jeanhill

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Privacy, judgment and ethics aside, I have caring to do.

A few years ago I cared for an acquaintance. She was a friend of a friend who had been living out of the country for several years, but had come home to visit family friends. She was rushed in to the ED and before I even knew who she was I was delivering her 19 week old fetus. When I finally looked up to see the mother’s face I realized we knew each other. I said nothing. In that moment I didn’t care about what the College would say about caring for those you know when there was a real emergency to deal with. I held her hand as she passed the placenta and focused on stabilizing her blood pressure by putting in the largest IVs as I could.  I asked her if she remembered me and if she would prefer another nurse cared for her. She asked me to stay. I comforted her and showed her the baby she would never get to know. I checked on her every half hour that shift and came in early for my next shift to find out how she was. There was no time to feel sad until my shift was over and like the other children and babies and fetuses I have seen pass away, they stick around in my heart and mind a lot longer. There are those patients that stick with you, elderly or middle aged, etc, but I think most any emergency nurse can agree that child patients are the some of the longest lasting in our memories. And for me, the ones who haven’t even started in this world are forever imprinted.

I saw my acquaintance a few months later, she was home again, in the grocery store and she thanked me for what I had done for her and told me she would never forget me. The thank you warmed my heart but I knew she would no longer remember me as the girl she had a beer with when we were in our early 20s, but as the nurse who was there when she lost her baby.  Judgment, confidentiality, privacy, all of those ethical principles aside, perhaps that’s why we shouldn’t care for ones we know, even if just a little, because it affects us too.

I recently found out that she gave birth to a daughter and it’s amazing how happy I felt for someone I don’t really know to have had a baby.  I wanted to find a way to contact her to wish her well but elected not to as I didn’t want to be THAT nurse wishing her well, inadvertently reminding her of what she lost before.  Nevertheless, I personally take solace in knowing that despite all of the sad and terrible we see rarely hearing from these patients again, they do in fact have happiness and joy in their lives later on.

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Generation Gaps

I recently took a course with nurses of varied years of experience and ages, but it was primarily made up of fairly new graduate nurses within the last year or two. During one lecture the facilitator was speaking about the future of nursing and how we need to address the current issues and challenges that exist in the nursing profession today, and asked the class to outline a few. Issues such as the global nursing shortage, heavier workloads, lack of education support, feelings of little public appreciation and individual unit situations were brought up. One nurse felt that on his unit there was a large divide between the older senior nurses and the new junior staff. This perked up my ears. He felt that the senior nurses were threatened by the amount of theory and knowledge that he and his fellow junior colleagues had and insinuated the senior nurses felt the juniors were going to take their jobs or roles on their unit. He continued to say that the generational and differing nursing requirement (degree vs. diploma) issues existing on his unit put a huge divide between the younger and older staff. (*disclaimer* While yes, I have written about how nurses can eat their young, I disagreed with the standpoint he took.) It’s terrible to think this is happening, and despite what I have written (that is only a handful of nurses FYI, by no means the picture of the entire Acme Regional ED senior staff in the least) I personally find that there is a great blend of ages and levels of experience within my unit personally.  He stated that perhaps the junior nurses should be on their own line with the senior nurses on another. I cringed at the thought of that. For any unit to run effectively and safely it is in my opinion, which I am almost positive would be shared with most, that there needs to be senior staff at all times. A line of strictly junior staff would be unsafe and potentially detrimental to patient care not to mention the amount of issues, disagreements and incidents that could and would arise. I think of inconsistencies in care and the potential for a patient’s change in condition to be overlooked simply due to inexperience until too late.  I have found that the novice and senior staff continue to learn from each other as each are on different ends of their careers with different types of knowledge to share.  This nurse went on to say that maybe the senior staff needs to go in for remedial courses to be brought up to the “standard” of the new grad degree nurses. *insert shocked look on face*. I nearly fell off my chair. If the experienced diploma nurse does not want to go for their degree how and why could one be forced to take theoretical courses that in my mind, often have little to no benefit to the patient at the bedside. I relayed my personal opinion that the diploma nurses he is suggesting should go for remedial courses to be “brought up to speed” in fact had far more clinical time as students than any of us degree nurses and as a result were far better prepared going to the bedside when they graduated as opposed to us. I reminded him of the amount of papers and classroom time we spent talking more about nursing than actually doing it. I could write a 10 page paper on how to properly sew an emblem on a jacket with 4-5 APA references if I was asked to (please no one ask me) as a result of the amount of theory referencing involved in the degree program. This nurse’s sentiments about how degree nurses are far more qualified to be at the bedside than the diploma nurses and generation gaps exist out of jealousy or by being ill prepared made me question what sort of nonsense he was spoon-fed upon his obviously very successful graduation from a degree program. I am the product of the degree program but I do not endorse the structure of degree nursing program, at least not the one I was in. I think I should have been at the bedside far more than I was. I had yet to give an IM injection to a real patient until I was consolidating in my final 4th year placement. I had however written an excellent 25 page paper on nursing leadership and how to effectively determine who should get Christmas vacation with examples of different leadership skills, roles and suggestions on effective management.. *insert vomit sound*. I suppose however it can depend on what one wishes to do with their career and the direction they want to take it.

