My second year in nursing I clearly remember working the nightshift in a very busy 24 bed CVICU. There was no time for eating, bathroom breaks, socializing, drinking or anything other than patient care. This particular night we had 3 regular full-time staff members (Charge, Ava and I were the chosen 3). The rest of the staff floated from the general ICU, step-down, or the float/travel pool. The night was rough. I had two fresh hearts from earlier that day, intubated and on multiple drips. One would not be a problem to wean to extubate, but the other was bleeding and required a lot of pressors and products for support. My co-worker had a paralyzed, open-chest patient, from the day before who was still too unstable to go back to the OR for closing. The charge nurse (I will call her Bev) had a fresh heart who was also bleeding and had the responsibility of managing that zoo, while trying to be a resource to all the nurses who floated from other units to help us. Soon after getting report and assessing our patients, Bev got a call that our unit had the “code bed” and that there was also a patient being life-flighted in for surgery that would also be coming to our unit.
Bev asked me to watch her patient while she made a call. She didn’t go far, just out of ear shot distance from the patients. Her back was to me while she made the call, but a few minutes later, I looked up and saw her with her head down and the back of her neck was covered with red splotches. I immediately grabbed Ava (the other staff nurse) and gestured to her to look over at Bev. We could tell something was wrong and wasn’t sure what to do. I walked up behind Bev and tapped her shoulder. She immediately lifted her hand as to say, “Give me a minute.” Without hesitation we walked away. A few minutes later she came over to me and Ava with a look of frustration. She told us about the high probability of getting more unstable patients and after calling management, leadership and the in house supervisors no one could/would give us additional staffing for the high acuity patients we had and that was coming in. We told her that we would do anything she needed and wanted us to do; period. No questions asked. She was a great charge nurse and leader, she made it easy and a pleasure to follow her. And that’s exactly what we did for the next 11.5 hours.
We got thru the night safely and the next morning, and I realized that if Bev, who had been a valuable asset and team player to this unit and organization for over 10 years pleaded for help and was ignored, how the hell would they (hospital leadership/administration/the “big wigs”) treat me in the time of crisis? That was the day my eyes were opened to the business side of healthcare. Did these people really want to believe that with all that money that was/is made from cardiac surgeries, we have to beg and plead for help and then be denied and left to fend for ourselves?
Yep, It happened then, and it’s still happening now. Thank you hospital administration for teaching a 2nd year nurse how to think and behave like a business woman. I wasn’t the most experienced nurse, but I damn sure knew I deserved better and so did the patients. It was their lives and my livelihood on the line. I knew my worth and ability. The next shift I submitted my resignation letter.
I had no plan, but I knew this wasn’t it.