Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dumb and Dumber

Ah, yes.  The night float.  It's that special time of year when your only task is to keep-the-patient-alive-for-God's-sake.  The night float is what separates the men and women from the boys and girls, and this applies to both interns and nurses.  So, with great love for all of the amazing nurses who are truly super-competent (and save my ass generously and frequently), here is a list of the top five dumb and dangerous things I have observed the nursing staff doing.

1) Calling to find out about discharging a private patient, since the family was waiting to take him home. The nurse told me she couldn't find any of the paperwork, and that the family was getting very impatient.  When I came down to check, all of the paperwork was completed and paperclipped to the front of the chart, along with all of the prescriptions.  "Oh," was all she could say.

2) Calling to put an IV line in a patient with massive edema, who already had a working line.  When I went to the bedside, the nurse insisted that the line was gone because she couldn't draw back.  A reasonable point, except that 2 different IV solution bags were still dripping away without any issue.  The nurse then pointed to the arm being swollen as a sign that the line was infiltrated.  Except that the patient was swollen all over. As a bonus point, she had refused to try the line herself.

3) Calling to visit a patient who cut himself shaving, and had unstoppable bleeding.  I asked the nurse to tear off a piece of toilet paper and stick it onto the cut, and hold pressure while I walked over, imagining a massive torrent of blood gushing out of the patient's face.  When I got there, I discovered an extremely loose ball of toilet paper marginally taped to the patient's quizzical face.  I tore off a tiny corner and stuck it directly on the 1/2 mm wound, then held pressure for 2 min, and found the bleeding to have magically stopped.  I walked away wondering why the nurse hadn't thought of that, since how to stop a shaving cut is something I learned from my dad, not something I learned in the trauma bay.

4) Tapping me on the shoulder every two minutes to ask about how much insulin to give a patient whose blood sugar was 457.  This is a reasonable question, except that I was pushing on the chest of a patient who was coding at the moment.

5) Removing the saturation monitor from an acutely ill patient.  I was called to the bedside of an end-stage AIDS patient for severe respiratory distress.  The patient already had dementia, so he couldn't tell us what was wrong, but he was breathing at an extremely fast rate, and only saturating 75% on the monitor.  I increased the oxygen flow rate as high as I could, then told the nurse to keep a strict eye on the monitor while I stepped out to call my senior medical resident about the situation.  When I came back, the monitor was gone and the patient was breathing even worse.  I asked her in a panic about the monitor, and she told me that she had given the nurse's aide permission to take the monitor away and use it to check vitals on the other patients on the floor.  The kicker was that every other patient on this floor was hooked up to a ventilator machine, and therefore did not need an oxygen saturation monitor because the ventilator monitors that for you.  This patient wound up getting intubated because his respiratory failure was so severe.  He died a week later.

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