Another Year Falls

It is New Year’s Eve and I sit here waiting for my husband to finish his game to join me in mine.

When 2020 began I was looking forward to starting my final year in graduate school, with only four months left until I was graduating.

In December 2019, I had heard of a virus in a province of China called Wuhan that seemed to be deadly and spreading fast.

It is now New Year’s Day.

In March I was told that I had to finish my clinical hours online, either doing education or participating in it.

In March our elective cases were all cancelled. However, evening cases are RARELY elective. And no one wants to work my shift.

In April, graduation was cancelled.

In May I received my diploma through the mail and elective cases resumed.

There is a testing strategy for elective cases. See above how most evening cases are not elective.

Many, many N-95 masks.

The year in the OR got busier and busier and busier.

I worked more and more hours, more and more call.

Sigh.

May 2021 be kinder and gentler to us.

This is my hope.

December casts its hateful spell

December in normal times is somewhat delightful.

Unless you work in the operating room.

Unless you work in the US in an operating room.

In the US, I know I’ve talked about this before. If you meet your deductible for the year the rest of your healthcare is free or highly discounted.

This puts pressure on the OR schedule.

All those “free” surgeries.

Add in the pandemic and Murphy’s gloves are off.

57 hours I’ve worked this week.

In a twisted Pandemic December please consider the following:

1 visit by Joint Commission.

2 masks worn.

3 sets of scrubs.

4 epic downtimes.

5 add on cases.

6 bones a broken.

7 staff call outs.

8 pages beeping.

9 no test patients.

10 emergency calls.

11 quite full schedules.

12 grumpy surgeons.

December blows.

Hey, at least my Christmas tree is up and decorated.

I’m miles ahead of last year.

There is a better way

Four times in the last week.

That is the last SEVEN days I have had to inform new surgeons the number to call the call nurse, the hours the front desk is available and the process for adding on cases.

Not the least the conversations I’ve had managing expectations of how long it takes to get a case started when half the team is coming from home.

Last night I told a surgeon who called me at 2225 that we would try to get the patient on the table by 2330. She pushed back and asked why it would take so long.

Seriously?

Bitch, please.

Even during the day it would take 45 minutes from the call to the patient in pre-op and hopefully they are getting prepped by one of the faster nurses.

Because the half of the team that is responsible for picking the case, preparing the room, preparing the table, getting the patient, preparing the patient, counting the back-table are not physically in the hospital.

And we have 30 minutes to respond and get to the hospital.

That leaves us thirty minutes to do all of the case preparation work.

And this is one of the biggest case set ups. I need stirrups, and the bed has to be prepared. I need to make sure that all of the electrical equipment is in the room, ready to go.

I have to get the patient, who is writhing in pain, and do an emergent pre-op prep. And I see you’ve ordered an oral medication, and a type and screen. And then SIGNED and HELD IT. That means the gears are not put in play until I prepare the room, pick the case, get the patient and begin the pre-op work. I also have to notice that there are signed and held orders. And the type and screen was not put in properly and no, I do not have 15 minutes to sit on hold during the beginning of the case while I am plugging in cameras, and hot stuff, after I attended the intubation. It would have been much more useful to have the ED start on that before we even got there. Alas, no.

Don’t bitch to me when I missed our 2330 on the table by 3 minutes. I’ve moved mountains here, lady. Your expectations need to be brought down just a smidge.

So, yeah, on Monday I am going to go to my boss and inform them I will be creating a welcome letter for new surgeons with all the numbers they need and realistic times and procedures with doing a call case. This will lessen their frustration about not getting to the right people to schedule cases, and lessen my frustration with re-treading the same song and dance that I go through every time there is a new doctor. You’d think the medical staff office would have something like this, but you’d be wrong.

Step away from the angry charge nurse

Yeah.

This will be a sweary post.

So I completely lost my shit at the charge CNRA last week.

It was deserved, no worries there.

I had taken over at 1500 from the day charge nurse. The cases were moving along.

And then the phone started to ring.

With emergencies.

The singular case that was going was going to be on the table until at least 2300.

That meant we had an hour and a half to do the 2 emergencies: a septic person, and an appy.

There is always an appy.

Phone was ringing, tempers were short.

Thank goodness the charge CRNA did not send any of his people home because ‘there is just one case going.’

That never works in our favor.

He did not send the people home.

I was called in to the appy room and asked to print the case picture.

Through some corporation magic all the pictures were to be saved, via this clunky system, to the medical record.

And to print them, you have to go to the OR desk and print to one of the manager’s printers, one of the only color printers in the department.

Awkward and takes time.

Apparently, the fact that I was sitting behind the desk, printing this picture for this surgeon who suspected cancer meant that I was not working.

The CRNA asked where the last case was going.

