Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Full Moon.... Full House
I never believed the full moon theory of chaos until I started working in Emerg. But after one HECTIC shift last night, there isn't even a shadow of doubt.

I had an errand to run early in the day which took me down to Emerg. I could see a crowd of physicians and nurses gathered outside of our Trauma Room. I changed my route slightly to avoid getting in the way. Next stop, the waiting room. Shortly after noon, in the middle of the week, when family doctors and walk-in clinics are open, the waiting room is packed. Families impatiently check their watches and trade stories of symptoms, wait-times and symptoms from waiting for hours. I can't help but think, we're not forcing you to be here, call your family doctor.
I go about my business and think, I'm in for one crazy shift later.

At 3 p.m. I'm on duty. Ward clerk desk. Angry parents approaching the desk. Same story -- how many people in front of me, My child has a high fever, how much longer? I don't know, the department is full, we've got very sick kids back here, we're doing everything we can. I go through the same list of reasons and excuses with families, redirect patients with more symptoms to the Triage nurse and call over the charge nurse as an angry parents bursts into tears and starts yelling at me.

We need another physician. I call absolutely every doc on our roster. No one can come to help out for a bit.

It's almost supper time and we get a call from the parent of a well known patient. I alert the charge nurse and everyone heads down to the trauma room to draw up the protocol meds. Everyone remarks the same thing-- this is the wrong time of day for her. She usually comes in in the mornings. We're ready and able.

Well known patient is stabilized. I sneak away for a quick bite to eat.
When I return I'm bombarded with STAT bloodwork. Teenager, ingestion. I order the usual panel. Five minutes later, I'm asked to do a stat panel for a teen ingestion.

"I just ordered it".
"Nope, this one is on bed 3 you ordered for bed 6. "
10 minutes later... it happened again. 3 teenagers, 3 ingestions.

We're still sinking and fast. No one is moving. Every room is full. A tight wheezer gets aerosol masks in the assessment room.... there is no other room for them.

We call the ICU resident to come and fast track a few patients for us. She helps out for a while, but eventually, has to return to her patients. We were grateful for her help.

I check the clock. My head is pounding. Three hours left of my shift. I pop a couple Tylenol, take a deep breath. "Ward Clerk?" I then turn around, smile and say "How can I help? What do you need me to do?"

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5 Comments:

Blogger Mama Mia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger DisappearingJohn said...

Yeah, there actually have been research studies that disprove the full moon thing, but I hate driving to work and seeing that nice, big full moon rising as I pull into the parking lot...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our secretary has let me keep my sanity on our craziest nights. I depend on her, a lot. Plus she's always there to listen to me complain about yet another triage, and keeps all the papers in the right stacks, family traffic control...We couldn't do it without you guys.

Blogger Rhea said...

Do you like the chaos? Or does it drive you mad?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chaos drives me mad.. but in a good way. I love the busy-ness of an ER. It keeps the shift very exciting and interesting, helps the time go by, and I generally feel much more useful than if I'm twirling around in my chair waiting for something to happen.

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