Monday, December 18

The Nursing Life

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I am no longer able to practice my profession as an RN.  I have been brought down by the same things that I spent my career fighting against..disease.  It seems very unfair.  However, life can be unfair.

I spent most of the working time in nursing homes, although I worked in the acute end as well.  I really liked working with the elderly, so I spent most of my time there.  Nursing homes can be truly unique in their experiences.

In the nursing home business, if you are the RN you are top dog.  This means you are responsible for everybody an everything, even if noone told you.  It is a good idea to check to make sure all your workers have shown up for the shift.  This is especially true at night, which is mostly what I worked.  It is a very long night when you get stuck doing your job and and nursing assistant’s job.  So, you want to wake up  your staff and get them in the building.

On the PM shift, you have other employees to keep an eye on, like housekeeping, laundry and the kitchen at times.  Yes, these people fight with each other and they expect the RN to handle these little things.  Moreover, if these people leave for example, then the rest of us are stuck doing their work.  Worse, some of the employees bring their outside lives into the nursing home.  It is a royal pain when someone’s six foot boyfriend decides to come in and beat up your employee.  Sometimes, employees bring their kids in.  I can handle kids.  Worse, state law is such that the nursing home is always supposed to be open.  That’s right, just like Denny’s.  Even worse, is when the family members come in and confront the staff.  Sometimes these people are just drunk.  Sometimes, they are armed.

The worse thing to discover is that you have extra people in your nursing home.  Generally, each room has two people.  When you see a third wondering around, this is not good.  What to do?  We usually let them fall asleep and then call the police to roust them out.  Having extra people does not give you a warm fuzzy feeling however.  I miss those metal bedpans.

Fires are always a fun and exciting time.  We had a patient attempt to burn up another patient because the burning patient thought the lady had stolen her boyfriend.  We were fortunate in that the bed curtains didn’t catch on fire, just the middle of floor in the room.  The police asked if we wanted to send this lady out on a psychiatric hold.  You bet cha.  Why did they even ask? 

Another time, someone set the laundry cart on fire by throwing a cigarette into the thing.  I wound up pushing the cart outside, but the whole place was still smokey.  But the patients were safe.

Another fun thing is when your patients escape, or just disappear.  There was this one Italian gentleman.  Walking past his room, I caught a glimspe of a shoe going out the window.  I thought I must have been mistaken.  Shortly thereafter, his nursing aide came and informed me that this gentleman was missing.  No, I wasn’t.  I looked out the window and there he was in the alley behind the building in the rain.  Do you think any of the other aides voluteered to help rescue this guy.  Nope, they were too busy.  So, out in the rain went the aide and I with a wheelchair.  Fighting all the way, we got the guy back into the facility.  Did I mention I was seven months pregnant in the middle of this?  My son is just fine thank you.  I was soaked.

And of course, one has to deal with death.  After death, what you have is a body, and a whole list of state laws apply.  Most important is that a nursing home has no storage area for dead bodies.  So, we need to get rid of them as soon as possible.  However, there is a bunch of paperwork involved that I guess people don’t want to do.  So, it is a good idea to make sure all your patients are alive at the beginning of your shift.  One time, I worked days.  I went to a four bed ward, and as it happened there were three aides feeding each of three patients in the room.  There was also a fourth patient.  She was very quiet.  In fact, she was dead and white as a sheet.  This was not a new death.  Did anyone report this?  Nope.  Gosh, said the night nurse, I forgot about her.  I hope she isn’t a code..

There are many more stories to tell.  Nurses are brave and strong.  They have to be.  And you thought it was all just about poop, spit and blood.

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