”

“What is the temp on the fridge?”

“Where is the temperature log?”

“Where is the check sheet for the code cart?”

“Is there an expiration date on the Accucheck controls?” 

“All cups must have a lid on them or I am throwing them away!”

This continues for the entire week that TJC is in the hospital. All those things that we should have *technically* already been doing, we are going to do them all RIGHT NOW. I have been lucky. For eight years I worked 1900-0700. TJC is not in the hospital at night and neither is management so I avoided most of the shenanigans. Now I work days and evenings. I am now in the line of fire. I have been on my toes all this week just waiting to see the group of them come around the corner. So far I have avoided them. Let’s hope my luck continues!

Vitamin C and sepsis

You may or may not have heard about some new studies coming out that show some positive results adding vitamin C to sepsis treatment.

If you haven’t heard anything about it, don’t worry, you will.

This is what really kind of started it all. It was a retrospective study, not one you could really take back to your ICU and make evidence based changes on, but it provides some interesting factors to think about. This study gives some information about some of the preliminary findings. So far, (cautiously) it looks positive.

However, don’t think doctors around the world are ready to jump on the vitamin C boat just yet. There hasn’t really been a what I would call a “large scale” scientifically sound study completed just yet. It’s safe to say the idea remains controversial. Here is a really good article addressing the controversy surrounding the treatment. I did notice one thing when I read this article: while doctors may not be ready to jump on board do to a lack of evidence, most of them really hope vitamin C treatment does turn out to be beneficial. The health care field as a whole really wants a better treatment for sepsis, especially since what we are doing now is only partially successful.

I am hoping someone decides to do a large scale study and really put vitamin C to the test. I would love to know if this could potentially be an adjunct sepsis treatment or if it is time for medicine to go back to the drawing board. Trying new things is what helped the medical field advance this far, let’s not stop now!

Motivated?

I’m strangely motivated to do a lot of nursing related things that I had no desire to do before. All of a sudden I want to go back to school to get my Master’s. I want to join our shared governance committee. I want to advance on the clinical ladder up to a Clin III. I want to cross train in other parts of our department.

What the hell is happening?

Where did I get all of this motivation from?!

Is… Is this what happens when you’re happy at your job?

I mean, honestly, these are all things I know I can do if I put forth the energy to do it. I’m still (relatively) young, unmarried, no children… I have the time so why not?

I need to sit down and prioritize all of these new goals. Time for me to become Super Nurse!

Wish me luck!