September, 2005 Archive

September 16, 2005, 3:02 am

Give Me A Break! Please?

Now this is interesting. Apparently Coca-Cola had an entire advertising campaign that focused on nurses. The writing reinforces the “goodness” and “wholesomeness” of Coke! Back then a sugar jolt, an overdose of caffeine and artificial caramel coloring were good for you! Some things never change! (Looks like that nurse on the left is trying to blow a tune over the top of the bottle. A break, a bottle of Coke AND entertainment! What a gal!)

But what is wrong with this picture? These nurses are on what is called a “break”. In fact, there are three nurses on a break at the same time, indicating they must have a census of zero on their unit. I realize that those of you who are nurses may not understand the term, “break”. A “break” is when you can leave the floor, take 10 or 15 minutes to sit with a beverage, put your feet up and re-energize before returning to patient care. The purpose is to help “care for the caregiver” and allow you to “take care of yourself” so that you do not become exhausted by the intensity of your labors. Breaks are separate and distinct from your meal period by the fact that you do not have to “punch out” on the timeclock. You are actually paid for these rest periods. These are so important that here in California, workers have a legal right to these relaxation respites. What a novel concept!

If you work on a unit that works breaks into your shift, drop to your knees and thank your personal Higher Power. For 99.9% of the rest of us, we have a few options. We can:

  • Go tell your Charge Nurse that you will be taking your legally scheduled break, give a brief, succinct report on the status of your patients and retire to the breakroom. Be sure to take a full 15 minutes to allow the jaw of the Charge Nurse to be lifted off the floor.
  • Inbetween medications, blood draws, treatments, call bells and doctor’s visits, run to the bathroom and lock yourself in a stall. Even if you don’t have to go. Open the “People” magazine you hid under the trash can and read the latest story on Britney Spears. If you hear someone waiting for the bathroom, make noise so they know it is occupied. They will leave the area. It is possible to read one “People” magazine article before anyone will get suspicious and come looking for you. Avoid “Time” or “Newsweek” as these articles are more time intenstive.
  • Develop a “sudden” severe episode of hypoglycemia. You need not be a diabetic to use this tactic. Your colleagues will encourage you to imbibe some orange juice and thus will not begrudge the 10 minutes it takes for your blood sugar to equalize as you are “recovering” in the kitchenette.
  • Remember that you left your ID/stethoscope/favorite pen/lunch/People magazine in your car and you must go get it. When in the car, turn on a classic rock station. You can remain in your car for the length of time it takes to hear one Motown single before you need to return to avoid suspicion. Be sure to return with something in your hand.

This all reminds me of a quote from “Cherry Ames, Student Nurse” when an instructor tells Cherry that “nurses never stand when they can sit and never sit when they can lie down”!

Speaking of Coke, take a look at this cutie I found when googling the Coke ads. Where has she been all my life? I tried to see if Pepsi had a similar ad campaign using nurses but I found only a few ads using nurses’ aides. This was quite disappointing considering that I would take Diet Pepsi IV if it was available in an intravenous form!

Did anyone notice the new “photo” in the profile section? This was from a “make yourself a Lego person” site. This looks so much like me it is almost insulting. I was able to add a cape which was totally cool. Lego-Me is holding a cup of coffee and a book. Coffee to keep me awake and a book to read up on infectious diseases. Yeah, right. It’s actually the People magazine I hide under the trash can in the bathroom…..for other people to use, of course!

Now I’m off to find out how to get a doll like “Cokey, RN” here…..

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September 14, 2005, 10:19 am

Personalities On Parade

To blog or not to blog, that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous somnolence…
You guess it, I worked nights last night. Now that it’s over, I can use “The Q Word” and say that it was relatively quiet. Enough so that I was able to write the rough draft of this post. Now we’ll see if what seemed so funny at 0400 holds up in the harsh glare of daylight….

An emergency department is made up of many personalities, the majority of them strong personalities. The meek, the mild and the timid do not gravitate to the emergency medicine milieu. There are some traits that you will see over and over in any ER and I’ve put together a list of just a few I have encountered over the years.

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you….

