When I work, I do not sit at a desk all day. I work twelve straight hours, usually with no lunch except what I can choke down standing up betweens tasks. When I do get to sit, it’s briefly to do charting.
I get up to four patients to take care of at a time. Sometimes more, if another nurse is occupied. Any down time I get is spent helping my coworkers. They do the same for me. We work as a team.
When a patient comes in, I get vitals, perform triage, dress wounds, draw blood for labs, do a focused, then complete assessment. I record and reconcile all their medications, I put in orders for tests and procedures. I start IV lines, insert foley catheters, do EKGs, install nasogastric tubes, suction secretions. I apply pressure dressings, clean wounds, perform stroke assessments. I interview patients and their families, provide reassurance and give updates. I calm angry people, try to wake lethargic people, calculate IV drip rates and dosages. Most of this I do before the doctor has even seen the patient. I move quickly to provide comprehensive, exceptional care.
The patients do not come in at a steady, evenly spaced rate. We can get five ambulances within a half hour, along with two chest pains that walk in at the same time. We make sure patients are taken care of immediately, no matter what else is going on. That’s what patients want. When I am triaging one person, another may need medications or procedures. Another may need to be discharged or need a drip started, or be admitted. As soon as one room is emptied, it is usually filled again quickly.
Some patients require more care than others. A simple fracture may require pain med, xray and splinting. An abdominal pain requires a lot of time and work. A chest pain or a stroke must be taken care of very quickly. A psych patient can take a lot of a nurse’s time. A patient may have pain issues or toileting needs that cannot wait.
Today we had only three nurses all day when we should have had five. We had a great doctor and wonderful support staff, but each of the nurses had to perform the duties of 1.66 nurses. The computers were down for over half the shift, and when they came back up, there were many glitches to work out. It could have been much worse, but it wasn’t. We worked hard, we didn’t eat lunch, we didn’t sit much at all. But we gave great care.
So when I came home to a kitchen piled with dirty pans and cups and filthy counters and a sink full of dishes, I was unhappy. I didn’t want microwaved red meat for dinner. All I wanted was not to have to work anymore today. That’s all I wanted.
Well, that and maybe a hug.