Saturday, March 1, 2008

one for the team


For a variety of reasons, I've worked a lot this week. We're getting ready to open a huge and drop dead gorgeous new Emergency Department and there's a lot to still finish up on. I've been filling in for some of the people who are on those tight deadlines to meet. I'm in the process of trying to add to my regular hours as well, although there are certainly lots of shifts to be picked up during times I really want to work - like school hours. Say what you will about nursing, but you can't beat the flexibility. It is a huge plus.



The extra work has been really interesting from another perspective, too. The last long shift I worked this week is a perfect example. On paper it was a nightmare. Two patients came in as Code Blues. One came in as a Code Red but immediately got upped to a Blue. Two emergent intubations, one of them practically in the hall. A young college student with one of those terrible flukey things that made all of our hearts hurt. We had to fly him out and I'm still wondering how he did. A spinal tap on an infant. A board that never cleared all day, a waiting room that was overflowing out into the parking lot, mental health beds that were never cold. None of us got lunch. No one got dinner. It should have been a disaster.



But instead it was one of the most satisfying shifts I've ever had in nursing. It was just one of those days where everything clicked. I was in the zone. Everything I did was effortlessly right. The first Code Blue was mine and I nailed it from start to finish. It was one of those television ER moments of people running down the hall with gurneys, holding bags of fluids and shouting orders to everyone they pass. And the whole thing, which should have had a terrible outcome, had a wonderful outcome. (It didn't start out wonderful, believe me. Every single person who saw this patient said some version of my favorite word (rhymes with truck) on first glance).



Part of my problem as a critical care nurse is that I overthink things. (Hell, part of my problem in life is that I overthink things). Sometimes you have to fly on gut reactions, which can be hard for me. But I did it all day, operating on pure instinct. And all day I was dead on. It was indescribable. I'd work every day if I could feel that way all the time.



I think so much of the camaraderie that is formed in hospitals is because of the day to day chaos that you survive together. This is true of any job. The more stress you live through and the more you depend on other people to watch your back, the more of a bond you create. Most of the time this bond shows up in little moments, moments where you realize that you're seeing a new facet to someone or understanding that a previously held opinion you had of a person is incorrect (and you're happy for it) or spot on (and you're happy for that, too). It's when the mask slips and the real person comes out. And you are thrilled to realize how much you like what you see.



Masks were slipping all over the place. All gloves were off. The black humor that this profession is so known for was out in full force. (I myself was as solemn as a judge, but some of the reprobates I work with got a little out of control). I found myself the target of a few inside jokes, had all manner of things thrown at me and received my traditional greeting from one of our docs of being body slammed into a wall. (In the nicest possible way, of course. Once the bones heal, that is). It was great.


When people are polite and formal and reserved, it may be business-like, but it's cold. To me, it says that they may not be totally comfortable with you in one way or another. In my (admittedly warped) opinion, if people like you enough to abuse you, you've got it made. You're part of the team. You're...an insider.


Every one of us took one for the team. And I loved it.

24 comments:

Carolyn said...

Great post again. So glad you had an easier time a work today compared to your post from a few days ago. It must be exhilarating to truly help people like that. What a wonderful career!

belle said...

oh I miss shifts like that! Fab description, took me right back.

PixelPi said...

The Spinal Police have given me just enough time to say that when I'm 85 and hit by a bus, I want to be air-evac'd to your ER. Depending on how my Alzheimer meds are working, I may or may not recognize you by name. You sound like you work on a great team. Kudos to you!

Akelamalu said...

After some reports I've heard recently about nursing care here I think I'll move to where you are - your nursing care sounds so much better! :(

It must be so satisfying to have a shift like that. x

Rudee said...

This could be a nursing recruitment ad! It can indeed be the most satisfying job in the world and it seems you know how to do that well. Enjoy your new digs. It's fun to work in a shiny new environment with the same old folks you love and know so well.

Amy said...

I think I'll try to only get sick or injured in Liberal Collegeville.

laurie said...

hard work that has meaning, done in concert with other like-minded, hard-working people, is a beautiful thing.

your post reminds me of the terrible night when the I-35 bridge collapsed last august. we were all working together in the newsroom, ripping up the previously planned Page 1, reporting, writing, editing, right up until the last second, but getting everything done and feeling wiped out but exhilarated.

we had done our best, and it was good.

we were not saving lives, like you do, but we were bearing witness to a tremendous tragedy, and that is important, too.

