Becoming a nurse was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. The memorizing and understanding of material and the hours of study and preparing for clinical were grueling. Not to mention the social lives of all student nurses fly right out the window the minute the first course begins. No, I can’t go to your party. I can’t be hungover because I have clinical at 0700. I have to be on top of my game. I’m taking care of someone’s loved one.
My nursing instructors were scary and mean and did not except sub par performance in the classroom or clinical area. I remember two of them in particular. One of them was a retired navy nurse. Tough as nails. The other one reminds me of the female version of Professor Snape from Harry Potter. They were relentless but they had to be that way. They were teaching us to save lives.
One very important thing they taught us is how to provide safe and effective nursing care which ultimately keeps us out of a courtroom. If the nurse receives a physician order that the nurse feels is written incorrectly, wrong or unsafe, the nurse must question the order immediately. Do not pass go. Do not carry the order out. Question the order. Clarify. Call the attending physician. Do whatever you have to do. Just don’t do that order.
Translation: IF the order is wrong and the nurse carries the order out and the patient is injured or has an adverse reaction, the nurse’s ass will fry. I repeat, in a court of law, the nurse’s ass will fry.
As a student nurse, I worked as a Unit Secretary on an acute medicine/telemetry floor throughout school. The things I learned were priceless. Part of my job was to put physician orders in the computer so the nurses could carry them out. I learned how to interpret a physician’s messy handwriting quickly and I was never afraid to use the hospital computer system and I’m still not afraid to. I learned how to navigate my way through a chart and use the telephone to collaborate with other units. I learned about roles of other health care providers; respiratory therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurse techs, dieticians and how the unit flows throughout the shift.
I listened too. I listened to what the nurses on the floor said about just about anything. I could never figure out why this one nurse in particular was always on vacation for the first three weeks of July every year. So I finally asked her. Her answer was simple and her message rang loud and clear. “Because July 1 is the day the new interns fresh out of medical school start. It’s chaotic and I don’t want to be around the first few weeks of it”.
July 1 is the day the new interns begin. They’ve graduated medical school and earned the title of MD. They’ve been matched with the hospital that they will do the residency of their specialty at. They are green as could be and now they are being let out into the world of healthcare. Now mind you, interns and residents have to discuss their treatment plan with an attending physician before implementing it but that still puts nurses on high alert during those first few weeks especially on the inpatient units, ICU and Emergency.
Listen to the voice in your head especially on July 1. The one that says there’s something wrong with this order. If the voice in your head says don’t carry the order out and get that intern over here, listen. Don’t carry out that order. You will fry. Also, try not to scare the intern too badly. Not on the first day at least. They are just starting out on their journey of savings lives just like you did.