ER nurse and resident knitwit

I hit my stride….then stumbled

with 4 comments

I know this is going to be the way it will be for me for a while.  I’ll have hours or maybe even days where I feel like the nurse I dream of being. I am compassionate and accurate with my care of my patients, their stay in the ER is as short as it can be while providing them the services they need, and I am thorough and current in my charting as well as helpful and cheerful as I go about my work.  I had one of those days this week.

I started working with a new preceptor this week on the 11am to 11pm shift. First of all this shift fits my body clock much better. I get up at the reasonable hour of 8 or 8:30, I get a nice breakfast and a few chores done before work. And I am alert through the entire day especially after dinner which is my most productive time of day.  My nurse kept feeding me patients so that I always had four, but let me work pretty much on my own to care for them.  I was able to keep up, I had hardworking CNAs that shift that didn’t disappear when I needed help with something, the unit clerk  was in a good mood.  The day went smoothly and at one point I thought to myself, “I kinda feel like a real nurse with some confidence, I can do this! and I love my job!”

Then came the day that I stumbled so often that I realize I need knee pads and thicker skin.  I started the day with 3 patients; one that had been boarding in the ER already for 16 hours. He came in for a cough/COPD exacerbation and his chest xray had shown suspicious spots, (he had had previous lung CA) and possibly pneumonia. The ER doc  admitted him but there were no beds so he was boarded with us until one was available. That day we had 8  admitted patients waiting for rooms. He was started on IV antibiotics, and needed a CT scan.  His floor orders were numerous and he was grouchy. He demanded so much of my attention for so much of the day that I had a hard time focusing on my other patients. He wanted to go home, but did not want to leave AMA. I listened and talked to him, I got the admitting resident to come talk to him several times, the ER docs came by and talked to him and he remained uncooperative. He refused to sign consent to get his records from another facility. When his room was finally ready a little after 3pm, I called report but he refused to go to the floor.

All through this I ended up being delayed getting things done for my other patients. We were quite busy that day, I had a steady stream of other patients too including a 5150 hold patient beginning alcohol withdrawal. I constantly had the ER docs coming to me to ask me why I hadn’t done this or that yet. Sometimes they were legit, sometimes I was waiting on pharmacy or lab or someone else.  I was kept needing to do two or three things at once and probably making the wrong choice about which came first. And of course the CNA’s were always vanishing.

Then I had the resident who had added on to the floor orders for my boarded patient earlier in the day reprimand me for not ordering a scan she had written an order for. I was totally confused and I felt all the self confidence drain from me as I stood there listening to her right there in the middle of the ER.  My preceptor was gone from the floor she had a meeting for an hour and then went to the staff meeting (that I missed) so when she got back I talked to her about all that had been going on.  I  hadn’t realized that while our ER docs put the orders in for scans themselves, the docs for the rest of the hospital do not, she was expecting me to put that scan in the computer.  I had gone through and taken care of all the rest of the orders, medications, O2 parameters, trying to get consent for records (which he refused) etc.. I caused a delay of this diagnostic. The funny thing was, that I had been calling CT all afternoon to get him in and they never mentioned that they didn’t have the order, they just kept telling me they were backed up and they would call, or they didn’t pick up the phone at all. The patient was also arguing with the docs all afternoon about not wanting to stay and have the scan at our facility, he wanted to go somewhere else.  In the end with his family’s  help we convinced him to get the scan and stay for one more dose of antibiotics, then he left AMA.

I was drained. There were so many times during his care that in hindsight I could have handled better. As well as handling the rest of my patient load while I had such a demanding patient. I see my mistakes, and I will be more attentive to those particular things in the future, but I can’t help thinking about how many more mistakes I have to make. I am so afraid of causing someone harm rather than inconvenience or delay in their care. And I just don’t like the feeling of not being on top of my game. In the meantime, I’m standing back up, brushing off my bum, putting on a confident smile and showing up.


Written by knitwitmama

January 21, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Posted in nursing, the first year

Tagged with , ,

4 Responses

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  1. Right there with ya sister. I think that’s just the nature of the beast. Some nights I feel like “dayum, I just SAVED A LIFE and I did a wicked job of it!” I hit every IV, I catch med errors, I effortlessly juggle several high-acuity patients, and my charting RAWKS. The next night I can’t start an IV in a fire hose, get yelled at by every doc, have smack stalked on me in the break room, and decide I should seek out a new profession. If any nurse tells you that doesn’t happen…he or she is LYING! 🙂


    January 23, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    • thanks, the last couple of shifts, although crazy have gone better. Last night I got every IV first time, probably shouldn’t say that out loud, now the IV gods will get me! 🙂 ! Confidence is building slowly.


      January 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm

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    January 27, 2010 at 1:27 pm

  3. Ugh – sorry to hear about your night. We all have plenty of those moments… In the OR, I once had a preceptor that didn’t help me during an intense case and kept quiet when I was taking the brunt of a surgeon’s anger. It was awful because I was trapped (scrubbed in) and had nowhere to run to recover. At the end of the day, just remember you’re not alone. 🙂

    Take care,



    February 13, 2010 at 7:58 am

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