Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tasks and Trash...

Sometimes I wonder what it is I actually do in a day. I think about the individually packaged pills I have to open, and think, I probably opened 100 little packages today, not counting the individually wrapped syringes and needless luer-lock attachments. Yes, it might be safer when each pill has a printed barcode on the wrapper, but the pill packager has gone on the fritz putting pills in the wrong packages before.

Then there are the innumerable tasks. I often feel like a glorified waitress, fetching water and juice, then IV morphine. (My days at Chili's during college DID pay off!) Dressing changes, assistance to the bathroon, ordering, then taking the meal trays away, patient and family education, comforting a nauseated patient, and throwing away used tissues are just SOME of the tasks I complete in a typical day. I like when my job is a little bit more than task oriented, when I can sit and talk with a patient about her pet Pomeranian, or about how she used to travel. Those are good days.

Today, for example, I had to change IV tubing. This is something that must be done at least every 72 hours, of which we keep track of with little colored sticker "flags" that attach around the plastic tubing, indicating "Change Monday" (or whatever day comes 72 hours from now). I had to change tubing today because the patient went from "critical care" to "step down" and when that happens, the IV pump themselves are switched out, requiring a new set of IV tubing.

This is just one example of how trash is created. I think to myself, how wasteful my profession is, how much trash we produce, and that none of it matters because it's all about cost, and not about the environment. If I saved all of my throwaways, not counting sharps, I'm sure I would have a brown paper grocery bag full, and that's just one nurse. On my unit today, there were 12 nurses scheduled, and that was one nurse short. And that's just one unit in hospital with 350+ beds. Point is, it's a lot of trash.

I don't think things will change, at least not soon, but it's something I think about from time to time. Maybe you do too.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thank you is not enough...

Yesterday was one of my normally scheduled 12-hour work days. I punched in at 6:58am, with a whole 2 minutes to spare. I say this because I walk a couple of blocks to work with my travel mug of coffee, a lunch bag, and lately an umbrella because the fall so far in Northern Michigan has been quite wet.
I go to get report, and find out I'm to take care of this patient who has been in the hospital for 40-some days post-surgery. Needless to say, he's had some complications. Because of the nature of HIPPA, I can't go into much detail about him, but the more interesting component is his very involved wife. Maybe involved isn't the right word, but I'm sure many of the other nurses out there have encountered some overbearing family member who thinks they are trying to help, but really makes you want to strangle them. While helping this patient in the bathroom, requiring myself, one of my coworkers, a walker, a gait belt, and strength beyond what we possessed, helped the patient stand. While doing what we do in the bathroom, the Mrs. said, "How about a courtesy flush?" So my coworker stopped what she was doing, to flush the toilet, and then return her focus to the patient struggling to stand. What was she doing in the bathroom with the 3 of us anyway? She felt the need to supervise us because we weren't competent to wipe an ass? Anyway, this is just ONE example of the directions I received during my 12-hour shift, not to mention, I had another patient.
Don't get me wrong, I do love my job. I love being able to make a difference, bond with patients, help them recover from a very intense, life-saving surgery, but sometimes it is mentally exhausting. Sure there might be a "Thank you" here and there for returning with a fresh ice water or warm blanket, but there's never a thank you for wiping an ass or dealing with an overbearing family member. I know that it's the nature of the work, that nurses often share a feeling of underappreciation, but it doesn't mean that we don't want to feel appreciated from time to time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Teaching Clinical Students...

I have been teaching clinicals for over 2 years, which is roughly half of the time I have been a real nurse. I started clinical teaching because of a deal I couldn't pass tuition for an MSN class, paid teaching, plus a stipend (and $ for mileage because I commuted over an hour!)....and it turned out to be a great experience.
Truth is, I've always loved teaching. Back when I worked at a large chain grocery store, I was a "store trainer", and then when I waited tables at a popular restaurant, I was also a "server trainer". All of which may have prepared me to train people. Teaching nursing isn't all that different, however the outcomes are a little more serious than a steak coming out a little too rare.
I like the daily, hands-on experience, and the opportunity to see things from a student's perspective again. They get so excited to do something I now see as routine or simple, such as dc'ing a foley. They doubt themselves, or maybe I should say they don't give themselves credit because they know SO MUCH. They just need help realizing it, and that's why I'm there.