Nurses Tell All
Get a behind-the-scenes look into a typical work day of four local nurses.
Have you ever watched a doctor or hospital-centered movie or television show and wondered if medical professionals actually work that way? Spoiler alert: They don’t. Here’s your chance to get a real behind-the-scenes look: We spoke with four local nurses from various specialties about what it’s really like to be on the frontlines.
WHAT WAS A BREAKTHROUGH CASE FOR YOU?
ICU Nurse: In nursing school, you have many different subjects that you study and for a while I really loved neurology. The fact that they could stick a screw in your head and help to keep the pressure of your brain from hurting your brain stem is pretty awesome. But it was witnessing an open-heart surgery that really made me fall in love with nursing. At first I thought it was going to be really bloody but it wasn’t because of the bypass machine, which takes the blood from the body and keeps it oxygenated and anti-coagulated. So they use that to take all the blood out and bring it through the machine and then they work on the heart. It was the coolest thing!
WHAT’S THE COOLEST THING YOU’VE EVER SEEN AS A NURSE?
Nurse Practitioner: Once I was in the trauma room at Rhode Island Hospital and in came a patient with a gunshot to the chest. The surgeon opened the patient’s chest and put a catheter through the hole in the patient’s ventricle. He then poured in saline and massaged the heart and it began to beat again! It was amazing.
Homecare Nurse: Maybe not “cool,” but some breathtaking moments for me include: the birth of a child; hospice death when family and friends are able to communicate their love and acceptance in letting the person go; and a pregnant woman who had a drug history and asked me to visit her bedside when she delivered her fifth child. She later thanked me for helping her when others had judged. She also told me that, due to my respectful treatment, she had been able to quit using for the first time and was able to bring her child home with her.
Oncology Research Nurse: I’ve had patients whose stage four widespread disease completely disappeared after several doses of treatment. Comparing the pre and post-scans is very cool. It’s like it just melted away!
WHAT WAS THE GROSSEST THING?
ICU Nurse: The grossest thing I’ve ever done was having to put leeches on a wound that was not healing properly to bring up blood supply — they came up from the pharmacy in a little vial.
Oncology Research Nurse: A melanoma that looked like a large portabella mushroom.
DO YOU EVER TALK ABOUT PATIENTS OUTSIDE OF WORK WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY?
Nurse Practitioner: Never by name — because of HIPAA — but I will tell others how unfortunate some of my patients’ situations are. I’ll tell them that they should consider their health to be the best gift they have and to protect it at all costs!
Oncology Research Nurse: I discuss things I have seen over the years but never a patient name associated with the experience. For example: “I have seen that rash before, I had a guy last year that came in with…And we treated him with…”
HAVE YOU EVER WANTED TO ‘FIRE’ A PATIENT?
Nurse Practitioner: Only if they are not helping themselves in their care. If the patient does not want to try and work with me but wants me to “just send in meds”…When they aren’t willing to work towards a compromise then yes, sometimes I’d like to fire them.
ICU Nurse: Oh, all the time. Pain can distort people’s feelings and their personalities in a way you just can’t understand. But you just have to help them with their pain, medicate them when they need it and stay on top of things.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU THINK SOME PATIENTS DON’T UNDERSTAND ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
Oncology Research Nurse: That we have many patient needs to be met and often at the same time. So if you are waiting, it’s most likely because I am helping another patient and not on a lunch break. Lunch break, what is that?
Homecare Nurse: I would love for the public to know we are people just like them. We are smart, experienced and well educated. We also have had many of the same illnesses and deaths in our families so we truly know how they feel. And we provide the best care to anyone who presents themselves to us, regardless of circumstance.
ARE THERE EVER TIMES WHERE YOU WISH YOU HAD CHOSEN A DIFFERENT CAREER PATH?
Oncology Research Nurse: Yes, every now and then I wish I had a job where I didn’t have to think so much all day.
WHAT IS A MISTAKE YOU SOMETIMES SEE DOCTORS OR OTHER NURSES MAKE?
ICU Nurse: Doctors sometimes forget to write their medication orders for patients and we have to hunt them down for that. You can’t treat a patient if you don’t have an order; we can’t give medication, we can’t give IV fluid and we can’t give antiemetics (anti-nausea medicine).
ARE YOU PICKY WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING YOUR OWN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS?
Homecare Nurse: I would say I am in that I have a few things I consider. One, what’s available on the internet about them, have any complaints been filed or are they going to retire anytime soon? I don’t want to have to change doctors! Also, what are their skills and experience? I am less interested in personality and charm — I want expertise.
Nurse Practitioner: Absolutely. We need to be “partners” in my health care. We need to discuss what is needed, review my options and come up with a mutual plan of care. That’s what I do for my patients so I expect it from my providers as well.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU GIVE YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS?
Oncology Research Nurse: Know the hospital you are being admitted to, know its strengths and weaknesses. Does it have specialists in the services you may need in the worst case scenario? For example, if I am being admitted for head trauma or stroke, what is the availability of a neurologist in the middle of the night? Is there a neurosurgeon on staff in case they’re needed? Is there a neuro ICU or does everyone go to the same ICU (not specialized)?
ICU Nurse: Diet is everything. If you’re a body abuser, you’re going to end up with medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and high cholesterol. Some of it is hereditary, but in our society today, diet is a big reason for all of those diseases.
NURSES ALWAYS SEEM SO SUPPORTIVE OF ONE ANOTHER — IS IT JUST LIKE HAVING A SECOND FAMILY?
Oncology Research Nurse: Yes, no matter what kind of nurse you are, there is an immediate respect for one another. We do a lot of networking and we seek advice from one another.