Maggie May said...

Well you are an Angel in disguise. You can tell it comes from your heart. You are obviously in the right place.
Love your doggy picture. Are they yours?

Kaycie said...

The closest I think I've come to those kinds of feelings at work were when I was dealing with a work injury or fending off an organizing attempt.

I always wished there were proven, well documented ways to deal with some of the problems you encounter in HR. Dealing with people and emotions is messy and unpredictable.

Maybe I should think about nursing . . .

LCM said...

It's got to be tough when you work on people and then never see them again. The ER doc who helped diagnosed Fiona's cancer (when she was only 4) actually hunted us down in the PICU to see what was up with her.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

carolyn - in general, I've had easier days since I switched from ICU to ER. In general...

belle - what kind of nursing did you do? and how long have you been out of it?

pixelpi - by the time you're 85 you won't want me as a nurse. trust me. I'll be on the same meds you are.

akelamalu - uh oh. maybe I need to google to see what you're talking about.

rudee - when it's good it's great. when it goes south though - as you well know - ugh.

amy - wait until we open the new unit. then you can combine medical care with what looks like a four star hotel.

laurie - exactly. and I think the more unexpected or horrific the event, the more of a bond it creates. no matter what field you're in.

maggie may - isn't that picture adorable? they aren't mine, sadly. my dogs are all too big to stand on each other's butts!

kaycie - lots of nursing doesn't get wrapped up neatly, either, but a surprising amount of it does. the ones that you keep wondering about are the problems.

lcm - the problem with stupid HIPAA is that we really can't follow up on our patients. and we all hate it. this patient the other day is a perfect example. I'll have to wait until the next time I work with the doc who flew him out to see if he got an update from the admitting hospital. sometimes they do (as a professional courtesy), but mostly they don't. good for your ER doc for doing that. they sound like a good person.

Kimberly said...

What an incredible experience!

Thalia's Child said...

Whew! I'm tired just reading that post. But I have to agree - days that just click... they're the best.

Potty Mummy said...

At least we all know where to come if we have a medical emergency in the midwest. Your new drop dead gorgeous ER... (and I hear they have some pretty good critical care nurses too...)

Akelamalu said...

Oh you won't find it if you google RC, these are real reports from real people I know! That's what's so disturbing!

aims said...

I hope you have some idea how much admire you and all of those who work in the medical profession.

Enough said.

Nearlydawn said...

Oh, that does sound great. I love it when a really hectic day comes together and everyone seems to be on there toes all at once.

Loved your description too - made it seem real to me as well. I could just see you rushing down the hall calling orders. :)

Simply Jenn said...

That does sound like a great day. We don't have great days in research.

elizabethm said...

What a fantastic description of a day when you are in the zone. couldn't be better. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Stacie said...

Days like that are the best! Glad you had a good one--you were ripe for one! Here is hoping that the trend continues for a long time to come!

Sandy said...

Terrific post! I am so glad that you had a day like that! They just make it all worth while!

Eileen said...

I know what you mean about bonding with people, when you work in stressful situations, such a good thing. As is the humor, joking around that is a so needed when you are constantly dealing with such serious situations. Sounds like you have some amazing co-workers.

Having spent the whole day Friday, in the hospital (while my friend had a heart procedure), I have to say again how much I admire what nurses do, each and every day. I was in the surgery room (where they prep. and are returned) all day, and watched and listened to the nurses in action. All I can say is, WOW. Very special people.
XOXOXO

Diana said...

You put it all exactly into the right words. If every day could be like that, how great would it be? And why do days like that fade under the bad?

Robin (the PENSIEVE one) said...

s i g h

You've written this well...you've drawn me in and given me reason to remember "the days"...

And, lol, you made me wanna be a nurse.

Being satisfied in your work, knowing you've made a difference between life and death? What a way to spend your vocational life. I hope you have more days like this, days when you see with clarity, when you have a strong sense of who you are. And all you can offer.

Glad I kept going today (in reading...).

:)