You had a stroke? We can fix that!

As nurses, we talk a lot about the versatility of nursing and why its better than the other medical fields, yet rarely do nurses move departments. As a Neuro ICU nurse, who literally and figuratively got pooped on by patients, after a couple years I was ready for a move off the floor without having to go back to school for ARNP or CRNA, like most of my ICU coworkers and the procedural area was that move.

From the floor perspective, what is done in the OR or procedural areas was a mystery. I know my patient left the floor one way and most often came back with a new tube sticking out of them. The in between was unknown and I quite frankly was fine with it that way. Sure, you have to make the random call to ask if you’re supposed to give this beta blocker or anticonvulsant but that was the extent of the contact I had with a procedural nurse.

Then came the Interventional Neurology Radiology lab, the answers to all my prayers. INR nursing is an awesome mix of ICU and OR. We are part of a team of radiology techs, nurses and interventional neuroradiology physicians caring for patients with neurovascular issues. Patients present to our department at all levels of acuity from outpatient diagnostic status to life threatening large vessel occlusions and brain bleeds requiring airway and hemodynamic management to survive.

The beauty of procedural nursing is that no two days are the same. One day you’ll be slammed, stuck in the lab until 8pm with no lunch break and the next there are 2 cases, no emergencies and you leave by 12pm. There is a delightful lack of monotony.

I remember the first day that we were done in the lab by 11am and I got to leave, I thought I had won the nursing lottery, that absolutely does not happen on the floor. Neurology is not a well liked specialty by most nurses and those who do it, tend to specialize themselves into a corner. The INR lab is a world of opportunity for the Neuro nurse to have optimal job satisfaction. The hours, patients and acuity vary, leaving you seldom bored.

When a stroke comes to the department, it is an emergency, as we do the embolectomies (pulling out the clot that is occluding the vessel), this is a rush -rush, get ’em on the table and pull the thing out situation, but its executed like a silent symphony with no conductor, everyone knows their role and work as a team.

The end result is instant gratification, the patient that came to us nonverbal, with right side facial droop and can’t raise their right arm is now completely back to normal, fully functioning. The feeling, as the nurse, that you get witnessing this, is nothing short of amazing.

Nursing can be frustrating and thankless, but I have never felt more appreciated by the patients or physicians than in this department. Point is, fellow nurses, step out of your comfort zone, before you get burnt out, give up on being an RN and decide to move on to NP or CRNA, and give another area a chance, you might find the pot at end of the nursing rainbow.

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