About Nurses

The Diet Coke incident- A mass exodus of bedside nurses.

I read a very interesting blog today entitled “The Diet Coke Incident” on a blog http://www.florenceisdead.com. I’ve enclosed the link above.

It’s an interesting article and I’m not going to summarize it here but it basically elaborates why nurses don’t want to do patient care anymore. I left a very short compliment on this blog but I wanted to elaborate the topic more with my readers.

Although nurses hold PhD’s MSN’s, BSN’s and nationally recognized certifications, we are not considered to be a “profession” by the vast majority. To them we are just a glorified waitress and over time, incidents like “The Diet Coke Incident” leaves nurses bitter, burned out and looking for the first opportunity for a change of scenery.

I work on a perioperative unit in a hospital. My job is to get patients ready for the operating room. I read through their labs and medical history, I do a physical assessment, a care plan and a preop checklist, medicate them as needed and place an IV in them with a limited amount of time all while providing emotional support to the patient and their family about their illness, their surgery and what to expect. It is also my job to use my critical thinking skills while I am reading their medical history and labs to look for any red flags to present to the anesthesiologist and surgeon that may prevent them from going into the operating room safely.

Earlier in the summer our unit was awarded with the highest patient satisfaction scores of the hospital and given a nice party by administration. It was nice to be recognized like that but I can honestly say that my coworkers and I bust our butts day in and day out to get our patients in and out of the OR safely while dodging “Diet Coke Incidents” in effort to keep our patients satisfied with our care.

The general public has no idea what nurses go through during a workday. They think they do because they watch television. They think that just because we are nurses, we have to tolerate abuse. They have no idea that some of us dreamed of becoming a nurse since we were young children or what we went through to become nurses. We had long hours of study, clinical time in the hospital and nursing instructors that would fail you in an instant if you compromised a patient’s safety. As nursing students we missed out on plenty of  fun with family and friends because we had to study, study, study or work, work, work at the part time job many of us had in the hospital as student nurses.

They have no idea how long we go without food or a bathroom break and that we are expected to function despite the fact that we haven’t eaten or have had to urinate for several hours. They have no idea what it feels like to be barraged with several different situations going on at once always having to stay sharp and on our game because we are dealing with human lives, or that we put our nursing licenses on the line every time we walk into a patient room. They have no idea what it feels like to hold a BSN and a nationally recognized certification and to be screamed at, threatened with violence, sexually harassed and treated in a way that lets us know that they consider what we are doing for them in the care we provide is insignificant. They don’t know how hard we bite our tongues when we are mistreated so we don’t get fired because we really want to scream at them in retaliation while we are trying to be a patient advocate, create a safe and caring environment, take care of the patient and the family, carry out physician orders and be at the ready if an emergency arises.

I often joke if I won the lottery, I’d walk my nursing license back to the board of nursing and retire. In reality I’d miss the interaction with my patients. I’d miss caring for people through life and death situations knowing that I did everything I could to help them and hoped I made a difference even though I may never know if I did or not. There are many of times that I have a wonderful conversation with a patient while I am getting them ready for the operating room and wish I could continue to chat with them. In these cases it’s a win-win situation; I am able to give the patient the last few moments of normalcy before their surgery by distracting them from the reason they are with me and they are able to make my day by treating me with like a human being instead of a servant, reminding me that this is why I went into nursing to begin with. On the contrary I also get the patients that I care for that I look forward to releasing them from my care so that I don’t have to deal with them anymore and who make me wonder why I went into nursing to get this abuse.

I am a big girl and I have thick skin. I have no desire to ever leave the bedside and I can take a lot of crap from people and set limits in a way that doesn’t buy me a ticket into my boss’s office for a reprimand. Sometimes I might just put that large bore IV needle in a place that hurts because a patient was rude, or make them wait for me to get them that Ginger ale they’ve asked for several times for when it’s convenient for me to get it and not at the instant they demand it. Other times if they are really nasty, I might just go silent for the duration of my time with the patient, going through the motions of my job duties, making sure I provide the same safe, effective nursing care I provide for everyone, just not caring for them from my heart. I have no problem asking a family member to have a seat in the waiting room because I don’t like the way they are speaking to me and they are a distraction to me while I care for their family members.

