Home » Love Nursing

Category: Love Nursing

Things to remember about nursing

This summer, I came away from my MICU contract with a renewed understanding of why I have this love-hate relationship with nursing. And I’ve summed it up in 6 simple points so when I’m ready to pick up another contract I can remember what to expect, even if months and months of super intense child rearing washes it all out of my head.

So here goes. The love part…

  1. It’s the feeling you get after the shift that is so great. You made it. You got through this grueling, back breaking, nerve wracking day. It’s a feeling of accomplishment.
  2. It’s the social interaction. The camaraderie. There is definitely a bond there among nurses. No matter how different a fellow nurse is from you they know exactly what it is that you go through. And for many of us, you can’t say the same thing about your family, your spouse, or your best friend.
  3. Then there’s just the joy of knowing a difficult job really, really well. Being able to field any curve ball that comes your way in an extremely fast paced environment. Not to mention the fact that people could die if you don’t do the right thing. While that may sound like an enormous amount of pressure, it’s also a great source of pride to know that you can handle that.

And the hate part…

  1. Night shift – Love, love, love the people who work night shift. But I hate the fact that switching from days to nights makes me feel like a human slug.
  2. Lower back pain. No need to elaborate here.
  3. Cleaning up stool. Sorry. it sucks no matter how you slice it. Some will say “Oh it doesn’t bother me at all! You get used to it.” Bullshit. You have 2 ICU patients, each stooling 3-4 times during the night in a 12 hour shift. You do the math. That means you are potentially up to your elbows in shit Q 2 hrs. AND trying to get the rest of your work done.

Surprise! I love being a nurse again.

Having trouble keeping up with my love-hate relationship with nursing? That’s okay, so am I. The good news is that I love it again. I’m almost halfway through my MICU contract and things are going surprisingly well. They didn’t quite start out that way. Here’s a synopsis: Week 1: In the weeds. All the time. Treading water. Hating life. Crossing off the days until this damned contract is over. Week 2: Getting used to it but damn, this job is hard! How does anyone do this for a living? How did I do this for a living? I’ve had it up to here with poop and sputum and agitated patients on the ventilator and I wished I were back working in the recovery room, checking pedal pulses and getting turkey sandwiches for my patients. Week 3: My confidence has officially returned and it’s starting to feel like I never left. I can kind of see why I actually liked this job, although it’s not easy. It’s still very challenging. Week 4: Wait a sec… I kind of love this job! Even after a crazy shift of codes, deaths, bleeding, confusion, and difficult patients, I walk out the door feeling great. It’s probably just the neurotransmitters. I’m high on adrenaline. I drive home with the windows down and the radio blasting, feeling like I really accomplished something. The next day I wake up very tired but still feeling good. I relax more because I feel like I’ve earned it. So now I’m loving it so much I’m thinking about returning as permanent staff. I can make this work. It’s a big pay cut to leave the agency but I love having a work home, and a work family. My MICU coworkers are absolutely the best, and this job is helping me to remember why I chose nursing in the first place. There’s just one teeny weeny little complication. Two, actually. I’m pregnant with twins. So I’m not going to commit to anything just yet. It’s one thing to put one kid in daycare, but three? You get to the point where financially you’re just barely breaking even. So we’ll see. I think the important thing for me is to remember how I feel about being an ICU nurse right now, which is that I love it. After Ben was born I kind of got seduced by that whole social media world and was tempted to migrate away from nursing altogether. But I’m wiser now. And up for the challenge of having 3 kids under the age of 5 for a few years (YIKES!).

And you thought your Nursing Orientation was difficult

The other day I was talking to a veteran CCU nurse. She told me that she worked at the hospital where the first defibrillations were studied and performed. Like many health care studies, the testing was done on animals – dogs in this case.

She then went on to tell me that one of the requirements for working in her CCU (back in the 1970’s) was that you actually had to defibrillate a dog to show that you were competent in that skill! Yes, the dogs were sedated before hand, but still.

Nurses see (and do) the craziest things.

I like to help people. So sue me.

