A colleague is dead. By her own hands. I never saw it coming. None of us did.
I hadn’t worked with her very long, but from the very first meeting she impressed me and made me like her.
Her other workplace environment was difficult and distressing, but she stepped up to the challenge. She was kind, compassionate and non-judgmental even while telling the patients that they were full of &#$%. I don't know anyone who didn’t feel cared for when she was around.
Somehow she held her own distress inside so well that no-one knew how sad she was, or how desperate. She cared for everyone except herself. And now she's dead, and we'll never get the chance to try to help, or to tell her that we care.
But we did.
"I walk a lonely road, the only one that I have ever known. Don't know where it goes, but it's home to me and I walk alone." (Boulevard of Broken Dreams ~ Green Day)
No folks, it was not fun. We all would have rather been celebrating with friends and family. But of course, the hospital never closes. And the patients that come in have concerns and they would most likely be with thier family and friends too.
I think it was summed up perfectly by one 10 year old in the middle of the night. While I processed his registration he spent most of the time resting his head on his arm on my desk. At one point, he looked up at me with a look of desperation and said "I'm so glad you guys are open". So I smiled at him and said "We never close. Just in case someone really needs us." He breathed a sigh of relief and went back to resting his head.
He came in because of vomiting. Had a short visit with the doctor and then was sent on his way. But at 3:00 am on Christmas day, he didn't want to be at the hospital either. But in the end, he was glad that we were there for him. And that, I suppose, is the only thing that makes a night shift rewarding (whether or not it is Christmas ).
I was interested in the workshop. I thought that it really was going to change my perception about how we care for families in our facility.
To a degree, it did. There was a panel discussion and 4 families shared their stories, their experiences as patients, and families who have come to our hospital in times of need. My complaint, is that these were all families who had positive things to say. One parent commented that she and her family spent nearly 10 months in an intensive care and had only had one not so positive experience. Woo hoo. Except this: I see and hear from disgruntled parents. I know they write letters, send complaints and voice concerns. Why didn't we hear any of their suggestions? Any of their stories? Because, yes the nice pat on the back is great. But how the heck do you think we're going to see change if no one tells us what we're not doing right.
The same issues come up over and over again. We identified areas that we could improve on. Well, parents, families and staff at the hospital have been talking about this in the 7 years I've worked there. So why are we still discussing the ideas. When do we stop talking about them and start implementing them.
And really, what I felt that I walked away with at the end of the day was a bunch of people who were just looking for a pat on the back. A dog and pony show so we could 'voice' our ideas that have fallen on deaf ears for what I'm guessing is decades and feel like we've accomplished something.
I'm not buying it.
One very disgruntled employee
The labeling of this particular specimen has always been a bit tricky. It's a blood screen: a group and cross match. They need to be sure that there are no mistakes made. Understandably so.
When the lab called, the nurses were livid. More so at their own mistake than the lab. They begged me to call the lab and beg and plead with them. We offered to send the nurse to the lab to correct the error. They still told me no.
I turned to the three RNs at the nursing station and I repeated that there was nothing the lab could do. The specimen was void and was being discarded. The nurses argued with me and told me that there was a way around this. They asked me to page someone, but were reluctant to clarify who. So they begged and pleaded that I call the lab and ask if there was a manager or supervisor around.
I attempted to stress the fact that I didn't want to do this. I used phrases such as "I don't understand what you want me to ask when I call, or who you want me to page, or what you want me to say to the lab". What I should have said was, "I don't feel like it is my job to do this. You're the charge nurse (to nurse 1) you're the nurse who made the error (nurse 2) and you're the nurse who thinks you know the loop hole in the policy (nurse 3).
So while all three of you sit there and listen to me repeat word for word what you say, then what the lab says, then what you say in response to that, don't you think it would make a heck of a lot more sense for one of you three to communicate with the lab?!?!? Especially when you're going to whine and pout that you need to explain to the family why we need to do another poke for more blood.
But what do I know. Apparently, I'm just some sort of communication medium. If only I were psychic.....
The social worker arrived, did his assessment, arranged for out-patient follow-up, and sent the man on his way. All very routine.
The ward assistant took the chart after discharge and began filing it away. "Umm - does this paper mean anything?" she asked the charge nurse, and presented her with a form from the original hospital indicating that the patient was required to have a psychiatric assessment prior to discharge.
The patient whose suicidal plan was to jump from a moving vehicle had just been sent home by taxi, and without pschiatric clearance!
The taxi company was phoned, the taxi turned around, and the now very annoyed patient was returned to the hospital for a complete exam.
An hour later the patient was cleared by pschiatry to follow the original plan set up by the social worker and was again sent on his way.
This time he made it all the way home.
About half an hour before the end of my shift, there was news of a transfer coming from a community hospital via air. They were dispatching the transfer team ASAP. The phone was ringing off the hook. Calls as physicians far and wide consulted each other.
The ICU doctor on call wanted to speak to our Emerg Physician. Our Emerg Physician needed the Radiologist, CT Tech and Neurosurgeon. Then the trauma team leader.
After everyone was on the phone, the patient was ID'd so we could register them as soon as they arrived. I wrote the info out neatly for the next ward clerk. That way, it would should only take her less than a minute to register the patient and order a stat head CT.
I wanted to be there when the patient came. I wanted to be the one to tend to the family. To direct them where they need to go. To order the stat everythings. To get the right doctors, technicians and specialists on the phone, or better yet, in person.
But I went home. My shift was over.
A few minutes ago, I heard the helicopter. I think I left part of my brain at work. I immeadiatly wanted to get on the phone and start paging people. And then I remembered that some days, you just need to let go.