Ultimately what I am trying to get at is while I am sure generation gaps exist on units, I do not believe it is entirely as a result of degree vs diploma more than it might be just personality related. Differing maturity levels, different interests, and people at different points in their lives not to mention the obvious that we are all individuals.  I enjoy working with the tough take no nonsense 15 year nurse as much as I like working with the 35 year veteran nurse who still gives every patient a bed bath and the novice 2 year nurse who wants to learn about every patient condition possible. A few of my closest coworkers have nearly 10+ years on me with a couple who could even be my parent.

Gaps exist only if we let them and really, we are not here to make friends. When we do that’s great, however, we have a job to do. If that 25 year nurse doesn’t like me, she at least knows I can get an IV on a 5 day old on the first poke and that’s all that matters. We often forget how our “issues” can affect the patients.

So i ask this, do generation gaps exist on your units? If so, are they related to degree vs diploma nurses or more just due to differing personalities and individuals at different points in their lives? Do you find yourself getting along with the nurses of the “opposite” generation?

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The phrases junior nurses and most staff do not care to hear from senior nurses…

…or the negativity they can spew….

“You wouldn’t know what to look for in that type of patient assessment anyways…”

How do you know I don’t know what to assess for? Are you the textbook I read from? The online periodicals I continue to educate myself with? Are you every patient I have assessed in the last 8 years? Did you teach me? Were you my preceptor in some nightmare? Well since you are none of the previous and you’re not a bound textbook (despite how wound up you are all the time) please do not assume that since I have less experience than you, I won’t know how to assess a patient with XYZ diagnosis. Perhaps just ask if I know what the presenting signs and symptoms may be and any associated complications to monitor for, what the normal would be, etc… and take a supportive and educative approach if you are concerned about my assessment skills without any condescending tone or implied disregard for my apparent limited knowledge.

I recently had a patient with a skull fracture, (the head injury happened a day earlier), and the senior nurse asked if the patient had battle’s sign, (bruising behind the ears), which they did not, I informed her, to which she rudely replied with, “you wouldn’t know what battle’s sign looks like anyways…”. Between being 0645 in the morning after a long night shift and the only words coming out of my mouth would have been immature and highly offensive, I felt it right to walk away from the conversation.

As per this blog post, I’m clearly still stewing.

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Jean, ROSC*

So as J mentioned before, I was in a near catatonic state due to my VSA* computer which has fortunately been resuscitated. The hypothermia post resuscitation care was beneficial but it suffered an anoxic brain injury that may not be possible to overcome. Despite this crushing blow (more so financially really since I do not feel like purchasing a new computer) I am okay with the periodic laptop confusion for now. I’ll do neuro vitals qshift on the computer, continue monitoring and provide supportive care. (Sorry for the lame nurse humour; that I cannot fix.)

Aside from my near death computer experience I have been incredibly busy with working in the ER, updating necessary work courses, school work for a critical care course I’ve been taking as well as starting in Acme Regional’s CCU/ICU. It’s a very different world up there (literally not figuratively. . .it’s on the 4th floor). The pace will take some getting used to. On one hand I enjoyed just having one patient to dedicate time and care to, knowing their history and the pathophysiology of their recent admission and not feeling like I’m practicing unsafely or providing my patient with the bare minimum, however, at the same time, having only one patient is a bit boring. The ICU seems a bit tedious: lots of little details and new physician orders that my emergency brain isn’t wired for. We have a lot of autonomy in the ER, more then I think we realize. Either way, I welcome the change in general, be it pace, environment, meeting new people, learning some new skills and learning in general. I had been feeling stagnant in the ER for a while. I still enjoy the ER immensely and I am not leaving, simply picking up some hours in the ICU for now. If anything I hope the added critical care experience makes me a better nurse. I felt like I had hit a roadblock and I wanted to know more but I just wasn’t learning in my day to day work life, so back to school I went!

I’ll have some new posts soon on more phrases junior nurses and most staff do not care to hear, as well as some other burning ideas and issues (with possible sarcasm and complaints) that have been on my mind.  I have a few patient stories I’d like to share also. So, I hope to be more active soon, sorry for the absence!

*VSA – vital signs absent
*ROSC – return of spontaneous circulation

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The phrases junior nurses and most staff do not care to hear from senior nurses…

… and other examples of nurses eating their young…

A few statements I’ve heard in the last few years that I shall share periodically.

“It is more important that I get all of my breaks than you young folk because I’m older and need to rest more often”

I fail to understand how one person’s break is more valuable than anyone else. I realize that to-the-death cage matches can occur for which nurse goes first when it’s crazy busy, but seriously, just because you are senior staff does not make you superior and priority when it comes to a moment to stop, eat, go to the bathroom, etc. I like to think we are all the same as department staff members (obviously not including experience or department responsibilities for example…) but everyone is entitled to their break. Years of service to the hospital should not, in my mind, make you first up for every break.  I often see the charge nurses getting fewer breaks than the rest of the staff (which is unfortunate) because they are trying to see that everyone else is getting a chance to eat. And for the most part, the charge nurses are all very senior staff. If you cannot keep up with the pace and demands of a busy emergency department or other job area and feel you cannot miss any breaks because of your age then perhaps you need to work in a different environment. Or retire. Missing breaks sucks no matter what way you look at it, but we have to work together to ensure we’re all taken care of.

