Today, our guest blogger shares some of her best memories of her journey from accelerated nursing school to working as an ER nurse.
I wish I could say I have some gut wrenching story about my proudest moment as a nurse, and to non-nurses many of my average days as a nurse would likely be considered triumphs. For me, I have a collection of favorite moments as a nurse.
A Nursing School Patient
My first favorite moment came in my accelerated nursing school days. It was my first day as a student nurse doing clinicals. I signed up for a tough patient with many end-of-life issues, including congestive heart failure, pneumonia and malnourishment. I remember the nurse that day being less than stellar. As I approached the room with my professor, I could hear my patient gurgling on mucous and struggling to breath. I knew she quickly needed her airway suctioned. I grabbed my professor and we went to work with tears in our eyes. This lady, end of life or not, deserved the same care as any other patient.
As the day neared its end and after several rounds of airway suctioning, my patient became more alert. Her husband even hugged me and talked to me at length about how grateful he was for the care I provided his wife. This simple thank you in itself means so much to any nurse, as nurses generally are not thanked for the tasks they perform. As I was leaving the room my patient, who was struggling to breath just that morning, chanted, “Go Purdue.” If there was ever a day that reaffirmed my desire to be a nurse, that was it. That simple moment, and being able to see that what I did mattered, still brings tears to my eyes to this day.
A Surgical Patient in Need
Another memorable moment came while working in a medical surgical unit. One of the regular dialysis patients on the unit had received a new temporary dialysis catheter. I’m not sure if the surgeon didn’t suture the catheter correctly or if the patient was too active and dislodged something, but the catheter began to bleed somewhere during the middle of a 16-hour shift. I called the surgeon, who assured me he would not be coming in to take the patient back to surgery and it would be my duty, and mine alone, to get the catheter to stop bleeding. I tried sand bags from the ICU and a special powder solution that aids in clotting. A surgical nurse even came up to see if she could MacGyver up a solution. In the end, I was literally kneeling on my patient’s chest for several hours applying pressure. I assure you I called the surgeon several times to alert him of my attempts, all of which were ignored.
It didn’t matter that I had five other patients to care for and applying all the pressure of my 115lb body on one patient’s chest didn’t allow me to care for the others. Fortunately, at some time around 2 am the bleeding stopped. My patient did not once complain or get annoyed with me during our experience together. In the morning he did end up going back to surgery and receiving blood with dialysis the next day. Today I see him from time to time in passing, and he hugs me and says “thanks for saving my life. I would have bled to death without you.”
In that moment I know I mattered to that man. I know I made a difference. Making a difference is why we do what we do as nurses.
The Chaotic ER
Today, I am an ER nurse. Working in the ER can sometime be, for lack of a better word, chaotic. There are intense highs and lows and ranges of emotions all experienced in an eight-hour shift. My ER moments are immense but sometimes hard to remember since it’s a constant turnover. With that being said the most proud moments in the ER are when a patient arrives in cardiac arrest or septic shock and is clinging to life and in the matter of a few moments or a few hours the patient is stabilized. I cannot always remember specific cases or even faces, but there is always such a calming sense of pride when my ER team brings a patient back or stabilizes a septic patient’s vitals. ER nurses are sometimes viewed as jaded or desensitized, but we really do look back on what we have done and feel happiness and pride. We have a saying in the ER that speaks to our pride and uniform color. For all our triumphs I can only say “Go Team Purple!”
There are a million other memorable nursing moments for me that rank up with the previous ones described, and there are also sad memories that make me appreciate my health and my life. Ultimately, the good days make the bad days so much better and tolerable. The experiences, proud or scary, are what make good, knowledgeable nurses.