Sunday, April 29, 2012

your life in my hands

That's me at the triage window. The one who looks exhausted and a little bit peeved. I watch you walk down the hall towards me and, like it or not, I sum you up in seconds just by the way you carry yourself. I watch you walk in and see how you approach me.

Are you shuffling? Are you frantic? Do you have to stop to rest on the way? When you get to the window do you go into excruciating detail going back five years about why you are here? Do I have to pull what's wrong with you out of you? Are you hanging over the desk in a dramatic fashion? Are you pale, sweating? Short of breath? Did you come alone? Do you come with a posse? Do you immediately ask me how long the wait is? Do I need to run you right back? Are you accompanied by the police? In handcuffs?

I will have a pretty good sense of the seriousness of your condition and what kind of person you are before you even come through the triage door. After about a year in ER you are pretty much an expert on the human race and all its quirks and personalities.

I can go into a room and take one look at you and sum up how sick you really are. You might think that sounds unfair. I am not giving you a chance. Its reality. I have to be able to sum you up quickly. If I can't tell if you are real or fake, a wimp or really sick, I'm not doing my job.

I am the first one to see you. I have to develop an instinct for people. If I don't you might die. If I assess you in your room and you are in trouble and I don't intervene immediately or call the doctor, you probably going to go down the toilet.

When people come to the hospital, often they concentrate on the doctor: when can I see the doctor? Where is the doctor? You really should be concentrating on me because I'm the one who will prevent you or your loved one from deteriorating. I'm the one who spends the time with you, monitors you, trusts my gut when dealing with you. Your life is really in my hands. Especially if you really have a real emergency.


Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Yes, you nurses are the ones who keep the rest of us alive and healthy and safe. Thank you. My best friend is a retired RN-she's one in a million and I wouldn't trade her for anything.

Thank you for your blog, girlvet, I hope you are on triage when I need you...

Anonymous said...

I've seen "nurse" like you before. It was that time I had a collapsed lung and they sent me home without an x-ray. I passed out in the parking lot on the way out. Hospitalized for almost a month.

It must be nice to be so important in your own mind. Maybe you should find a new career???

Anonymous said...

Are you sure it's not you who is "sick"? You are an extremely arrogant danger to the community and should never be allowed into a medical uniform.

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a dark post. You know, I hope, that we place our lives in each others' hands all the time. Every time you walk through a parking lot, people waiting to back up hold your safety in their hands. Every time you cross a street, strangers have the option of flooring their gas pedal.

Do you resent your patients so much? Is their suffering such a bother? I hope the post above was just from having a bad day. I'd hate to think you were the kind of nurse who is all about this kind of self glorification and snobbery. Is your heart anything but a pump?

You hold lives in your hands. Does that make you proud or humble? Do your personal judgments about them affect their care? Does a distraught patient's unappreciative attitude make you want to punish them in passive-aggressive ways?

I hope this harangue is just about blowing off steam. I hope you haven't let it go to your head that so many non-nurses tell you how awesome you are for being a nurse.

If you're so responsible, what consequences do you face if you judge poorly? How closely do you follow patients after they leave your ER? How would you ever find out if you were wrong?

Anonymous said...

"After about a year in the ER you are pretty much an expert on the human race..." I almost peed my pants laughing. Nothing keeps a person from learning like thinking they already know it all. This kind of remark can give you 30 years of facepalm moments, if you manage to grow any.

Anonymous said...

But please, not as a writer.

Darrell said...

But please, not as a writer.