MY NEPHEW TELLS ME every day before I leave for work that I have to go "save lives." Up until this point, my idea of saving lives included "everyday nursing tasks" such as administering medications, documenting nursing care, using critical thinking skills, and recognizing subtle changes in a patient's condition. The one thing I feared most in my short 6 months of being a nurse was hearing the words, "Jamie, he's not responding!!" When I heard those exact words as I was walking through the halls one morning, icy chills ran down my spine.
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I ran into my patient's room to confirm exactly what his wife had screamed. Adrenaline instantly kicked in as a million different thoughts of what to do raced through my head. The only things I could think of were to call a code and start CPR.
That's exactly what I did. Everything from then on happened so fast I didn't even realize another nurse was standing next to me asking if I needed a break from chest compressions. I looked up and realized that there were 10 other people in the room.
When a colleague took over chest compressions, I moved to the corner of the room and watched. The teamwork that I observed was amazing, although I felt I wasn't doing much to help. All I could do was rack my brain searching for anything else I should've done.
Looking for a reason
After my patient's cardiac rhythm converted to normal sinus rhythm with a pulse and BP, I couldn't help but wonder: What caused this? Where were the signs? What did I miss? At some point a colleague shouted out a number to me so I could call the ICU and get a bed. I felt as if I were moving in slow motion as I hurried to the desk to call report.
After all was said and done, the patient was hemodynamically stable and safely transferred to the ICU. As I finished my documentation, my hands were shaking and I was still thinking: How could this have happened? My colleagues tried to reassure me that I'd done nothing wrong; sometimes things like this just happen. I wasn't convinced.
On the way home I couldn't help but wonder again: What had gone wrong? I tried to sleep, but that was out of the question. For a minute I seriously reconsidered my short-lived nursing career.
I couldn't get the picture of my patient out of my head, and for days I had nightmares. Thankfully, I had 5 days off to calm my nerves, but I feared going back to work.
When I did return, I learned that my patient was still in the ICU and would be transferred back to my unit in a few days. I felt relieved for my patient but still uncertain about my own nursing skills.
For the next few days, my colleagues told me that they'd heard about the amazing job I'd done and how I'd saved my patient's life. His wife even came to the unit and thanked me for doing exactly what I'd been trained to do: Save his life. It wasn't until after I heard that he was awake and alert that I felt better about the situation.
I've been an RN for only 6 short months, but I've already learned so much that I didn't learn in nursing school.
I chose this profession because I wanted to make a difference in people's lives. But sometimes when I go home after a long night, I think that I haven't helped a single patient. After this incident, however, I'm able to think of this patient and the day I helped save his life. Now I know that even if I don't think that what I'm doing is life changing, it very well might be.