Dinner last night with an old friend who toils in the mines of Labour and Delivery. She has worked there for four years. She told me of an incident not too long ago working the night shift, faced with a post-partum patient who was bleeding, hypotensive, and tachycardic, in short, showing all the signs of going into hypovolemic shock. She was running around, starting IV lines on flat veins and hanging blood products. Packed red cells. Platelets. Cryoprecipitate. And by-the-by, saline by the bucketful. She called for help from her colleagues. Apart from this patient and another who was walking the halls a few hours from delivery, it was a slow night.
Of course, you know the end to this story, don’t you?
No one came.
No one even popped their head in the doorway to ask, “Is everything okay?”
All of them were at the nursing station, playing Draw Something on their phones, watching the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy, what have you. Too busy to help a drowning colleague with a shocky patient.
My friend went to her educator and her manager. They shrugged it off. No biggie, they said. Clearly my friend had things under control. “The patient lived, didn’t she?” they said. And then: “Maybe you need to improve your organizational skills to handle critically ill patients.”
This last to a 50-something woman who has been nursing 25-plus years, almost all of it in critical care settings.
For my friend, this incident may well be the last straw. She is definitely leaving L & D. Why would she want to stay? The workplace culture on this unit is awful. She feels alone and isolated when going into work. She can’t trust her colleagues. “Why,” she asks, “would anyone want to work there? There is no teamwork. No solidarity. Nurses backstab each other at the first opportunity.”
The only question remaining is whether my friend will leave nursing altogether and take her 25-plus years of experience with her, which included not only the knowledge to provide expert care to patients, but the potential to share that expertise in mentoring and nurturing new nurses. She’s uncertain what she would otherwise do, but leaning towards abandoning the profession which has shaped her adult life. She only needs an out — which she hasn’t found yet. She is that disgusted.
You might tell me that stories like this are unusual and not representative of nursing. Unfortunately, we all know better. So in the end, I don’t blame my friend for wanting to leave. I would do the same.
So what would be your response?
UPDATE: Some comments from Twitter:
The second to last tweet from @NorthernMurse is probably the relevant question, don’t you think?