About Me

undergrad RN
I'm a twenty-something Canadian student. After stumbling through a few years of college, I finally managed to get into the nursing school of my dreams, where I hope to graduate in 2012 with a nursing baccalaureate degree. I want to offer an honest look into how a modern nurse is educated, both good and bad. Eventually I hope to compare my education to my day-to-day career and see how it holds up. Whatever happens, it should be somewhat entertaining. Find me on allnurses.com!
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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Friday Night in the ER

It was 4 in the morning and we'd been steadily bringing patients back all night:

  • a very large woman with a nasty wet cough satting around 85% on room air (her chest x-ray was almost white)
  • a frail grandma who had just finished radiation for cancer, who came in at midnight because she couldn't sleep and felt nauseous
  • a kid who'd been maced (by security?) at an event
  • a guy with inverted P waves admitted for stabbing chest pain - turns out someone placed the ECG leads wrong, he was fine with some Toradol
  • a young couple and their weeks-old babe with diarrhea
  • a gangbanger who punched through glass instead of his girlfriend, but seriously sliced his arm just proximal to the medial epicondoyle - deep lac was about 4 inches long and gaping about 3 inches wide - the police found him by following the trail of blood down the street

It was hopping in the ER. I was running ECGs back-to-back, taking specimens to the lab, and herding someone's 5 children under the age of 10 that she decided to bring with her to the ER without extra supervision. One of the docs left at 0300 so we were down to just one doc until 0600 and of course that's when things started to get hairy. Our nurse at triage decided to hang out in the back and keep an eye on triage using the security cameras, because all of the people with sore throats and vomiting in the waiting room kept shooting her death stares.

We had one lady on cardiac observation, the guy with the inverted P waves taking up our peds trauma bed, and another guy came in about 2 weeks post-CABG with crushing chest pain, tachycardia, and a-fib (tachy a-fib? or is it just that it was reading the extra atrial beats as the actual pulse rate? forgive me, cardiology nurses, for I know not what I don't know!), the gangster with the arm lac woke up from his drunken snooze and started howling, the grandma who couldn't sleep still hadn't been seen, the kid who got maced needed a shower, all 5 of the loose children started getting tired and cranky, and the young couple thought we were ignoring them and kept hovering around the desk with babe in arms.

So despite the madness of those three hours, I rolled with it, because the staff were so awesome to witness. This wasn't their first barn dance. With one swoop, the nurses got the kids cozy with some coloring books, told the young couple that they WOULD BE SEEN but not NOW, got the maced kid into the shower, buried grandma in 5 warm blankets (and lo, she fell asleep!), soothed the gangster back to sleep until he could be seen, and all of a sudden the charge nurse pulled me into the other trauma room and said "watch this".

The guy with a-fib was just signing his consent for conscious sedation and attempted cardioversion. They placed the electrodes sandwich-style on his left chest and back, snowed him with fentanyl and propofol, and set the current. Then the physician gave the go ahead. The nurse called CLEAR and made sure we were all back before pushing the shock button. The guy went rigid and then limp.

"Owwwwww," he groaned, motioning to his chest.

We all watched the rhythm as it settled into normal sinus for a few beats....and then blip, blip, blip-blip-blip his heart rate climbed back up to 140 and we saw the beats become irregular again.

The physician ordered a higher electrical current. ALL CLEAR! Shock given. Normal sinus, and then a-fib.

Again, higher current, shock, normal sinus, and then a-fib.

The physician decided to discontinue the cardioversion and instead just hold the patient until he could be admitted to cardiology in the morning.

A couple of hours later, the new doctor was coming on so I pulled someone out of the waiting room for the first time in hours. I looked in the chart. Sore throat x 3 weeks with slight cough, no fever, nontender palpation of lymph nodes. Came in at 0300 on the Saturday of a long weekend (and waited 3 hours) for....what, exactly? A throat swab and dispo with abx...

And then it was 0700 and the gangster was getting his arm stitched up. I played doctor's helper and held the pt's arm in an awkward superman position, while also running to grab sutures and stuff since, although the doc had the suture cart right there, he had managed to turn it so I couldn't get into it, and he was sterile so away I went. It was worth it though because it was awesome to watch him pull the lips of the lac together and get it sewn up. There was a large vein that had to be tied off. He started in the middle of the lac and guessed where to start sewing. After a couple of false starts he got it evenly joined and worked his way out to either end, and then filled in the gaps. All together I think there were 10 sutures. It was neat to watch him pull the edges together , all the subcutaneous fat kind of popped out and sqooshed all over the place. Once he was done, it looked amazingly clean. Especially considering the amount of blood I'd washed off his arm, and how much had caked onto his pants.

I applied a dressing of adaptic, 2x2s, 4x4s, and cotton wrap. Then the oncoming day nurse told me to go home.... so I did :)

*Pinches self* I can't believe I get paid for this. I LOVE EMERGENCY NURSING!


Emilie said...

Wow, gotta love it! Interesting post, keep em coming :)


Nighthawke said...

amazing post, thank you

Zazzy Episodes said...

Sounds exciting and never a dull moment.

Frantic Home Cook said...

48 years old and have been a boring computer programmer all my life. Finishing my prereqs now hoping to start nursing school next fall to be an ER nurse! :) LOVE your blog!

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