Unnecessary

I almost lost my temper.

One of the anesthesiologist does NOT know how to talk to people.

It feels like she is being condescending at all times. I get it, you’re a doctor. I respect that. However, it’s totally unnecessary to speak to people in that manner. I am a nurse. If you talk to me instead of at me you would know I have plenty of nursing experience. I know quite a bit more than you give me credit for. I am fully capable of the tasks that are required of me during this anesthesia case. I can do whatever you need if you just ask. Contrary to popular belief, nurses don’t read minds.

I’ll say this, she has one more time to speak in her condescending tone. One more. While I am going to be professional and respectful, I’m going to put her in her place. I’ve had to do it with plenty of residents and a few attendings. This isn’t new for me, I know how to get my point across. She needs to be knocked off the pedestal she placed herself on… I’m just the one to do it.

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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.

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.

 

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?

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?!

Step one

So…

I’ve done step one. I’ve applied to a nurse practitioner program.

I’m terrified!

Am I smart enough?

Can I handle this?

Can I afford this?

Is it worth it?

Will I be able to find clinical sites?

Is this the right decision?

This is a really big committment. A lot of my time and finances will be going into this and I wonder if I’m ready for it. I have been bouncing back and forth between career paths and decided that I can do what I would like to do with an advanced practice degree.

Patient education is my passion and I know that as an NP I will get the opportunity to try and make a difference. By working in the “clinic” setting I will be able to try and prevent admission to the hospital by providing care and education on their health. I want to stop patients from being observers in their health care. I want patients to be a participant in their care plans. An educated patient does better. I love when patients comes into my current job and tell me all about why they are getting their scan. It let’s me know they are involved in their health. Those patients area typically in better health than my patients that have no idea what’s going on.

I know I’m doing this for the right reasons. I just don’t know if this is the right time. Then again, when is the right time? I can always find a reason to not do something. Life is always throwing me curve balls. I might as well step up to the plate, swing with all my might, and hope to God I knock it out of the park!

GFR

Now that I am in the radiology department I spend a lot of time focusing on GFR and kidney function. Why? Good question!

In MRI and CT we give contrast to a lot of patients. In CT the contrast is iodine based. In MRI the contrast is gadolinium (metal) based. Both types of contrasts are filtered out through the kidneys and thus the reason kidney function is so important in this department. The way we assess kidney function is by checking a patient’s creatinine level in their blood. Luckily for us we have machine called the i-Stat that can test the blood and give a result in two minutes. The result transfers into Cerner (our EMR) and the computer then uses that result to calculate the GFR. Great… except I didn’t really have an understanding of why we were checking the creatinine, what GFR really was, or why there is a GFR result for African Americans and non-African Americans. I decided to do a little reasearch and I figured, since this is a nursing blog and all, why don’t I share what I have learned?

What is “GFR”?

GFR stands for glomerular filtration rate. Basically, the GFR tells you the flow rate of fluids through the kidney. Your glomeruli are the capillaries in your nephrons inside the kidney. Blood is filtered across the capillary membranes helping to remove waste that can ultimately be excreted through the urine. Taking you back to anatomy and physiology in nursing school aren’t I? *shudders*

A simple google search will bring up lots of GFR calculators. Typically the GFR calculator takes into account serum creatinine, age, gender, and race (African American versus not) and then it will give you the estimated GFR. A GFR >60 indicates a generally healthy kidney. Less than 60 can indicate potential kidney disease. Less than 15 can indicate full on failure. Here is a little infographic that is patient centered.

Why creatinine?

Why does the GFR equation use creatinine? In the most basic terms, creatinine is a waste product of creatine. Creatine is used by the muscle cells for energy. Your kidneys help filter the creatinine out of the blood to be excreted in the urine. Low creatinine typically indicates good kidney function (which makes sense, healthy kidneys will filter out creatinine effectively). High creatinine indicates the opposite, kidney function is probably on the lower end because the kidneys are unable to filter out the waste product. Creatinine is primarily filtered out through the kidneys which is why it is a pretty good indicator of kidney function.

Why is the result different based on race?

Many, many times I have looked at my labs and wondered why the GFR had a result for African Americans and then essentially everyone else. It wasn’t until I started working here and paying attention to the GFR that I decided to look it up. Turns out studies show we have “higher than average” muscle mass so we generate higher levels of creatinine. Higher creatinine levels lead to higher filtration rates. The difference in results account for this.

Now I can actually explain to my patients why I am taking blood after I start an IV. I like to be able to asnwer my patient’s questions so of course I had to do a little learning on my end. Hopefully some of you will also find this information useful! (Also here is a great reference for frequently asked questions from the National Kidney Foundation because, why not!)

A moment of prayer

How does it make you feel when the family of a patient starts to pray with you in the room? I used to feel uncomfortable because for a long time my relationship with religion has been iffy at best.

See, I am a bisexual woman that was raised Baptist. Yeah, “gay people are not of God and are going to burn in Hell” Baptist. My mom was a pretty liberal woman but our religion was not. I only came out two years ago but was well aware of my sexuality as early as high school. Religion and I didn’t sit well since I was pretty much condemned to Hell. This personal struggle affected how I reacted whenever my patient began to speak about religion or whenever anyone wanted to pray in the room. Typically it turned into “let me page the chaplain” as I awkwardly slid out of the room. I was allowing my own issues to affect my patient care. NOT OK! I really had to get it together. It took a lot of introspection and acceptance of what religion  means to me, and understanding that religion is different for everyone, before I became comfortable with religion in the hospital.

Standing and bowing my head while a family member is praying shows respect. I don’t have to pray like they pray or pray to who they are praying to. I can bow my head and pray for my patient in my own way. I can now listen to my patient talk about their faith and have an engaging conversation with them. Instead of religion making me feel like I was condemned and judged, I now look at it differently. I had to realize my patient was speaking from their point of view. They are sharing aspects of what religion means to them. At no point was my patient judging me. I know it sounds strange but when you are in the LGBTQ community, you tend to feel judged a lot simply for being who you are. I had to understand my patient had no idea about my sexuality and honestly, with what they are going through at the moment, they probably could care less! They are looking for hope. They are clinging to faith to get through a difficult time. They are coping with whatever is going on and for a lot of people, religion is the best way for them to cope.

This wasn’t about me. To bring my own insecurities into this was selfish! I was being so egocentric. I am not normally like that so why be like that now? I really had to make some adjustments to how I thought about religion. I had to learn that at that moment my patient needed someone to listen to them, to give them hope, to have empathy instead of just sympathy. At that moment, my patient needed Fred the nurse to be there for them.

I had to learn that it’s not all about me.