I put my uniform on to get ready for work. I had just got done having lunch with my mother and she asked me if I were going to work. She always asks me that even though I’ve worked Fridays for 7 years now. I tell her yes and then I tell her I am going to try a new tactic today. I will do all my nurses’ aide type things first (pass water, get juice, take vital signs, help with bathroom needs) then I will become the RN and start assessments, medications and care around the medical needs. I WAS GOING TO EAT AND TAKE A BREAK NO MATTER WHAT.
I knew I was in trouble when I was assigned to a colleague who had had surgery (nurses are the worst patients). Another patient was in the manic phase of her bipolar cycle which was set off by the anesthesia used for her surgery. I had two new mothers whose boyfriends were with them and their babies. The couples were both mentally challenged. I also had another first-time mother whose baby was premature and not feeding well at the breast. In the first two hours I never got out of the surgical patients’ rooms. The bipolar woman needed one-on-one care, but the supervisor had taken my nurses’ aide to sit with a man who needed watching on a medical-surgical floor. I wonder why that person took precedence over my woman. Thankfully, my colleague who had surgery was set to go home. She was right across the hall. She wanted her catheter taken out and she was determined to go to the bathroom and not need a catheter to go home. She must have called me into her room once every half hour and she called the doctors herself not telling me she was doing so. She got into the computer and did her own charting. I was beginning to feel the pressure.
At 5:00 pm I got to the first couple’s room to help them get the baby on the breast to feed. I discovered that the mother was bleeding badly. I called the doctor STAT and began to give her the medications I knew the doctor would order, massage the uterus and, once the bleeding slowed, clean her up and weigh the bloody mess so I knew how much she had lost. Daddy was watching cartoons and texting everyone about the baby. Mommy was in tears because she didn’t know how to feed the baby and now she was in pain because I had to rub her abdomen with a fresh incision in it. I quieted the baby down and told her to just do what the lactation person showed her. She wanted the lactation person to come again. I told her they only worked 4 hours per day and that we would just repeat what she had shown her. She only knew that the baby’s head was supposed to be near her breast (revelatory!). I worked for about 10 minutes with her after I gave her something for pain. She would not do what I asked her to do and, consequently, the baby would not eat. My bipolar lady was “out of control” someone yelled to me as I wiped the sweat off my brow from the past hour of postpartum hemorrhage and breastfeeding angst. I had to run. I told the boyfriend to help mommy as best he could…
I was back in the surgical hallway and still had 2 mommies and 2 babies to assess down the maternity hallway. A 12-hour nurse came on-duty at 7 pm and asked if I wanted to go into the nursery because she didn’t want to go in there. I told her it was a very tough assignment out here, but I would be glad to go in the nursery. She was thrilled and so was I. As I began to give her report on the patients and tell her half of them had not even been assessed she began to “get the picture”. I went in to care for an intensive care baby and 10 regular babies. The nurse already in there was SO happy to see me. Four new babies were coming from labor and delivery and she just didn’t know how she was going to do it all. I had stepped from the frying pan into the fire! I did not eat, get to the bathroom or get a break all shift and I worked an hour overtime because they only had one nurse scheduled for the nursery for night shift and by the time I left there was one intensive care baby and 14 normal newborns–way too much for one nurse. Each baby had a mother, too, so I can’t imagine what postpartum was like. I didn’t even ask!
Hanging on to the Savior,