You are a nurse. You are out in public, going about your business and you see a person in distress, or a situation where someone has been harmed or injured in some way.

What would you do?

I had a conversation with some fellow nurses yesterday that I found kind of surprising. Someone was cursing their husband for telling her son’s little league team that she was an ER nurse. Now the coach wanted her to volunteer to run the first aid station at some of the games.

“I never tell anyone I’m a nurse,” she says.

The other nurse agreed and said that she never wears her scrubs home when taking the subway, because she would be expected to help if something went wrong.

Now, I understand where this mentality comes form. Everyone’s afraid of liability. Everyone’s afraid of losing their license if something goes wrong.

Call me naive and idealistic, but if I saw someone in distress, or someone who had been harmed, it would take wild hungry pit bulls to keep me from helping them. You see, it’s kind of why I became a nurse in the first place. Not only is there something so infinitely rewarding about being able to help someone in a crisis situation, I also consider it to be my duty. And I may not have the type of first-line emergency skills that many ER nurses and EMTs have but I’ll tell you what I can do. I can hold pressure to stop someone from bleeding. I know BLS and if there’s an AED around I can set it up, calmly and quickly. I can hold someone’s hand, talk them through the situation and try to keep the scene calm until the EMTs get there.

And if you’re still afraid, well, there is something to protect you. It’s called The Good Samaritan Law.

I’m proud to be a nurse. Sure I may do my share of complaining about all the menial stuff, but in the end, I have pride in who I am. This is going to sound incredibly corny but when I wear my scrubs out in public, stopping to get coffee before work, or stopping at the grocery store after my shift, I hold my head up a little higher. The funny thing is that people seem to treat me with slightly more reverence when I’m in my scrubs. And I don’t mind that at all.

Am I Contributing to the Nursing Shortage?

I got this comment the other day from Trish, and I really have mixed feelings about it:

I just wanted to let you know I like your blog and you have impacted someone’s life (mine), in an unexpected way.

I’m starting college this fall after being out of school many years. I was planning on going into nursing. Deep down I suspected I would suck at being a nurse, especially when I found myself gagging while washing out my pottytraining toddler’s poopy underpants. Your blog, and this post, has pretty much confirmed my suspicions and I’m planning on doing something else now. Thanks for opening my eyes!

On the one hand, I feel bad. We need nurses and I hate to think that I’ve influenced someone to not be a nurse.

On the other hand, everything I write here is my honest and open opinion about the profession, and I write about what being a nurse really entails. And unfortunately, the further I get in this profession, the more I want out of it.

Despite that, I have no regrets as far as choosing this path, and spending the last three years (5 if you include school) being a nurse. It’s been a mind-blowing experience, one in which I’ve learned a lot about life and a lot about my self, and what I’m capable of doing.

To Trish I would say this: Do a little more thinking about what drove you to consider nursing in the first place, because there are many types of nurses that rarely come into contact with poop. (Isn’t it crazy that I’m writing a serious post about poop?) Psych nurses, community health nurses, and case managers are a few types that come to mind. And you can always try being a NICU nurse, because as @thatguynamedtom said, “the poop is so much smaller there.”

One final thought: I used to be a person who was afraid of blood, and for years I wouldn’t even dream of becoming a nurse, for fear of having to actually draw someone’s blood. I later came to find out, however, that this was simply a matter of my own vasovagal response to giving blood. Years later I found myself up to my elbows in blood amongst the GI bleeders in the MICU, and I was as far from syncope as you can get. Instead I found myself pumped up with adrenaline and exhilaration at the chance to be saving someone’s life.

Now there’s a good reason to become a nurse.

God – 1, MICU – 0

The hospital where I work – we’ll call it: GHOAT, “The Greatest Hospital Of All Time” (or so human resources would have us believe) – is often seen as the last stop for some patients. Other hospitals send their patients to my unit when they have run out of options. As a new grad, I often wonder just what it is that we do that is so different from other hospitals. Do we have some secret technology that we guard and use only for special cases? Do our docs and nurses have some sort of super-natural diagnostic and healing powers? Families seem to have this notion that “If anyone can save my loved one, GHOAT can.” We end up with some disappointed families.

