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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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?

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.

 

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?

 

 

 

 

Story time no. 9

So I need to vent just a hint, ok? Ok.

Tuesday I worked in MRI. There was an ICU patient that needed an MRI of a few areas, after a trauma. No big deal, we do ICU patients all the time.

I do what I normally do, I first look through the chart and then I call and speak to the nurse to see if it is safe to bring the patient down.

The patient is freshly extubated, off sedation, agitated, already pulling out lines, and non-English speaking.

Let us take a moment to remember: this is MRI. You have to be able to hold still for 20 minutes or more so the images are readable. MRI’s typically take a long time. The scans they have ordered for this patient add up to about an hour… An hour that the patient will need to hold still…

Nah, this one shouldn’t be coming down here. Nurse knows this. I know this. Doctors don’t seem to understand this. They want to “give it a try”.

So, this poor nurse packs up the patient, gets all the way down to us and as we make eye contact we both know this is a complete waste of time. The patient is in restraints and quite unhappy about this trip.

I don’t see this going well.

We decide we are going to give it the old college try and attempt to move him to the MRI table.

Oh, this ain’t happening!

The patient starts kicking and trying to remove everything as we attempt to move them over. Needless to say, the MRI tech decided it wasn’t safe.

All of this… The nurse and MRI had to go through all of this because the doctors just don’t seem to be able to wrap their heads around the fact that the nurse knows her patient well enough to know what will and won’t work.

Irritating to say the least… Why waste the time of the nurse and the radiology department when we all know damn well this wasn’t going to work?!

 

 

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!)