Thursday, February 5, 2009

the three day war


Alright, let's start with Monday.


The shift started with almost half the unit full. This isn't typical, but the night hadn't been typical in any way. The ER was virtually empty the entire time the Super Bowl was on, but within minutes of it ending, the unit was packed. Evidently, everyone sat at home ignoring whatever was bothering them until the post-game show, and then BAM. The precedent for the day was set. Every single room was full all day, including the trauma rooms. The waiting room was overflowing into the parking lot. It turned into one of our highest number of patients seen days ever.


It wasn't just the numbers. It was the timing. For some reason, I kept discharging or admitting my patients at the same time, which meant that I would then get slammed with all new patients at the same time. At one point, I admitted three ambulances with unstable patients into my newly opened rooms within a five minute period. One of my patients had a full-blown psychotic break at exactly the same time. We were all too busy to even help each other, so it was every nurse for themselves. When we thought we were as stretched as we could possibly be, one of our patients coded. Halfway through that, with everyone either in on the code or watching additional patients to cover for the staff in the code, cardiac monitors started blaring in another corner to announce another patient who was in a full code situation. My patient with the psychotic break thought he was at a Bingo parlor with all the noise and started loudly calling numbers outside of his room, dodging people running down the hall at full speed pushing crash carts.


And Tuesday wasn't noticeably better.


Oh, it was slower for a while, but then we got slammed again. I got backed into a corner by a violent and intoxicated patient and it took three law enforcement officers to retrieve me. I hit my very own personal best in blood alcohol levels. Well, not mine. A patient's - almost nine times the legal limit. And breathing just fine on his own, how I don't have a clue. Soon before shift change, I got a trauma that kept me at work an hour late stabilizing her enough to ship out. By the time I got home, my legs were cramping and my vision was blurred. I was in bed by ten, where I thrashed and tossed all night.


And then there was Wednesday. It was the same exact story - all day long. Even down to the now obligatory code at shift change and an overflowing waiting room for twelve solid hours. As I sit in bed writing this, I can feel my pulse in both of my feet as they throb to the rhythm of my heartbeat. All I can think is four days off. I have four days off. And then it's back to the salt mines.


I just keep telling myself, it's job security, right??

14 comments:

Altaglow said...

These last three days weren't really normal were they? Although it truly sounds like nothing you'd ever want to have happen no matter what. Rest, sleep, relax, eat chocolate, drink wine, watch movies, order in food, take bubble baths, call in a masseuse and just take it easy. LOVE......

Rudee said...

Now if you had tubed the drunk, he could have been ICU's problem. Next time. I can't imagine a BAL that high and breathing, but I've seen close. Beats me how they do it.

After my first BC 3 Day, my sister made me soak my feet in ice water. It works to ease the pain. Barring that, take two aspirin and call it a day.

Alycia said...

what you said about the patients not coming in till after superbowl makes me crazy! i work in the xray dept of my hospital and i just hate when a patient will come in for an xray thru the ER on a holiday or slow weekend, for something that has been bothering them for weeks or months. its like, why did you wait till now???!! ahhh! lol

Devon said...

I am so glad you have the next four off! Don't dwell on all the crap at work this week... pamper yourself in all your favorite ways!

Maggie May said...

You really deserver your days off. Hope you are really enjoying them.
Try not to think of work for now....

The Finely Tuned Woman said...

You have a very high stress job. It sounds to me as though your down time needs to be the very opposite of that. I hope you can manage it.

Daryl said...

I am sorry it was so insane ... but I want to say thank you for being a nurse and putting up with not just the sick, the drunk and the insane but their famililes too!

distracted by shiny objects said...

It is job security--either for the health profession or writing a sit-com. Personally, it's all about the health insurance for my family or I'd be serving double mocha chi-chi lattes at a hip little cafe.
Could you put your feet up at a movie theater and see all the Oscar nominees?? Or get the boxed set of The Tudors and hunker down on the couch with some Advil and hot tea?? Off with their heads...:>)

PS. If it's any consolation, we have Bingo Boy's mother upstairs in the ICU. Quite the set of lungs in that family.

aims said...

I laughed at the bingo caller - me!
I'm ashamed of myself - truly - but I couldn't help it.

Iota said...

I'm glad aims laughed at the bingo caller, because I did too. I thought you were going to tell us all how the ER decided to develop a new triage system: give everyone a numbered ticket as they walk (or are carried) through the door, and then use the psychotic patient to shout out numbers to decide who to treat next.

So while you're thinking "job security", watch out, because the ER chiefs might be thinking "save some bucks, get rid of the triage nurses".

Akelamalu said...

Good God, only four days off? You need a two week holiday!

Anna Lea said...

Ice and heat those ahcing muscles and take a much deserved break!

my two cents said...

I hope today was filled with things that caused you no stress at all.

Miriam said...

Hello, RC, I'm new to your blog, and just spent 45 minutes reading your posts. I'm fascinated, and in awe at both your work routine and your writing.
i'll definitely be back, but in the meantime, I agree with Rudee about soaking your feet, tho I baulk at ice water- warm, with a ocuple of drops of lavender oil would do it for me..or better still, a full warm bath with the lavender. See you soon, mimi