I told him room 4 was okay, it just needed to be cleaned.

This printing of pictures is a new process and takes concentration.

He asked again which room.

I said room 4, but could you help mop?

I have printed the picture and am going to the office to retrieve it.

He says something that made my blood boil.

He said, “Patient care comes first.”

I let the door swing most of the way shut, until it registered what he said.

I whirled around, slammed the door back open. And told him that was an asshole comment.

Why did he assume that I was not actively doing patient care from behind the desk?

This has been known to happen.

I asked him how often he saw me on my ass behind the desk, manning the computer, texting and calling about other cases.

I told him it was absolutely wrong to assume I did not care about patients. Which is what he implied.

I was blazingly angry.

There were tears. I cry when I am angry. Why?

The two nurses who had been at the desk, while I was showing them the new process of printing pictures, scattered.

I proceeded to yell at him, for at least five minutes.

I am not proud of yelling at him.

Or scaring the other nurses.

But when an asshole decides you are nor working because he can’t see you doing work.

That shit needs to be called out.

Be kind to yourself

This last week was hard.

It might be the pandemic.

It might be the restraint from hit people over the head with masks, yelling wear your masks.

Not unlike Faye Dunaway’s character in Mommy Dearest, beating her daughter bellowing no more wire hangers.

It might be the increased number of cases in the OR, as happens every year as people reach their deductibles and feel compelled to have surgery so that it is free.

It might be the new window installation at the house and let me tell you that is a LOT of work.

It might be letdown from being done with my MSN, yet not yet ready to start my PhD.

It might be the election.

It might be the increasing financial strain of the economy struggling to aid those who need aid.

It might be that I disappointed myself and didn’t finish a task before this morning’s meeting.

It might be all of the above.

It probably is all of the above.

But, if this year has taught me anything, it is that people are stupid and sheep-like.

Naw, it is that you have to be kind to yourself.

Give yourself a break.

Covid-19 is still happening

Back in the spring.

When we were in the lockdown.

Another nurse who I like and respect and trust told me bitterly that the covid pandemic would disappear after the 2020 election.

They believed that the covid pandemic was a Democratic hoax.

Just like the president said.

And so they maintained all through the summer and what was thought to be the second wave.

And so they maintained all through the early fall as we were staring down the third and most devastating wave.

They may still maintain that it will disappear.

I am not sure.

I have not spoken to them in weeks.

Coping with the impossible

We are roughly 10 months into this pandemic.

I firmly believe that it has been thoroughly mismanaged in the US.

We could have done better.

Instead the burden is on the states, and, depending on your state, this can be going badly or very badly.

I have instituted a coping mechanism.

A coping mechanism that is not the norm.

Others bake bread, purge their houses, fight online.

Others are or have been at home through the bulk of this.

I have not.

I work every day. And I mean EVERY day.

Instead, I cope with this impossible mess by going home after my shift, having a snack, and then killing the undead.

That is, I play a computer game that allows my character to wade into the undead of demons and demon lords.

And I kill them.

I play less than a half an hour at a time most nights.

But it helps.

However you cope with this mess, I hope it is helping.

And now the weekly funny

There isn’t much to laugh about these days.

Covid.

Over 240,000 deaths since this all began.

People who won’t take the mask thing seriously.

Whatever the hell is going on in Washington.

Laundry.

However, on Tuesday night.

While we were doing the safety pause prior to incision, I read aloud the patient’s name, date of birth, consented surgery, and her allergies.

On the board was written, Demerol, latex, and Meperidine.

I skipped the Meperidine.

The surgeon called me out on that.

For saying the Demerol and skipping the Meperidine.

I turned and looked at him, trying to see if he was being funny.

Nope.

I bit my lip behind my N-95 and surgical mask and peered at him behind my goggles.

And I told him Meperidine and Demerol were the same thing.

He was flabbergasted.

Coronavirus is still simmering, coming to a boil

I’m not sure how to track how many months this pandemic has been.

From the first American death in Washington in January.

From the first time I heard of a new virus in China, in December. I remember thinking to myself, this is interesting.

From the first lockdown talks.

From the time we started closing our borders in America.

From the time I started preparing for elective cases to cease.

From the time it was declared a pandemic.

From the time it started to seriously impact my schooling.

From the time it started to be heavily in rotation on the news.

From the time I first wore a mask in public, self conscious as always.

From the time the lockdown began. Although I continued to go into the hospital for my shift every day.

From the time the governor of my state declared the first lockdown rules.

From the time the schools started to close.

Any way you cut it, it has been a hell of a year.

And there were things that could have been done differently that would put us in a much better place. So many things could have been done on a national level.

So many things we’ve all lost.

So many memories we won’t get back.

However.

As healthcare workers, we remain, mask and goggles on.