June 2, 2009, 8:20 am

Sweeping Away the Ashes

kendallpreschoolMeet my son, Kendall.

As far back as I can remember, he was always graduating/accomplishing something.

At the age of seven, he announced his candidacy for the office of President of the United States.

As a Democrat, no less.

us-at-graduationThis photo was taken just a couple of weeks ago at Notre Dame following the law school graduation.

The transformation from the first photo to this photo seemed to occur overnight. Hug your babies, folks, because they grow-up faster than you can ever imagine.

We managed to get 4/5 of the family together that weekend. That’s me, Kendall, hubby John and daughter Lillian.

Next graduation: me in 2010 with a BSN, followed by daughter Rebecca in 2012 with her BSN. Yep, I am living with the future of the nursing profession.

Let’s hope she keeps her unit cleaner than her room.


You walk into the unit, put down your backpack, fill your pocket with pen, scissors, and tape, sling the stethoscope over your neck, swipe your namebadge into the infernal timeclock and enter stage right.

It’s showtime!

Get the triage, hook up the monitor, grab the EKG, slam in the saline lock – grab the bloods in the process, hang a liter of normal saline, put up the side rails, hook the call bell to the side rail, throw on a warm blanket, medicate for fever and slam the chart in the “to-be-seen” rack.

Repeat x 30 over the next eight hours.

Feel like burnt toast, look like burnt toast, act like burnt toast.


Where’s the patient?

You know, the person you just triaged, hooked, slammed, hydrated, side-railed, blanketed, medicated and lined up for evaluation?


Did it ever occur to you that the reason you feel like burnt toast is because you are so focused on what you are doing you have lost sight of the “who” you are doing it to?


Well, it occurred to me.

Because that is exactly what had happened.

Oh, my physical care was fine.

But I had stopped looking patients in the eye. I was spitting out standard responses instead of listening to what my patients were saying. I was expending the bare minimum of energy required to complete tasks.

I was doing; I wasn’t caring.

And I was burnt.


But I discovered something.

And this is huge.

I was not focusing on tasks because I had burned out, I burned out because I had started focusing on tasks.

Let’s face it. The ER, while seemingly exciting to those outside the ambulance doors, can actually feel redundant to those of us who deal with the same issues every day. The same complaints. The same symptoms. Over and over and over.

So, what makes each case interesting? What makes each case unique?

The patient behind the story. The person under the symptoms.

Lose sight of the person and you lose sight of the profession. Lose sight of their humanity and you lose sight of your own. Lose sight of your own and you become a burnt shell.


You would think that after three decades of this, I’d have figured this out by now.

I guess you never stop learning.

This time, my teachers were an elderly man with a DVT who talked to me about his time on the LAPD, back in the day.

And the young woman who described, quite vividly, how it felt to go from the pinnacle of health to the devastation of a cancer diagnosis, overnight.

Or the 18-month old who tucked their head under my chin and fell asleep as Mom described  the terror of witnessing a first-time febrile seizure.


Who would have guessed that sometimes patients are the cure for burn out and not the cause of burn out.

The patients didn’t change, they were always willing to talk.

All I had to do was stop and listen.

That simple.

Go figure.

6:00 am

Breathing is Underrated (I’m Back!)

coffeefiltercapUh, Mildred?

Mr. Coffee called and they want their filter back!


Could have used Nurse Latte-Head this week.

Breakfast in bed, a pretty new bed jacket.

(Remember “bed jackets”? Do they still make those?)

The good news is that I can now breath without Herculean effort.

The bad news?

I can’t smell anything and I can’t taste a thing. My taste buds are gone, kaput, buh-bye.

Makes it very easy to diet.

Actually, we utilized my lack of taste-sensory organs to conduct a scientific experiment at work.

I am well known for my inability to tolerate spicy food. Makes me nauseated and diaphoretic. My esteemed colleague, Stand-Up Comedy Dude, wondered how a lack of taste would affect one’s ability to eat hot, or spicy, food.

Never one to turn down an opportunity to utilize myself as a guinea pig, I promptly threw down a packet of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes on a saltine.


My mouth got warm and my sinuses cleared slightly.

Rather anti-climactic, actually.

On the one hand I could handle any combination of body fluids for the rest of the shift with no olfactory assault, but on the other hand I couldn’t lean over a patient too closely or I’d be guilty of causing an olfactory assault (and singe their eyebrows in the process!).


Now that school is out (insert it’s-my-blog-bragging-rights-here: 4.0 for the semester, whoo hooo!) and I’m at a loss for what to do with all this…how do you call it…free time, I intend to plop my rear-end at a Starbucks at every opportunity and indulge my blog addiction with a newly rediscovered fervor.

And I’ll start with this week’s Grand Rounds, up at David’s Health Blawg.

Don’t forget to send your submissions to the next Change of Shift to Barbara over at Florence dot com (email: blynnolson at gmail dot com)!

May 26, 2009, 3:16 pm

Hi, I’m the Mohave Desert

dojo84Peter, Paul and Mary.

The early years.

It’s too late for Listerine for me.

(Besides, that stuff tastes horrible! Blech!)

It may kill 200, 000,000 germs in 15 seconds, but it’s the 200,000,001st that got me.


It started last night at work with a scratchy throat.

Then it dropped into my chest as a pressure behind my sternum.

Now my body has joined the party and invited inflammation to the gig, it’s aching like nobody’s business.

I have a paper on Islam due on Friday, two assignments in another class also due Friday.

I really don’t need this right now.

But, it seems to have arrived.

Hopefully it’s not the swine flu – I’d hate to be the first case I know of personally.


So, as my brain is as parched as my throat, my mind is as dry as the Mohave Desert and I couldn’t string two sentences together coherently if I tried, I’ll leave you with the reminder that Change of Shift is up on Thursday at Code Blog: Tales of a Nurse.

For those of you who still have the faculty of articulateness, you can send your submissions to “codeblogrn@gmail.com”.

Emergiblog will return to it’s regular posting as soon as my synapses start firing again.

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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