As soon as your feet hit the pavement in the parking lot you begin chanting your mantra, “I can do this. It’s going to be a good night.” In the back of your mind there’s some hope that the ER gods will be looking down upon you. For some reason you think it can’t be that bad. Right? Wrong. As you hit the department doors you see fellow nurses who look as if they will be reduced to tears by the next voice they hear say, “Nurse”. As if you needed confirmation of just how busy it is your eyes hit the patient boards. Confirmed: chaos is upon you.
You head to the break room where you unload and take your last few breaths of freedom. You take patient report from the distraught dayshifter who informs you of all the things she didn’t have time to do. You spend a few minutes just letting the nurse vent to relieve some stress from the day.
It’s now time to hit the floor running.
You attempt to prioritize and meet with the most critical patients first. On your way to do rounds you are stopped by the ER doctor who sees you as fresh prey. He begins questioning why things aren’t done and all you can do is patiently wait to interject. “I just came on shift. I’ll get to those things ASAP.” You hope this is enough to calm him for the moment until you actually can get to those things.
After finally making rounds and finishing up tasks, you consider for a moment you will have time to chart all the things you have done since starting your shift 4 hours ago. No chance. A code blue is en route and just so happens you have the only available room. You scramble to at least chart on one person and then you’re off to prepare the room for your code. Surprise, surprise, you have no suction canister or tubing and no defibrillator pads. Good thing you checked. You hurry down the hall to the stock room avoiding eye contact with everyone so you can get there and get back. During the resuscitation of the 92 year old male from a nursing facility where they were unable to provide a code status, you hear the neighbor patient screaming out in pain for more dilaudid for his chronic back pain x 3 years.
After the code is called you’re back at it full speed ahead. You decide it’s time for rounds again. Check on the patients you left and meet new ones, one of which includes a 2 year old with a fever of 104.5F that the mother states she didn’t give Tylenol/Motrin because she “wanted you to see how high the fever was.” You assist all your patients with every need and insure them the doctor will see them…today.
You finally get to sit down after leaving an elderly lady’s room where you performed an incontinence change and dewrinkling of sheets. As soon as you’re hiney hits the seat the family from the room you just came out of requests additional warm blankets and a position change.
On your way out of the room for the 10th time in an hour, EMS dispatches a psych patient that is combative and in 4 point restraints. You take a deep breath and a happy thought creeps in your mind. You’re thankful this isn’t going to be your patient. However, being the kind-hearted person you are you help the other nurse with this patient.
Before you know it you’re 11 hours into your shift and you realize you haven’t taken a bathroom break at all. The only food and water you’ve consumed was while standing and in between changing an incontinent patient and cleaning up someone who vomited everywhere.
As your shift nears the end you try to do everything you can to help the oncoming nurse. You let out a sigh of relief as you see day shift begin to roll in. You know at that point you have survived. No one died on your account….that’s a good night.
You drive home thinking I should stay up and get my grocery shopping done this morning, but by the time you near home you can barely get yourself inside. You shower, struggle with strength to brush your teeth, and then finally get yourself dragged into bed. For the next 30 minutes wonder if you charted this or that. Once you drift off to sleep you dream of call bells you can’t find. You wake up startled after 6 hours of sleep realizing it’s your phone ringing. Your mother apparently forgot you work nights and called repeatedly to ask for a recipe. You decide to stay up and get some things done. Even though you know at 1830 the vicious cycle begins again.
As the dread of another shift floods your thoughts, you know in the back of your mind you really do love your job. It may sound slightly crazy to those who don’t understand what we do every day. But in the end, in the grand scheme of things we have helped at least one of those people. We love and crave the chaos.
Did I miss anything? Please leave a comment below on anything you would like to add.