I am back to work in the ICU at 1840 hours after a relaxing 3 days off at the beach. I step through the double doors and see my fellow ICU nurses bustling around the nurses’ station. The monitor is steadily beeping and streaming telemetry paper into a coiled mess on the floor. There are multiple charts flagged with the day’s new orders next to where the charge nurse usually sits and a stack of partially eaten supper trays on a cart next to the break room.
I swipe my badge through the time-clock, put my purse in my locker, and put on my game face. The off-going nurse sits down to give me a brief report. Mr. M, our resident patient in with altered mental status, is refusing his meds, again. He’s belligerent and calling for his daughter, who is at work, but he doesn’t care. I wonder why he hasn’t been transferred to step down yet. His blood pressure has been too high all day, and the doctor said he will have to wait until it comes down. The same doctor that doesn’t want to write a standing order for IV blood pressure meds. “Guess I’ll be calling him tonight.”
After coding today, Mrs. L is now a DNR. I am glad because she has been unresponsive in our ICU for about a month. She has developed bed sores and aspiration pneumonia from her tube feedings. I am thankful her family has chosen not to allow her to continue suffering and breathe a sigh of relief. I fondly remember her frequent visits in the past. She was a cheerful spirit, throughout dialysis treatments and multiple shunt surgeries for failing grafts over the years. Her daughter and two sons always thanked us for our care and brought us coffee and doughnuts on many occasions.Sharing stories is what strengthens our bonds with other nurses and the patients we serve. Click To Tweet
I gather my pm meds and go see Mr. M. He has pulled out his IV and has managed to somehow squeeze a mess of legs, sheets, and wires through the side rails of his bed. Although I start to become a bit angry, I stifle a laugh. He looks like something out of a movie arguing with the monitor cables that have him ensnared. I use the smile to my advantage, “Come on Mr. M, your daughter is on her way. You want to look your best, don’t you?” He argues with me but doesn’t resist while I get him straightened out. I talk to him about his grandchildren while I am assessing his vital signs, and, for a minute, he forgets why he is so angry. I use that to my advantage as I get him to take his meds. He is actually a nice guy when he is treated with kindness and respect.
As I check on Mrs. L, I notice her family is in the room. They are talking and reminiscing about the funny things she has said and done throughout her life. Although there is a hint of sadness in the room, there is a peaceful presence. I believe I will miss them when this is over.
As I look down the hall, I notice that Z, our 21-year-old patient is no longer in the unit. He was transferred to a rehab facility for intense therapy after a motor vehicle accident left him with the traumatic effects of a brain injury. He will have to relearn how to talk, walk, and even brush his teeth. I almost regret not being there to see him go, but inside of me, there is a humbling sense of happiness that we, ICU nurses, helped give this young man a second chance.
Throughout one shift, the emotions we feel cycle through the whole continuum. That roller-coaster is undeniably, the one thing that inspires and drives me to care for my patient’s as if they were my own family.
Sharing these stories is what strengthens our bonds with other nurses and the patients we serve. I would love to hear your stories!!
About the author
Elena Owens, Possess an MBA from Valdosta State University and a Bachelor in Science in Nursing from Florida State University. She held 2 nurse management positions in Critical Care and Coronary Care. Elena also served as Director of Managed Care and Health Marketing for a regional medical center in Southwest Georgia.