Nurses are no longer the submissive  angels in white with caps that you see in old movies and on television. We are degreed professionals trained to promote health, prevent illness, and care for the sick, disabled and dying. We too are always striving to learn more about the patient care we do so that we can be the best we can be. In reality, nurses shouldn’t have to experience any “Diet Coke Incidents” but unfortunately they do. Moral of the story, treat your nurse like a human being because they are here for you.

The Bigger Picture of School Supplies

Every year at this time my daughter asks me the same question, “Mom when are we going shopping for school supplies”.

Sometimes this question spins around and around in my head like a broken record that is stuck on a song you just can’t stand! She can be demanding about it and always manages to ask at the most inopportune times; when we may be low on money or at a time when it’s simply inconvenient to shop because we have other pressing obligations to attend to first.

When I was in nursing school I had an instructor that told me I tend to be task oriented and sometimes forget to look at the bigger picture. I never forgot that instructor or what she said because it applies to all aspects of life. When I see myself doing that at work with a patient,  I am usually able to catch myself and refocus quickly. As I tend to the tasks of my own life with two teenagers all over the place, a full time job, a household to run, and the things that I am involved in outside of work, I am so focused on completing the tasks I fail to realize what the people in my life truly need from me.

My daughter is my extroverted child. From an early age she’s demonstrated her ability to think outside of the box. It’s my favorite thing about her. She challenges herself with complicated tasks. She enjoys trying new things and experiencing different types of people. She and my husband appreciate sampling cuisine  that our son and I refuse to eat. She looks into the future instead of dwelling upon the past.

While most kids frown at the back to school commercials and the idea of returning to school, she embraces it. At the end of each summer she looks forward to the school year, her friends and her routine. All week she’s been comparing her eighth grade school schedule to that of her friends, taking mental note of who’ll be in her classes this year, her final year of middle school.

This morning as I sipped my coffee and explored the possibilities of today, the paintbrush moved swiftly and in bright colors boldly painted the bigger picture before my eyes. For my daughter, the act of buying school supplies is something she needs. For her it signifies a new beginning, a fresh start with interesting things to learn, exciting experiences to be had and time spent having fun with friends. It energizes her with hope and anticipation.

We don’t have any pressing obligations today as a family. There are so many things I want to do. I hope I can get to all of them before I head upstairs for the night with my dog and my nook. One thing is certain, we will definitely be buying school supplies.

Coffee Anyone?

I am a daily coffee drinker. For me, it’s not just trendy refreshment I buy at Starbucks to look like an intellect, it’s a daily ritual, a feeling of calm and some days when the coffee doesn’t reach me in a timely manner, an addiction.

The two things I enjoy most about coffee is the aroma and the first sip. My husband makes the coffee in our house. Each evening before bed he pours the water into the coffee maker, scoops the coffee grounds into the filter and sets the timer. The aroma of the coffee grounds finds me where ever I am and reminds me of what I have to look forward to the next morning.

When I get up in the morning, I walk downstairs through the quiet, dark house to the kitchen where the aroma of the freshly brewed coffee greets me. I open the cupboard to retrieve our favorite coffee mugs. A splash of cream for each. As I pour the coffee, it’s aroma is even stronger and it makes my empty stomach let out a growl as if it’s saying, “hurry up with that coffee already”.

I bring the cup of coffee to my lips. Before I take my first sip I let the steam from the coffee fill my nostrils as I inhale it with a deep, long inspiratory breath. As I take my first sip a wave of calm washes over my body making it okay to wake up at 0415, turning my brain on at the possibilities of the day. My body tells me to keep drinking it and I do until late morning when I know I have enough caffeine to sustain me through the rest of the day.

This one time at Band Camp

This morning as I sip my coffee I feel a sense of calm I haven’t felt for a few weeks. Our days of afternoon boat rides with the wind in our hair, afternoon visits to the Lakeside Creamery and evening campfires seems like a long time ago. I have spent my weekend picking up the remnants of a cyclone called Marching Band that surges through my household every year at this time.