  • Seniority Sadie – this nurse was hired the day they broke ground for the hospital back in 1892 and she has never worked a single day anywhere else. She never misses a chance to let you know that if she wanted to she could get (fill in request here) ahead of you because she has seniority!
  • Languid Lucy – Lucy has discovered that the faster you move, the more work you are given. Ergo, drag out your nursing care and you’ll get less patients. Lucy is so laid back she needs a recliner.
  • Dumping Dora – Dora is responsible for rooming the patients and believes that you deserve them all, thereby denying the other two nurses (of which she is one) the pleasure of a patient located in the vicinity of their assignment.
  • Freaking Freda – Everything is a crisis for poor Freda. God have mercy on her if she gets orders on two patients at once. A deep sigh will emanate from the very depth of her soul with each patient she is assigned. Freda is constantly bordering on carpal spasms secondary to hyperventilation.
  • Passive-aggressive Pete – Pete is the type that will listen all night to your excitement about the new shift you’ve applied for and never say a word….And then he’ll go apply for the same position in the morning.
  • Write-’em-up Wanda – Wanda is a quiet, observant soul. Wanda sees all. Wanda hears most. Wanda disapproves of some. Wanda says nothing. And then Wanda writes ’em all up and turns it into the manager.
  • On The Dot Scott – Scott begins preparing for the shift change one hour ahead of time and meets the oncoming nurse at the door with his hat on and car keys in hand. He considers it overtime if he stays five minutes past the hour.
  • Goody Glenda – Efficient, pleasant, happy, eager-to-help, always sees the good in everyone and every situation. You aren’t sure what you want to do most, work with her or slap her silly.
  • Betty Burnout – Betty is tired of nursing and has nothing left to give. She walks the department as if she had a 5000 pound weight attached to her right foot. She’s so depressed she sucks the air out of the room. She can be seen desperately perusing the jobs section of the paper, looking for something that pays as well, but doesn’t require caring.
  • Dr. Sam Sarcasm – spouts off with a sarcastic, often hostile comment every time you want to tell him about a patient or discuss a case.
  • Nasty Nan – brusque and short-tempered, Nan treats the patients like they are an interruption in her shift instead of the reason for it. Antagonizes on contact.
  • Pulitzer Petula – is obsessed with charting. Has pathologically legible handwriting. Will redo an entire nurses’ note instead of crossing out. Doesn’t want anyone else writing on her literary masterpieces. Must have the precise pen at all times.
  • Naomi Know-It-All – Naomi is a nurse with an advanced degree who thinks she is the last word on all topics nursing.

Oh yes, I’m in the list. Meet Pulitzer Petunia, yours truly. I could write an entire month’s worth of posts on what was like to be Betty Burnout. There are times when I’ve been an On The Dot Scott and I’ve been teased about being a “Glenda” on occasion. I’ve never stayed anywhere long enough to be a Seniority Sadie. (Oh, and by the way I’ve never worked with a “Naomi Know-it-All”, that contribution came from a colleague who is on her way to her PhD and was afraid that would describe her someday).

Now, bear in mind that these are composites and any resemblance to coworkers, past or present is purely coincidental…..really!

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September 12, 2005, 5:44 pm

Empathy by Experience

In the spirit of full disclosure, I think this should be posted at the door to the Emergency Department. I’m sure it certainly feels like this to the patients.

I became a nurse at a relatively young age, when I didn’t know my head from a hole in the ground. With age and life experience came an increasing ability to empathize with what my patients were going through.

I understand why parents are absolutely petrified by febrile seizures. Nothing like finding your 18-month-old blue on the side of the bed and beginning rescue breathing. I know the fear brought on by caring for a child with a fever of almost 105 degrees.

I understand what it is like to have a syncopal episode during your orthostatics after losing 6 pounds in two days from gastroenteritis. And trying to explain to an ER doctor, after eight hours, liters of saline, with a blood pressure of 80 systolic, fire-like pain in your entire GI tract and two children at home under age 5 that you want to be admitted.

I understand what it’s like to have abdominal surgery for a ruptured, hemorrhaging ovarian cyst, 11 1/2 hours after I presented with severe abdominal pain. I know what it is like to have an NG tube shoved up both sides of your nose to the point that you feel it is perforating your eye sockets, because they let me DRINK two liters of water so I’d have a full bladder for the ultrasound. I know what it’s like to wait for the specialty consult for six hours until office hours are completed. And finally, I know what it’s like to have your insurance company count your “first post-op day” as the same day you went to surgery even though you didn’t go to surgery until 2330.

I know what it is like to stand by the bedside of your 62-year-old father who has had a massive right sided cerebral hemorrhage, who was transferred to another hospital because they had a better neurology service and was met at the ambulance doors of the ER by a nurse saying, “Oh great, who is this? We weren’t expecting this!” and putting my father in the hallway for his care, before admitting him to the oncology unit because there was no room on the neuro floor and then not getting a neurologist consult until over a day later.

I also know what it is like to be admitted for chest pain, have a great nurse and to hear the emergency room doctor fight for me to get a private room because “she’s one of us and we take care of our own”. And I didn’t even work at that hospital!

So, when patients show up in the emergency department, I greet them with a smile and try to make the entire experience easier by explaining what will happen and why. I always give them their call bell so that I can come to them and they don’t have to send a relative to search for me. I try to make the family feel as though they are welcome, even if it’s just giving color books or stickers to siblings. I facilitate whatever I can. I’m not a perfect nurse, but I’ve discovered it doesn’t take a lot of energy to treat people with a smile.

It’s funny. Patients are always saying, “Sorry to bother you, but….” I tell them that it’s never a bother, that it’s what I’m there for.

It’s what I do.

As a nurse.

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About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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