I worked as a floor nurse for five years, and I’ve had my share of horror stories along the way. I think that every nurse experiences horror stories from the frontlines, and some of them can be particularly harrowing.
Here are three of my most notable horror stories from my floor nursing career. I encourage every nurse to share their stories – perhaps here, but at least with other nurses or family members.
The Nitro and the Mother
I helped take care of a patient who was having severe chest pain. He knew that taking his nitro in the past helped him to ease his pain, and he did nothing but scream for his nitro. That’s how much his chest hurt him.
We got him to lie down, but he still kept screaming. I could see the pain on his face, and I knew that this was not going to end well. Then he went out.
We called a code, and he didn’t make it. Little did we know, but he had an elderly mother. The nursing supervisor led her to his room – after we staged a peaceful scene – and she asked him if her son suffered any pain.
The supervisor said no, and I turned my head, tears in my eyes. It was the right response, but I knew the truth. It haunts me to this day.
The Dying Husband
I was doing a routine med pass when I heard a commotion in the hallway. A woman was running up and down the hall screaming, “My husband is dying!”
I was the only nurse around, so I called down the hall for help. I ran into the room, found the patient blue, and began prepping him for the crash cart that I could already hear coming down the hall.
The wife would not stop screaming that her husband was dying. The patient’s doctor was on the floor, writing orders, ironically, for the patient to be transferred to the ICU.
He started screaming at me that he needed an intubation kit, but the crash cart hadn’t arrived yet. I started compressions with all of these people yelling at me, and I finally turned to the doctor, yelling back, “Hold on a minute!”
The cart arrived, the doctor got his kit, and the wife was escorted out of the room. The patient went to the ICU, but died. I will never forget, though, this woman screaming as she ran up and down the hall outside the patient’s door.
Getting a Blood Pressure
In another code, we had a patient who was bradying down. I was assigned the dubious task of getting his blood pressure.
Now, most nursing students can take a blood pressure, but I never felt as confident in it as I thought I should. Of course, I could take a blood pressure, but in a code, it’s a different story.
We tried the machine on the crash cart. No pressure. We tried the portable vitals machine. No pressure. Finally, the doctor ordered me to take a manual pressure.
I tried so hard to get one, but I was really flustered. My hands were shaking. I couldn’t get a blood pressure, either. I kept trying. No pressure.
He was bradying so low, however, he didn’t have a pulse, but the doctor was trying to see if we could somehow get a pressure. So, I was basically trying to get a pressure on someone who was almost dead.
I was a newer nurse, and it made me feel like I failed somehow that I couldn’t get that pressure – though no one was surprised that I didn’t get it.
Feeling that frustration, stress, and embarrassment, though, stayed with me, and I made sure that I took some pressures manually after that. I am happy to say that my skills are up to my standards now, but the feeling of being inadequate has not left me, either.