July…

It’s July. For some of you that’s no big deal. However, if you work in a teaching hospital July means something deeper… Darker…

The “brand new” residents begin their rotations…

Chaos ensues.

If you have had the pleasure of avoiding the July rush, you’re lucky. For the rest of us, there’s a sense of impending doom.

So many orders. Most make no sense.

-pediatric doses ordered for adults.

-level one head CT for “AMS” on your 98 year old patient with known dementia.

-12.5 mcg of fentanyl q3hrs for your chronic pain patient.

-one unit of blood for an hgb of 5.

-MRI of the ankle to look for osteomyolitis of the toe.

Many, many more orders from an alternate reality…

In this moment, it is your time to shine! You are the only barrier between your patient and a doctor that is still getting their bearings. You’re going to have to speak up, a lot. You’re going to have to advocate. You may even have to knock a new doc off their self-appointed pedestal (when they tell you you’re “just a nurse” please refrain from punching them in the throat).

You can do this. Take a deep breath and remember: you’ve made it through many July’s and you’ll make it through many more…

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Set up… To fail

So, the higher ups have decided to implement new changes in our department to make us more “efficient”.

😒🙄

Are the changes going to work?

No.

I say no, not because I am against change. I embrace change and fully believe medicine is an ever changing field.

I say no because the changes are rigid.

Our department is very fluid. We may not have a single patient one minute, and the next minute 6 outpatients are here and there is an vented ICU patient on the way down and a patient waiting to go back to their room. Our patient flow changes throughout the day and unfortunately the decision makers don’t recognize that. They see numbers. They see productivity. Pie charts and bar graphs.

Patient care just doesn’t work like that.

However, we are going to implement the changes. We will go along with what management wants. We will grumble and groan as we see how poorly the changes work. We aren’t afraid to speak up. The speaking has been done. At this point, we are going along so we can watch the changes fail and create more problems. We are doing this so that they can see how inefficient their decisions are.

Sometimes the only way to get through to someone is to stop talking.

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!

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!)

Look at me when I’m talking to you!

I am going to vent for a moment so bare with me okay?

I ABSOLUTELY HATE WHEN MY PATIENT DOES NOT LOOK AT ME EVEN ONCE WHEN I AM SPEAKING TO THEM!

This has nothing to do with eye contact. I know for some people, eye contact is uncomfortable or unusual in their culture. I get that. However, when I call someone into my IV chair and they can’t bother to put their  phone down long enough to raise their head and answer my questions it burns me up! I just feel like it is so disrespectful! Is that how they converse with everyone? No, I highly doubt it. I think *that* is what bothers me the most. I am simply trying to provide care within my environment. I didn’t force them to come to this hospital, nor did I force them to make an appointment for whatever reason they are here. I feel like the least someone can do is acknowledge that a human being is standing in front of them providing care.

There have been times when I am trying to go over information with a patient and they are so engrossed in whatever is happening on their phone that they have a hard time answering my questions. Typically this statement will get me the acknowledgment I prefer: “Let me know when you are done on your phone and then I I’ll continue.” After that I take a step back and wait. Patients will typically put the phone down and pay attention.

In all honesty, I don’t need their undivided attention the entire time they are in my care. Since I am the radiology nurse, I am going to be the one to go over the contrast questionnaire with the patient and then I will obtain vascular access. This isn’t dramatic stuff here. I really only need the patient to pay attention when I am asking them questions, after that I actually prefer they occupy themselves because most often it means they’ll focus on their phone and not on the 20g I am about to stab them with.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting old or something but a little acknowledgment wouldn’t hurt.

Decisions

I think I finally made my decision about going back to school. I completed my bachelor’s degree last year and have been on the fence about getting my master’s degree. Is it worth it? What path should I take? I just couldn’t make a decision.

I think I know what I am going to do. I’m going back to school.

At first, I planned on either following an education or leadership path. I think that is going to change. I’m going to try to get into a nurse practitioners program.

After talking to lots of other nurses that are currently in school, nurses with their master’s degree already, and lots of research, I realize my career path is far more flexible if I have my advance practice degree.

I think I stayed away from the idea of an NP program because I had a very narrow idea of what nurse practitioners can do.

My views are changing. Being around a lot of wonderful NP’S in my career had shown me they do a whole hell of a lot. NP’S make a difference. I want to make a difference. I think I’m going to really give this a shot…

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.

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!