My son began his senior season of marching band with the start of band camp on July 27, 2015. Band camp is much more than band geek jokes. For marching band members it is a place to welcome and initiate rookies, to gather on the field in the heat for two weeks to memorize and rehearse music, learn dot formations and march until their legs ache, their feet are blistered and they’ve consumed liter after liter of water to prevent heat exhaustion. It is also a place for them to participate in team building activities and games. At the end of those two weeks they have become a cohesive group, a community within themselves; a marching band. If you sit and watch them rehearse during band camp, you’ll see them play it over and over again and wonder if they’ll ever get it right. Once you see them play what they’ve learned at the Parent Show which concludes band camp, you’ll notice with the blink of an eye, it’s all coming together. For any marching band parent, it is an amazingly beautiful thing to observe.

I am an active band parent, a marching band parent and nurse and I reside on the band booster executive board. Band camp is a busy time of year for us too. For the band parents it’s about fitting 60-70 kids for uniforms and altering them, fundraising and selling spirit wear, organizing events, meeting new parents and making them feel welcome and comfortable knowing that marching band is a good place for their child. There’s also eating on the run, rehearsals that run into the late evening, and getting ready to do it all over again the next day; in addition to the full time job you have to be at early each morning.. As the marching band nurse it’s also about being ready to treat whatever ailment they have when they come off the field and reassuring them that they can get back out there and march some more.

All of these things have happened to our band families these past few weeks. My house is a mess and I am way behind on household tasks. I haven’t had a decent home cooked meal for two weeks and sleep deprived is an understatement. Through the course of the marching band cyclone the activity seems never ending and overwhelming at times. All of those feelings disappear instantly the moment I see my son at a high school football game or marching band competition looking sharp in this navy blue uniform, holding his trombone high in the air, marching and playing music with his community; the marching band.

Ice cream

Ice cream makes people happy. Have you had a bad day? Here, have some ice cream. Do you feel like a few minutes out of the house on a summer evening? Go out for ice cream. Do you have a small victory to celebrate? Eat ice cream.

I am a life long ice cream lover. When I was a kid, my parents or my grandma would walk my little brother and I to the seasonal soft serve ice cream place down the street. We’d look forward to it opening each spring and would be sad in the fall when it closed for the season. To this day I still marvel at the perfect symmetrical curves of the soft serve ice cream in a cone. One of two things would always happen during my childhood walks to get ice cream. My brother would either drop his and I’d secretly snicker to myself or my father would pull a “let me clean that up for you” maneuver if the ice cream cone melted faster than my brother could eat it.

Ice cream is year round for me. My husband and I have a variety of it in our freezer. Who cares if it’s thirty below zero outside and snowing, I’ll be in the house in my robe and slippers eating ice cream.

In years past, the hospital that I’ve spent my career at used to hold “Ice Cream Socials” a few times a year. Chocolate, strawberry or vanilla ice cream with all the sundae fixins’s served to you by hospital administration. I’ve seen people skipping in and out of those ice cream socials as if they were children without a care in the world. It was just enough to make you smile and get you through the rest of a long hospital day.

My inspiration for this post is my recent vacation. For a second summer now, my husband, our teenaged son and daughter and I have rented a cabin and a boat on Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. During our vacation week, we’d spend our days on the water with the wind in our hair and our evenings in front of a campfire. Each late afternoon when we should be thinking about dinner, we’d hit the local ice cream joint called “The Lakeside Creamery”. Sure one could drive there but it’s more fun to go by boat. Once the boat is secured, step out and steady your feet on the wobbly square shaped inflatable dock. Now walk up the four flights of steep wooden steps to get that ice cream. The smell of waffle cones will taunt you as soon as you begin to climb the steps reassuring you that the shortness of breath you’ll have after walking up the steps will be worth it. Once you get in the door you’ll stand in line for a few minutes as the strong wristed staff quickly scoops ice cream into cups or cones but they are efficient and the line moves quickly.

The biggest decision of the day is which delicious flavor to choose. I try to pick flavors I don’t ordinarily eat at home. The day I wrote this I’d chosen a classic; a single of scoop chocolate ice cream on a sugar cone. When they handed me my ice cream cone, I carefully pushed the ice cream into the cone with my tongue to prevent it from breaking the cone and falling off. With each stroke of my tongue, I slowly and purposefully turned the creamy, rich milk chocolate ice cream into a perfect sphere, my mouth watering as I savored every bite. Finally, I’d worked my way down to the sweet crunchy sugar cone, mixed with chocolate ice cream. It only completed the state of euphoria this ice cream cone had given me. Once the ice cream cone has been completely consumed, a feeling of emptiness occurs. Not to worry though, we’ll return soon.