Hardest job I’ve ever loved

Stories - Mighty RocketClocking into the ICU is like strapping yourself to a trouble seeking rocket that seeks out the tragic fragile edges of our existence in human flesh.

I walk into a room and watch the electrodes pick up a last heart beat, the spark of life flickers and is gone.

Then into another room and I watch a team retrieve a tissue sample from deep within a grandmother’s lung. Is that cancer?

Next room, Grandpa has 13 different IV solutions controlled by his nurse.

We control his heart and lungs, feed him through a tube from nose to stomach, collect his urine and stool in bags…are you still in there G? His mind is quiet with pain control, anti anxiety, somnolitic, and amnesia medications on board.

Then there’s the guy who is both a meth addict and psych med overdose.

He starts to scream and thrash at his five point restraints and one comes untied from the bed.

He swings wildly at the nurse who rushes in, bring meds to calm the terror he is experiencing as his synapses sizzle.

Who’s next?

Then a doc needs a sterile field to place a lifesaving line that will bring fluids, antibiotics and cardio-active drugs to a patient w a blood stream infection.

Another patient has just lost their airway, pulling out the ventilation system that was sustaining their life out while on a sedation break.

Replacing the breathing tube becomes emergent quickly so we roll into that as a team. (I promise not to dwell on how in the middle of these activities, someone has gone #1 or #2, in bed, and needs a full sheet change and a bath).

Now the grief stricken family needs a chaplain and loving words from a nurse who will have to stop and say the same things the doctor just said, but slower and in familiar language.

Over head page from the hospital operator, I’m off to respond to one of the one-hundred beds I respond to whenever called.

Rapid response could be anything – someone choking, low blood sugar, high/low blood pressure, seizure, really, anything out of the norm.

Rapid response turn into codes, and also if a patient is coding I can be called to bedside at anytime for that too. Did I mention all the poop? Not dwelling though.

Time flies

This could easily be six hours of interactions on a busy day.

Now add the reality that a shift is 12 hours. Add a dozen phone calls. Add a few teaching moments where you get to see something you’ve never seen before.

The social time where you actually get a second to ask your coworker a non-work question.

The charting time seems to never end. Stuff in lunch and a bathroom break and you’re golden.

How did I forget to mention all the call lights that make me have a myriad of totally benign human interactions, like “I need water”, to total chaos like “my husband is blue!”

Wish I could do a Cohen Bros style film just on a nurse answering call lights… Hardest job I’ve ever loved.

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