One of the things that we do is to pump unit after unit of blood products into a person who is bleeding out of their GI tract. At GHOAT, GI bleeders go straight to the MICU. And while I might sound cynical, I have to point out that I have also been amazed. One patient that comes to mind had 60 units pumped into him, on three separate occasions (The blood bank hates us!) The third time I really thought it was his time, but he survived. When I was an orientee, I had a patient who managed to start bleeding, get a cordis placed, received numerous blood products, all while I was at lunch and my preceptor was watching my patient.

So GHOAT received one of these GI bleeders the other night. The primary nurse was a friend of mine whom I had gone through orientation with. She had recently confided in me that she was miserable working on this unit, and that she was even questioning whether she was cut out for nursing. She knew this patient was going to be diffcult so she quickly enlisted the help of the entire unit. A table outside the room was turned into a makeshift assembly line, with bags and bags of fluids, flushes, and tubing. The Level One was in position and ready to go. There was nothing left to do but wait. Then we heard the ominous sound of the helicopter landing. Minutes later she was there. It was a young woman with cancer. She had a huge mass in her lower abdomen and was bleeding from somewhere in her lower GI tract. She was lying in a pool of blood. She was awake and alert and I think that’s what made it so difficult. So everyone on the unit began working on her. The teamwork was amazing. Each person there seemed to effortlessly shift into a task. Someone was hanging pressors. Someone was checking blood. Someone was putting in a line. Someone was making runs to the blood bank, someone was manning the level one. Someone was giving oxygen. Someone was doing chest compressions, as she went in and out of conciousness. Someone was getting out the emergency drugs. Someone was holding her hand and telling her that we were taking care of her. Any nurses who were not in the room were making sure all the other patients on the unit were being taken care of. This went on for about two hours until the patient gave up and died. We were pretty despondent. There really was a point where it looked like she was going to survive. The unit was a mess. There was blood everywhere, being tracked around on the floor. The patient was lying in her own personal pool of blood. Her face was swollen from the rapid infusion of fluids. One of the nurses was very upset. “Where was the family? Why did this woman have to die surrounded by strangers? What chance did she have with her cancer?” And of course the answer to all of these questions is that she came to GHOAT, and that’s we do at GHOAT. You want everything done for your family member? Take them to GHOAT.

Since the very beginning of my critical care education, this issue has always loomed large. How much do you do for the dying patient? When is it time to let go and just help the patient die in peace? Everyone in this field has a strong opinion on the matter, one way or the other. I’m starting to learn that you can’t generalize this issue. You have to take it on a case by case basis.

The next night the palliative care nurse paid us a visit. Someone had told her about the recent death and she felt that we could use a tiny bit of counseling. She is no stranger to the MICU and thank God for that. In the MICU there are so many reasons to build up an emotional wall so you can continue to take care of business. I think she helps us to preserve a little piece of the emotionally vulnerable side. The wall is necessary, but you have to leave a little room for escape. So we talked about what a horrible blood bath it was, how it wasn’t right that her family didn’t get to see before she died. How it was so awful to see her face puff up like that. How the whole thing was futile because of her cancer. The palliative nurse’s reply to all of this was completely surprising to me. She said, “You are all heroes.” She pointed out that we joined together and made every effort possible to save this woman. Every person on the unit contributed in some way towards the effort. We did everything we possibly could do. And every step of the way there was a nurse speaking softly into her ear, telling her what was happening, and holding her hand.

So the above title is pretty corny, I know, but when she was saying the whole hero thing, I was mentally conjuring up this Michelangelo painting, where God and the angels were calling for this woman, and the MICU team was working on the ground, fighting to make her live. And my friend, the primary nurse who was thinking of giving up nursing? She did an excellent job. I said to her the next day, “You can’t possibly be thinking that you’re not cut out for nursing.” “No,” she said. “I’m thinking about transferring to the ER.”