I don’t usually write at night. Typically, I sit down so drained by my day that the idea of trying to translate my mental chaos into a well streamed monologue to the public… well that is beyond my realm of capability.
It has been one of those bizarre days where everyone asks whether it is a full moon outside or if we’ve been transported into an alternate dimension where insanity rules the minds of even the most level-headed. Even the weather has lost it’s mind, as I can’t remember a time where I saw lightning in February!
My thoughts today remain on the topic I mentioned in my previous entry: patience. Since then, I’ve been on the brink of just giving up that unique quality I have. But today was a perfect example of exactly why I honestly believe I could never be any other way.
The shift started out in a bizarre way. One of the patients I had during my shift Sunday evening was furious with the events of the entire day. Her husband ran into me on the way to the lobby level and asked me why I wasn’t assigned to his wife. I told him that they moved me because the person who had her all day was on a 12 hour shift and they didn’t want to give the girl a whole new assignment after having the same one for the first 8 hours. He told me he was going into the manager’s office to discuss the terrible way his wife had been treated. Did he ever! I walked past the office about a half hour later to see him standing in there, bright red with rage and yelling at the top of his lungs. Afterward, my manager (who just started last week) came to the nurse’s station to tell us about the situation. The girl who had the patient during the day was banned from the room. They also said that everyone should be like me since I obviously cared about my patients and had gone above and beyond to be compassionate and helpful. These people were far from being rational mind you. Of course I care about my patients… but having them on my assignment was an experience. They had been traumatized by the impersonal nature of the nursing staff and physicians on the intensive care unit where she had spent two days previous to coming to our floor. They wanted to get to know everyone who came into the room and wanted everyone to take the time to know as much about their lives as they could get out. They wanted each and every person who saw her walking in the hall to greet her and ask how she was doing. While that would be absolutely lovely, we all have multiple patients on our assignments and can’t always take a lot of time for chit-chat. Being that I am one bearing the curse of inhuman patience combined with my inability to end a conversation, I nearly got out late Sunday evening because I spent 45 minutes in there listening to them talk. Every time I went in there, I felt like I was being interviewed, “Where did you go to school? How old are your kids? Who watches your kids while you’re here? What did you do before this job? How many pets do you have? Here, let me tell you about all of ours and every story we know about them.” The list is absolutely ENDLESS and I wanted to scream. In fact, I was so frustrated by the fact that I stood there so long that my legs were cramping that I wished something, ANYTHING would just burst into flames or violently explode. Did they know that? Nope. And it paid off as I received glowing reviews as the only one who really seemed to care. My new manager is wonderful though, I didn’t get used as an example to publicly humiliate my coworkers as my last boss would have done and caused me to spend the rest of the night getting childish scowls hurled at me from around every corner. Instead it was simply suggested that a couple pages from my book of patience be applied and some extra TLC be given to a very needy patient.
About half way through my shift, one of the patients on a coworker’s assignment decided to go insane. HE started climbing out of bed, tearing at his tubes and IV, and attempting to bludgeon anyone who tried to stop him. That coworker was told to remain with the patient on 1:1 (one to one) observation for the remainder of the shift because that is what we do with patients that pose a danger to themselves. About a half hour after being in the room, my coworker had reached the end of his rope after being assailed by one of the patient’s family members for the level of force he had to use to keep the patient in his bed. He announced he was going home and not coming back, signed out, dropped off his pager and left the floor short. The situation could have been easily diffused by putting someone else in to sit with the patient and then he could pick up that person’s assignment. We’ve all been at a point where the job was just too much and wasn’t worth the misery… in my eyes, it wasn’t one of those nights. Because of that, someone else had to be pulled from the floor to sit in that room and the rest of the unit was left stranded in a state of desperation due to severe understaffing.
