Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Job

Last night, my boss asked me if I would take on a third patient shift if needed (we do two patients or sets of patients a day, usually). Since I'm trying to get on top financially, I said yes. More on that later.

Today, we had a staff meeting. That meant I had to be in a suburb of Chicago that's about a 45 minute drive away at 7 a.m. Not a thrilling prospect. But since I have been bitching about a lot of things, I felt like I should go.

I'm glad I went, despite having worked a 17 hour day the day before (until midnight). Since the last meeting I've learned a little more about the unit I work for. I learned that it used to work a lot better than before-- until an accountant, rather than a nurse was put in charge of the unit.

That accountant, I've come to realize, is our Lumbergh. This was the boss in "Office Space" if you've forgotten, played to perfection by Gary Cole. He plays like he's a nice guy, but in the end is a corporate dick. He knows nothing about what we deal with day to day in our jobs. He announced today that we are trying yet another computerized system, with smart phones, that will start accounting, nearly to the minute, where we are and what we're doing.

One of the other nurses joked about using the GPS on the smart phones to track our movements. The accountant hesitated before answering, and we all realized that they had considered using the GPS on the phones.

This unit is about to become a lot less nice to work at-- and there are already problems. My plan is to try to work there a year-- the magic number for a first year nurse-- and then check out my options.

In the meantime, I'll be blogging about some of the people I work with, who are mostly wonderful. I'll be telling a little bit about my job-- as much as I can without compromising the privacy of my patients and my co-workers.

Which leads to my third shift last night. As I said, I jumped at the chance to work some extra hours-- not only for the extra dough, but because it was at a hospital I did two clinical rotations at, and know a lot of the staff at and am consequently quite fond of.

I was asked to call ahead to give an ETA. I called and was told to take my time-- the patient was having a central venous catheter installed at that moment, the catheter I was going to use to do the dialysis. Since I was close to home, I stopped there to have a quick dinner and then headed out to the hospital.

I got to the hospital and headed upstairs to assess my patient. My boss had gotten the machine ready for me already, saving me some time. When I got to the room in the ICU, I said hello to the patient's parent; my patient was only 23. She was suffering from a chronic disease that prevents the body from producing all kinds of blood cells.

As I looked at my patient, I could see my kids; my eldest is about five years younger than her. And as I looked at her mother, I could see myself. There is nothing more helpless feeling than having a sick kid. And having a kid who's got a cold, the flu, asthma, bronchitis-- is one thing. To have a kid in renal failure on top of a serious chronic condition-- I can't even imagine.

I set up and got my patient ready for treatment. As I did this, I explained to the patient's mother a little bit about how dialysis works. I could tell that it was allaying a lot of fear and anxiety. Later, she told me that she'd been hesitant to do treatment-- she knew little about dialysis. I told her that it's not surprising; I knew next to nothing about it until I was a dialysis nurse.

As I got treatment going, the mother, who lives in Virginia, fielded phone calls about her daughter from friends and relatives. The treatment was scheduled to be short-- only 2 hours. This is typical for someone new to dialysis, or someone who does not normally get dialysis treatment. Since there are frequently complications in early treatments, I asked the patient about those complications. She was fine. And so was the mother; I could tell that it comforted her to know that I knew at least a little bit about what I was doing.

About 40 minutes into treatment, my patient started looking better and became more responsive. As the toxins in her blood-- toxins that affected her level of lucidity-- were pulled from her blood, her condition rapidly improved. I could feel her mother's relief as she began answering questions, something she hadn't been able to do that morning.

My patient's mother asked my patient if she wanted some diet ginger ale. I checked with the primary nurse to make sure she wasn't on fluid restrictions, and her mother helped her sip it as she quietly chatted with her, telling her about her friends, her boyfriend and her relatives asking about her.

Toward the end of treatment, the mother thanked me for taking on the extra shift to treat her daughter. It was not a problem, I told her, and I meant it.

I worked hard to finish nursing school. I was lucky enough to get a job quickly, and am happy that after four years of sacrifice-- time given up with family, financial sacrifice-- that I've got a job that's paying me pretty good money. On the other hand, I've had this job long enough to hate aspects of it.

But last night, seeing my patient improve because of my treatment, and seeing the relief in a fellow parent's face as she saw her daughter's condition improve-- that is what it is all about. All the past sacrifice and current aggravation are worth it in spades.


Churlita said...

Wow. They actually considered tracking devices? A year could be a very long time....

Mnmom said...

I'm working in a hospital now. And onboarding all types of students and interns is part of my job. What an interesting career you have!

Johnny Yen said...

Churlita- Yep. That's why it may be less than a year. I started updating my resume today.

Mnmom- It is. Hope to get into a place that is more organized eventually.