First Night Back Blues

Recently I had an 8 day stretch of time off. Yes folks, 8 days in a row. And staffing never called. Not even once. The first time in three months where I actually wanted to work extra and had said, “If they call I’ll go in” and they don’t call. I found out later that census had been low, nurses were being floated and even sent home early. Talk about poor timing to try to get overtime. Guess it was a good stretch to have off though.

But I paid for that time off the first night. In blood.

Not really, just a lot of miles and a ton of sweat.

I started with 4 patients and I knew I was going to be busy. Intractable nausea and vomiting, a small bowel obstruction on TPN, demented little old lady post-kyphoplasty who had been taking swings at the previous night shift and in the morning, who had a hypertensive episode post-intervention and was still goofy from anesthesia and the winner of the night: post-stent to the RCA with the arterial sheath still in place, Integrilin running and ACT still sky-high. It was going to be an interesting night. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention the load of empty beds and me not capped?

I had it all planned out. First, see all my patients. Second, pass meds. Third get everyone settled in. Fourth, pull the sheath. Yeah, like things ever go to plan on my floor. Intractable nausea wakes up, gets Zofran, and some IV Metoprolol for her elevated BP. Demented LOL, wakes up and starts asking where she is, why she’s here and who she is. Get her relatively re-oriented. Small bowel guy is doing just fine. Hang new TPN, walk him and get him settled. Finally, at about 2200 go back to see stent guy. Have everything I need in the room. Ready to pull the sheath. Stick him for blood for the ACT. And miss. My sheath buddy S. gets him. Except the machine rejects the sample. Try again. No joy this time, ACT is in the 180’s, order is to pull after ACT<160. Tell stent guy to chill for awhile longer.

As I walk back to the nurse’s station, charge tells me I’m getting an admit and report is on the phone. Remember those empty beds? Yep, got to fill them somehow. Take report. Go back to stent guy and check a set of vitals and he tells me he’s having pain. On the left side of his chest right by his armpit. I ask him if it’s the same as it was before he came with chest pain, hoping he’s going to tell me it’s not. Nope, not that lucky. He tells me it is exactly the same. Shit.

Run down the hall, grab the EKG machine with a quick stop at the Pyxis for nitro. Grab a 12-Lead, throw some oxygen on him and give him a nitro. While I wait for the nitro to work, compare the new 12-lead against the previous one and breathe a small sigh of relief as I see no new changes. Double the relief as he tells me the nitro worked and he’s pain free. About that time, my pager goes off. Intractable nausea is puking again. Head over and she tells me the Zofran didn’t do much. And that’s all she has. I page the house doc for phenergan, send the order to pharmacy and wait. Phenergan comes up and I give it. Look at the clock and it’s nearly midnight. Time for rounds and midnight meds. Pager goes off: phone call. It’s the ED who tells me that my admit is hurting, nauseous, on the way up and I’ll want to medicate her when she gets to the floor. I can barely get a “WTF?” out as she hangs up on me. Great, my favorite way to admit someone: in pain and nauseated with nothing to give.

I’m in the middle of pushing Metoprolol on SBO guy and my pager goes off, again. Oh, the admit is here. Now I’m starting to get pissed. Nothing is going the way I thought it would. The night I tried so hard to keep organuzed is seeming to be coming apart at the seams. I’ve been up and down the hall enough times to wear a track in the rug and except when getting report from the ER I haven’t stopped moving all night. Have I charted yet? Not a chance. Heck, I don’t even know if I signed off on all my meds. But now is when my co-workers stepped up. They got the admit settled, hooked up to tele and orders started. They even sent the pain meds and anti-emetic orders off. Did I mention I love the people I work with?

I go in and grab an assessment and vitals. Admitted for chest pain, but now it’s more like a shoulder pain, cardiac enzymes and EKG were both negative and she’s relatively comfortable, but the pain is coming back. Out to check on the meds. Not in Pyxis yet. Try again. No luck. Go finish up seeing the rest of my folks. Look again. Nothing. Go in to stent guy to draw blood, the ACT machine tells me it is time to QC, which takes 10 minutes. Go back out and the meds are still not up. I’m pissed. I’m pissed at the ED who didn’t medicate before they sent her. I’m pissed at stent guy’s ACT and the order from the docs to pull at less than 160, when protocol is normally 180. I’m pissed that it takes pharmacy an eternity to get anything in. I’m pissed that the guy who arrived after my admit, already has meds in, even though the orders for my admit were sent first. So I get on the horn. I politely and gently persuade (without sounding like a sailor) the pharmacist to at least put in the oxycodone and phenergan. And then finally, as if by miracle, the meds are available. I medicate, get a history, orient my admit to the floor and what’s going to happen tonight and head back to stent guy’s room.

The ACT machine is ready. I’m ready. He’s ready to have the sheath out of his leg. I poke him and get a good stick on the first shot. ACT comes up…and it’s still >180. Shit. “Oh yeah, ” he says, “I’m having some terrible heartburn too and was a little nauseous.” Great. Look at the MAR, not a single thing for heartburn. Look to see who’s on call for cards tonight: Dr. Complex. A quick word about him. He’s a brilliantly gifted cardiologist,who is both incredibly young and smart, but whose bedside manner is, how you say, lacking? Once a day nurse remarked to me that he seems so uptight they wondered if he even poops. He’s not exactly my favorite person to talk to in the middle of the night. But I start going through stent guy’s chart and notice that he’s had a sheath in for well over 18 hours, closer to 20 it appears. It needs to come out. So I call the answering service to have Dr. Complex paged. He calls me back and is actually polite and understanding. I give him the run down, mentioning the chest pain, the heartburn and the fact the sheath has been in for at least 18 hours and that the ACT has actually gone up since my shift started. “Is it OK to pull it now?” I ask, and sure enough it’s coming out. He also gives me orders for something for heartburn which are sent to pharmacy. Somehow these come up quick. Give stent guy maalox and have him pee. Grab my buddy S. to help me out with the pull and get ready to rock.

Except this will be the first sheath I’ve pulled. Being the good little nurse I am, I had looked at the policy earlier in the night, and went over it with S. to make sure I didn’t seem like an idiot in front of the patient. Things are in place and we’re ready to go. We pull the dressing off from over the sheath and stent guy goes green, then like a scene from The Exorcist, starts vomiting. In large amounts. S. has the sheath in his hand, I’m holding a bucket for stent guy, praying S. can keep the sheath from coming out. Stent guy calms down and stops puking then tells us, “I feel better now.” Murphy was working overtime this night. He’s OK, we’re OK, time to get this sheath out. Clamp on the Fem-o-Stop, I pull the sheath as S. pumps up the Fem-o-Stop. We barely get a little ooze. We spend the next hour checking vitals, pulses and the site until we take the Fem-o-Stop off, slap on a D-Stat and call it good. Knowing I still have to check him frequently, I pulled one of the computers down the end the hall and start charting.

By the time 0700 rolls around I think I’m caught up. I don’t feel like I’m caught up. I don’t even know where the last 12 hours have gone, but SBO guy is chillin’, having had a couple of small bowel movements, intractable nausea is up, awake, taking clears and her BP is stabilized, my LOL is fast asleep having remembered who she was, but not where or when, but that’s her normal, chest pain admit is just dandy and stent guy is chillin’ too, the D-Stat looks great, no bruising, great pulses and no more nausea, heartburn or chest pain. I got home and was asleep 30 seconds after my head hit the pillow. It was one helluva’ first night back.

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