You enter the nurse’s station to start your shift, and you immediately go to the assignment board. You have five patients tonight, and that wouldn’t be too bad if you had help.
Some nurses have called off, so you actually aren’t used to having so many patients. In the great purge of the nursing assistants, you are more used to three on a night shift.
And you know that even that is too much.
So, you are understaffed again. No one will be coming to help you. Essentially, it is you, the patients, and the other nurses.
The first thing you notice when you walk down the hall is that every light is on . . . and no one is answering them. This is because you are currently in shift change, and there are no nursing assistants to answer the bells in the interim.
The nurse you are replacing looks haggard, and you feel for him. In 12 hours, you know that you will look the same because you will only get minimal help from your nurse coworkers.
This isn’t something you hold against them. In fact, you find it hard to get the time to help them when they need it. If it is any consolation, you are all in this together.
After report, your first task is to answer those lights. Picking randomly, you go into the first one, and find the patient has to go to the bathroom.
That will take time, but you can’t leave her here, no matter how many bells are ringing. You take her to the bathroom, whip through an assessment when you are done, and head out the door.
When you emerge, even more bells are going off. You find your next patient’s room and head in.
He is covered in his own urine, having spilled his urinal all over himself. Cleaning is a priority. Linens, towels, and soap all combine to get the man clean again. You do another assessment and run.
The first lady’s light is back on, but she already got her attention this hour. It will have to wait.
Instead, you head toward the next room with a bell ringing. She only needs her overbed table drawn nearer, but she is angry that the bell has been on for over an hour.
You apologize profusely, get your assessment, and head back out the door. Three patients down and two to go . . . and no one to help you know if someone is dying in those rooms or just needs a drink.
The other two rooms only need minor help, and you are grateful, but when you go out, you notice more lights. You have to stop. It is time for med pass.
Combining two tasks at once, you take meds to the room where the light is ringing. She has to go to the bathroom again, so you take her, give her the medicine, and run.
The light in the next room is on. When you enter, the patient is blue, their body hanging halfway out of the bed.
Immediately, you spring to life and call a code, but it is anyone’s guess how long the patient has been unconscious. No nursing assistants were there to answer bells and alert you to an emergency.
As the code continues, you and your coworkers run to get supplies, taking your time away from the patient. If you had help, these would not require your attention.
Let’s face it: without nursing assistants, the medical delivery system just doesn’t work. This is a nightmarish scenario, but many hospitals are going to this style of care.
Even one day without a nurse’s aide can make a nurse thank their lucky stars that they have them.