My patience was straining as I ran from one end of the hall to another, trying to satisfy the needs of my, now 14 patient assignment as well as do the standard and scheduled duties of my job. As I’m running, I hear all sorts of yelling and banging around. I rushed down the hall to the origin of the ruckus and found two of my coworkers wrestling the insane patient who had finally managed to get himself out of bed. One was holding him from behind with her arms around his chest and the other was being pummeled in the face by his flailing hands as she tried to get to his legs. They both were just holding him yelling, “Where’s the doctor??!!” Neither of them making a solid attempt to get him back in bed or acknowledge that his IV and foley catheter (the tube draining the urine from his bladder) were still firmly attached to the bed and would have caused a lot of pain and bloodshed if they remained in that position. Seeing as I appeared to be the only one left with a shred of sanity, I ducked like a boxer underneath his swinging fists, grabbed him under his knees and flung him back into the bed with the powers of pure adrenaline. He then proceeded to walk around on top of his bed, stomping on his catheter (how in god’s name that didn’t rip out and tear him in half, or cause enough pain to make him lay back down, I have no idea) and my coworkers just stood there staring like robots waiting for a command. I did just that, commanding them to reach behind him and guide his back, I gripped a hold of his ankles and pulled his feet out from under him while holding all of his tubes and wires out of the way at the same time. By this point, I’m wondering what would have happened if this patient had managed to seriously injure himself… would I have been the only one capable of thinking fast enough to attempt resuscitation?! My patience could have saved this man’s life, and I’m not being dramatic.
As the night wore on, the patients all seemed to reach an interconnected state of mania. Every staff member looked on the brink of complete implosion. The staffing for nights was in a state of desperation and the bed coordinator called to continuously book beds when we already didn’t have enough people to care adequately for the patients already on the unit. As I watched the chaos, I felt like I left my mind and entered a state of complete silent observation. Everything around me turned to slow motion as I moved fluidly like cement filling the cracks of a crumbling building. At a speed unable to be clocked, I finished my work and moved to the task of getting 16 sets of blood pressures and temperatures to help the night shift. I moved over to the other side and helped the other person who was left with an equally obscene patient load. I finished up her work, moving in and out of the rooms like I had wings. All with a smile on my face. One woman even commented to me how soothing my voice was to be woken to!
When the night shift came in, one of the other veteran nurses came up to me and asked why I never worked at the desk any more. I have bounced back and forth between patient care and transcription so much over the years, people have a hard time remembering exactly what job it is that I do. I used to alternate back and forth and I loved that because I knew that when I found myself having a terrible day, I knew that the next one may be equally stressful but the fact that it was a different job altogether made it seem like the easiest thing in the world. They hired too many new people for that job though and there were no more shifts left for me to cover there. This nurse told me how much she missed having me there because everything was always flawless, she never had to double check the doctor’s orders and everything was always done to perfection. This particular nurse doesn’t compliment ANYONE. Just hearing a thank you is like watching hell freeze over before your eyes. Working behind the desk for me is tedious work and it tries my patience like no other as I spend all of my time picking up after everyone else and preventing the incompetent residents and other lazy physicians from killing the patients. It pays off though as I was revered for my obsessive compulsive attention to detail and the fact that above anyone else, I can always be counted on to do my job right.
At a time when everyone else cracked, I stood strong. A chorus of thank yous at my back as I walked off of the floor and ended my shift on time and not a second late. I needed this night to remind me why I am the way I am. I sit here now with a renewed sense of purpose… the very same one that made me take on a job taking care of the people I go out of my way to avoid in my personal life. My patience is an integral part of me and for as long as I can remember the only time I ever felt like I was worth anything was when I was helping someone else. Without that fortitude, I can’t be any good to anyone and I certainly can’t dedicate the time it takes to truly be there for another person in need.
My desire to help people, not only in my job but even the random person who sees potential in me, represents the only goal I have ever achieved: to make a difference. If I go so much as a day without feeling like my existence affected another in a positive and beneficial way, my mood is affected drastically. I learned that today. Powerlessness is something I have to deal with in most matters of my own life but one thing I have control of is how I reach out to other people and be something more than just another stagnant human being living life for themselves alone. I truly, without any exaggeration, feel nothing but complete and utter elation when I hear that I made an impact. Days like this make me feel satisfied with my life and who I am, in spite of the fact that I am still lacking most of the things I want for my life. The pain of other unfulfilled desires fades away when my true purpose seems reaffirmed. I have not failed in everything, I can be something more.