Over the past Five Weeks I have completed my Acute Care Placement for my Diploma of Nursing, to catch up on the day by day click here. Over that time I learnt may very valuable lessons, what many different drains can be used for, the effect of different wound care products, the differing cocktails of anaesthetics, and how diverse the multidisciplinary team really is. But given that most of that can be learnt from a book or educator I will leave those particular lessons to them. Instead, I will focus on the lessons that are picked up along the way, shared by other nurses and learnt from the patients themselves.
We all get taught at some point during Nursing School the importance of Time Management. I have always been a fairly organised person by nature, so thought I would be ok by the time I hit the floor. Oh how I underestimated how much needs to be done, and how many interruptions to your time there will be. I would suggest that, especially as a junior nurse, come up with a time table to break up your time that suits you. I found that by the end of my placement one hour blocks were too broad, I needed 30 minute blocks to sort my time. So I would draw up the patients I was assigned with hourly columns and a diagonal line. The Left triangle would be the first 30 mins of the hour, and the right the last 30 mins of the hour. You will also need some sort of key that works for you. I used M for medications, IV for anything intravenous, Dx for dressing changes or checks, Obs for any observations, BGL for any blood sugar checks, and would create others as I required them. This creates a quick reference of your night, makes handover a cinch, and means that if you get pulled away by the NUM, you can ask someone to cover the things you now about.
I know I have written about Self Care in my Aged Care Reflection and I feel it even more important to talk about it again after my Acute Care placement and the impacts of family, life, and the dreaded Late to Early swing. The temptation, and Lord knows I pulled this stunt too often, to simply try and live a normal life when you are on PM shift, getting off at 2300, getting home, writing for an hour, bathing and getting to bed at 0130, then getting back up at 0600 to be with the family, then proceed to stay up all day living life before heading to work by 1530. It sounds ok, till four days of only five hours sleep begins to take its toll. Sleep is key. Please ensure that you get the requisite amount of sleep. You may get away with little sleep in the short term, but Nursing is a life long career not a flash in the pan job.
Eat well, eat regularly and keep up the water. I know in the first week of placement, I wasn’t the best at keeping my fluid, and was terrible at skipping meals before or after shift. So I had to actively change the habit. I ensured that I had access to a bottle of water somewhere on the floor, as you will rarely have the opportunity to leave and get a drink, and made myself eat before and after shift. this will ensure your body will be able to deal with the coming shift, and recover from it after the fact.
Take time to yourself. I wrote two weeks ago on my Post Fall on Sword about how I was terrible at taking a moment to have time off for myself, my family or my friends. TAKE TIME AWAY FROM WORK AND SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY. I was going to be more subtle but decided that it wasn’t necessary, and would get the point across as well. The people around you will be the only ones to help you after a rubbish shift, they will be the ones that are there when you loose a child on the ward, they are the ones who will be your sounding board when the NUM rosters you for 16 days in a row then calls you on your first Sunday off in a month. Spend quality time with them, switch off from distractions and try to leave work at the door.
Take your Time
As previously mentioned, there are a myriad of things that can drain your time during the shift. However, an extra five minutes during an admission, asking a couple of probing questions when taking observations, or simply making small talk when checking up on your patient could give you key information that would otherwise be missed. During my placement, and subsequent time in Surgical, there was a patient who was in having a hip replacement. During the admission it was discovered that they had recently completed a long haul flight six day prior. Now those two things on their own are concerning enough, however, 24 hours after the procedure the patient had a seizure, their O2 saturation were below 80% on 15L of O2, and things were looking grim. It would later be discovered that during their time overseas they had consumed some bad seafood, had a diarrhetic episode and subsequently took six Imodium to stop it. This subsequently kept the bug inside the body and it festered away, which eventually caused the Septic Shock that the patient had suffered. Now, the nurse who admitted the patient did ask probing questions about the trip, the travel and all other matters of questions. What was missed was when the patient stated they felt unwell on their day of travel home, the only question asked was How do you feel now? Which is only an issue in hindsight, however, for me it will stick forever the importance of asking probing questions of anything that is out of the ordinary.
I spent the first 5 years of my working life, like most young Australians, in Hospitality. For most of that I was heavily involved in Wedding planning, coordinating and serving. This generally meant that for six months of the year I would plan, run and serve for over 400 weddings. As you can imagine it gets a little mundane, as each wedding, no matter how unique, is formulaic; people arrive, couple gets married, a whole bunch of photos are taken, everyone eats, there are some speeches, some people cry, some people get drunk, the couple leave, everyone stays way longer, then just before the wedding day becomes a wedding weekend everyone leaves. So after doing this 400 times you could say you would get over it. However, my boss at the time had been doing it for over 15 years. So just a few weddings. He told me that despite the fact that it may be my 400th wedding, for the couple it was their first, and hopefully only, and that stuck with me. Now, as a young practitioner, I take that lesson with me. For me it may be my 5th day on the ward, my 100th day, or heaven forbid my 1,000,000th day on the ward but for the patient it may be their first, and even if it is not the first time on the ward it may be the first time for this condition, treatment or procedure. Be a real person, talk to them about their lives, laugh where appropriate and don’t treat them like a number or another body in a bed. It is a simple lesson to listen to, but proves to be difficult to put into place when under the pump.
No Dumb Questions
No matter how many times I hear it, no matter how many times I have tried to impart this little gem it still seems to be something that is missed. I know during my placements, my lab days at Nursing School, my study sessions with my friends, or simply asking old Dr Google, I asked a ton of questions. Some of them seemed a bit simple or dumb at the time but I soon realised that either I wasn’t the only one thinking it or it wasn’t such a stupid question at the end of it all. I recall after ECT, during my Mental Health shifts, I noticed that the consumers right eye was almost alway more blood shot then the left. I knew it was the side that the treatment runs through and assumed it was a side effect of the treatment, but asked the question anyway. It was a seemingly dumb question but raised an interesting problem, no-one know why, and more interestingly, most people hadn’t even noticed it previously. So this seemingly dumb question now moves into the realm are curiosity for many. I am still yet to actually find a reasonable answer other than because of the electricity, but I live in hope. The lesson is, NO DUMB QUESTIONS, with the sole exception of Who’s ID is this…
Well there you have it, my Five lessons that I couldn’t learn in a classroom or book for my Acute Care placement. This brings me to the end of my journey as a Diploma Student, in a number of short weeks my registration will come in and I will be an Enrolled Nurse. Come March I will begin a new journey as a Bachelor Student as I study to become a Registered Nurse. I thank you all for coming on this journey with me far and I hope to see you all as the journey continues.
Maintain the Rage