  • I do make the exception however for those with medical conditions, such as diabetes or a pregnant staff member (which is not a condition albeit) who is carrying/growing another human being inside of them. I have never personally grown a human, but from what I have observed, it’s tiring and your body needs extra food and having your lower legs elevated for a period of time in the day (that may have become the size of my thighs) is important too. So I personally would not have any issue with offering them the first available break.
  • please also note that this does not in any way encompass all senior staff. Just the few that can be particularly nasty.

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Registered Nurses won’t make newspaper headlines, but your local sports pro will

Click to enbiggen

With Ontario’s Nursing Week approaching, May 7 – 13, posters for the Ontario Nurse’s Association (ONA, our union) campaign on supporting nurses the same way pro-athletes are have been put up around Acme Regional.

The conversation often arises among my colleagues about how a baseball player can make over 20 million dollars a year where 3 or 4 nurses’ lifetime salaries combined will never compare to that. I often feel bitter when I think of those in the business world who receive all sorts of financial and personal incentives for their work. People who go on all expense paid trips because they have sold the most insurance (selling you safety nets in case you fall, but you likely won’t, however you have to have it…) for example that year, meanwhile in that same year I may have resuscitated a child, held the hand of a dying man during his last breath and treated a father of 4 for a heart attack among caring for other incredible people. I received my same pay as always and more importantly, do not expect an incentive. I don’t feel bitter that I’m not getting a trip, I feel bitter that in this society, a pro-athlete or businessman is more supported than nurses. On the other side of the coin, it makes me wonder what sort of nursing culture would be bred if nurses were provided incentives for life saving measures or actions/treatment/education. And what treatments or care would be deemed “more important” than others, garnering a higher incentive? In the emergency department health teaching is imperative; to prevent illness and disease so one could argue that is as important as treating the patient having a stroke. If incentives in nursing existed would the wrong sort of people be attracted to the nursing profession? Some say it’s a calling, the art of the practice; only certain people can and will do the job and do it well have you. It would be worrisome to think that an individual would only want to save a life or teach parents about how to appropriately treat fevers if it meant they would get a financial bonus.

And yet, despite all of this, I still struggle with the fact that people who sell the most cars, buy the most stock in a company, etc… are seemingly more valued and appreciated then those that save lives, give people more time on earth and genuinely (most of us at least) care about humanity. I have a hard time finding the balance in it all. Emergency nursing is in the “business of life saving” is it not? With more and more facilities receiving incentives for improved and rapid physician to patient initial assessment times, where does appreciation for the nurses fall in to all of this?

(See also ONA’s website here and RNAO’s website for nursing week.)

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Jean, RN

I’d like to start off by saying how truly flattered I was and am to be asked to write with this blog.  I’ve admired the diversity in content and the nursing/healthcare related issues this blog has brought to my attention that I wouldn’t likely be aware of otherwise. I never mentioned to J Doe that I knew about the blog as I wanted to respect the desire to remain anonymous as had been written about and I didn’t want to skew or change the material if J knew someone knew. I also liked trying to figure out who the nurses behaving badly were! I’ve worked with the J Doe since I was a pre-grad nursing student. The early years where I once called a code blue for a patient peacefully sleeping with a lengthy run of reperfusion V-Tach post thrombolytic, and I neglected to actually check the patient and shouted (I mean shouted) CODE BLUE, as the patient woke up and looked at me, then I yelled, pleading after to “CANCEL CODE BLUE, I DIDN’T MEAN IT” as it sounded overhead through the hospital. I must have come a long way!

I’m nervous in many ways but excited to finally put “pen to paper” or fingers to keys, the thoughts, feelings, and sometimes discontent you could say, that can surround Emergency Nursing and discuss issues that I’m sure transcend all of our careers no matter where we practice.  I often just let those ideas float away into the depths of my brain never to be shared or only to discuss them with my spouse and close nursing friends. The idea of sharing them with the internet blogging world is pretty amazing and equally terrifying.

A few things about myself:

I grew up in Suburbia and went into Nursing directly out of high school, starting at 17.  I still look 17.

I did my Bachelor of Health Science Degree in Nursing in an Ontario University and thought most of it was a waste of time, not focusing on the core courses and skills we would truly need. I once petitioned for more clinical time each week (2-3 days/week instead of 1 in our 2nd year) and was informed I needed to stop being a trouble maker. I think I was labelled from then on.

I’ve been working at Acme Regional in the ED since I graduated. I had an exceptional preceptor and mentor and feel thankful for learning from someone who truly enjoys teaching. I truly admire those who can be great teachers and hope to teach at the bedside myself one day once I feel that I won’t create a monster.

I look forward to meeting new and interesting individuals within the nursing blogosphere with various backgrounds, views and opinions. You are all an inspiration.

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