Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Shifts Happen

Ah night shifts. Gotta love ‘em. I’ve come to like night shifts because usually they are a lot more peaceful than day shifts. I also happen to like the fact that call bells don’t go off as frequently, giving me more time to document, review charts and getting to know the unit. But night shifts also mean that I have to get used to dealing with some bizarre situations. A typical night shift goes something like this:

I get to the hospital and my first stop is the friendly Tim’s, where the server has my order prepared as soon as he sees me – large black with two creams and two splendas on the side. The urge to get a honey cruller at times is quite strong but I have to begrudgingly walk away. The thought of seeing myself as a patient scares me! I’d much rather be the one who starts the IVs, not receives them.

Make my way up five flights of stairs (again, refer to comments about not wanting to be a patient) and get report from the day shift. At this time, I’m usually praying to any deity that comes to mind to give me a set of patients that won’t ring the call bell.

1930 – 2200
After getting report, I make my around the rooms introducing myself and doing initial assessments. I’m finding that lately I’ve been doing more mental status assessments than before. One patient told me to “fetch some tiger shrimps waitress”. He was on strict orders to not eat anything for 12 hours to prepare him for tests. When I told him this, he looked at me with puppy dog eyes and asked me, “why can’t I get some goddamned tiger shrimps?” I have to restrain myself from asking non-patients questions like, “Are you in any pain?”, “Did you have a bowel movement today?” and “Can I take a look at your feet?”

Oh but wait, what’s this? “Maha”, my preceptor calls out. “New order for Mr. K. We’re giving a unit of blood stat. Get the paperwork ready and lets take a trip down to the blood bank”. So I rush through my assessments, run down to the blood bank, get a new unit of blood, run back up, take baseline vitals and start to hang the blood. That is until my preceptor gently, but firmly reminds me that I need the Y-type tubing a 500 ml bag of normal saline. D’Oh! Off I go to the clean room, get tubing and saline, start to do baseline vitals but remember that they’re already done and hang up the new unit. Since I have to check this patient’s vital signs q5mins, I run out of the room to prepare a heparin injection for the patient next door. Back to do vitals – looking good! Run out for another 5 minutes, give the heparin injection, sign the sheet and run back to do more vitals. Now I have 15 minutes until the next set of vitals. ‘Great!’ I think. ‘Just enough time to get two sets of meds done!’ Finally, his transfusion is finished and he looks a lot better. Goody goody gum drops, I can sit now!

Documenting time – lots and lots of documenting. When I first started, I thought, ‘this isn’t too bad – 10 minutes and I’m done’. What a chump I’ve been. When I first started, I only documented 2 people’s vital signs. Going through all of the assessments for 10 patients gets very tedious, very quickly. Truly, it becomes a struggle to not check email, facebook or another equally insidious site.

What’s this? Peace? Quiet? Calmness throughout the ward? Can’t be. I’m nervous. Better do the first set of rounds to make sure patients are still in bed and alive. This sounds morbid and it is. I hate standing over patients, watching them breathe a full cycle with a flashlight pointed at them. First set of rounds go great, and since (for once), I’ve finished my documenting, I can get started on other jobs. We all start checking various machines to make sure they are working, medication carts are restocked, narcotic counts are done and new narcotic records for the next day are made.

Its first break, which means that I can now sleep, while the second break staff takes over the patient load. I would have preferred second break (from 0330-0530) because when I wake up, there is only 2 more hours to go! But I’ll take what I can get.

I feel groggy and slightly nauseous from having slept so little and needing so much more sleep. Nevertheless, I grab some fruit and start another round. This time I find a man trying to climb his bedside curtain. “Sir, what in God’s name are you doing?” He looks rather like a feral animal on the hunt hanging from his curtain while I point the flashlight at him. “Get back into bed!” He obliges and I thank my lucky stars that he didn’t pursue the matter further. When I come back to check up on him, I find him sitting up in his bed, shaving himself. In the dark. With a piece of paper. I thought I was on a cardiology floor, not a psych floor. My eyes are on fire so I go back to the nursing station to sit and pray that no one uses the call bell.

The guy who got a blood transfusion is not breathing well. I can hear coarse crackles from the doorway to his bed. Not good. My first thought was that he was having a reaction to the blood but when I went to take a look at him and went to take his vital signs, he was not displaying any telling symptoms of a transfusion reaction. He did not have a fever, chills, pain, fainting or dizziness, or bloody urine (those were the ones I remembered). Also, wouldn’t these symptoms start showing almost immediately after the transfusion? He finished receiving blood a few hours earlier. Coarse crackles were the only new development. I called my teacher over who pointed to the IV pole. “Notice anything there?” she asked. My blank bleary eyed look said it all. “He received 2 units of blood along with 500ml of normal saline all within the span of a few hours. Potential fluid overload perhaps?” I responded to her with a blank bleary eyed look once again before garbling something along the lines of “lots of watery stuff in lungs means Lasix make man feel better”. I’m so smooth. When we went to check his MAR, it turned out that there was no order for Lasix! That meant that we had to get a doctor, any doctor, to give an order for 20 mg of IV Lasix. Calling doctors and begging for obvious orders is one way to wake up. My teacher was visibly annoyed and told me that usually 20 mg of Lasix is a standard order with a blood transfusion. At least we got the order and the patient’s breathing finally sounded normal. Job well done!

A burst of activity and I have to stay awake! We start checking patients to make sure they’re still in bed and if they need to be cleaned up. The nurses on my floor call this the five o clock train because we all line up, take adjacent rooms and start cleaning patients up (if they need to be cleaned). Since its almost end of shift, foleys need to be emptied, I&Os need to be documented, CHF patients need to be weighed, 0600 meds need to be given out and report for the oncoming shift needs to be prepared. I feel myself getting increasingly restless as the clock ticks closer to 0730 because the only thing on my mind is a shower and my soft lavender and vanilla scented bed (courtesy of Downy). But when its finally quitting time, I run out to the train station where I’m greeted by fabulously well dressed people while I look like a smelly homeless person who stumbled across a pair of scrubs. It doesn’t matter because my day (err night) is DONE!


Deeba said...

Maha, your blog is awesome! I can't help myself but check it every chance I get. You need to post up more stuff chutney butt. You're an extremely talented writer, always have been, it is a gift. I miss you a lot, but I'm glad I get to be a part of your life this way.

Jessica said...

Bwahaha on the tiger shrimp part. And shaving oneself with PAPER! Hahahaha I love the way you write Maha. Write more! Write more!!!!