Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Nurses' Week!


   Wikipedia has a detailed history of Nurse's Day that can explain it's history and origins well, so I am just going to pass on my experience to you about this day.
   I spent about 3 hours in an ER the other day-24hours before ever hearing of Nurse's Day.
   Being so close to Mother's day it may get lost in the excitement but some of us don't have a mommy to take care of us. That is where nurses come in.
   In the last two weeks I have written two pieces about how I learned to 'bounce' and how that had effected my life...well, the last 'bounce' occurred three weeks ago, and after 14 days of increasing pain in my ribs I was compelled by a (nurse) friend and an ER worker to go get x-rayed.
    Thursday morning at about 4am I (weakly) walked into the ER at my local county hospital and explained my situtation...
  I hate going to the doctor. I always feel like a wimp-mostly because I am too stupid to go in the first place and always wait 'til  the problem is either:
 a. almost gone, or
 b. exacerbated to a point where they either want to slap me or freak because they can't figure out what is really wrong.
   Plus, the Scotch-Irish in me hates to 'put people out' or admit weakness.
Mostly the 'weakness' thing is the culprit.
   Nurses are pretty good at dealing with this sort of stupidity....

   Most nurses, smart doctors, and experienced administrators (who aren't morons) will tell you that nurses are at least  as important as doctors-especially the really experienced nurses. Nurses are well-educated and smart like doctors, but the difference isn't just in the amount of education, it is in the amount of time they spend with the patients from the time they walk in to the time they leave-on top of the fact that they work with the doctors constantly.
   If you are smart enough to be a nurse, you are smart enough to be a doctor (often smarter) and learn from watching the doctors. People that learn by watching and listening to the docs learn from the patients as well and due to the time they spend with patients, they are better skilled to deal with non-critical issues because they are paid to care for people in addition to treating them.
   Nothing against doctors, but the nurses have to deal with all of the bullshit before a doc comes anywhere near the patient...and sometimes it ain't bullshit.
    When I went to the ER the other morning I was pretty sure my ribs weren't broken. I have had broken bones before and figured that it would hurt MUCH more than it did, but after a nurse I know told me that after two weeks the  pain and breathing trouble should be less and explained the dangers of a undiagnosed busted rib, I dutifully trudged in.
  For most people, an undiagnosed broken rib is dangerous. But most people don't commute on a bike. If I thought my ribs were just bruised and they were actually broken, I could puncture a lung, or worse, just by falling off my bike....which is how this whole thing started to begin with.
    After signing in I was taken by the triage nurse, an extremely charming and sweet woman who, after thanking me for not being a belligerent drunk (actually, she used the word 'cooperative', but I deal with alot of the same people she does, so I know the code) asked me a range of questions about my injury and general health. And then she took my vitals. My blood pressure was 188 over 113. Which is bad...apparently. Unless a nurse told me, I wouldn't know how bad. 
   I was taken to an exam room where another nurse checked my vitals again and examined the area of the injury and sent the first doctor in. The doctor poked and prodded, asked me a couple questions and then stared blankly at me when I asked him questions. The nurse came back in and checked my vitals again, asked me what I was taking for the pain and then examined the aspirin I had been taking to make sure it was the proper dose. She asked me some more detailed questions about the injury, answered a couple of my questions and then went and got me some percoset. When I explained that I didn't want them she told me that my breathing trouble was because I was hunched over due to the pain and explained how that was causing my breathing trouble.
  When the second doctor came in,  he poked and prodded, dodged my questions and then hovered over me like a vulture obviously convinced I was shopping for pain-killers. He wasn't rude, but he obviously had better things to do-I can't say as I blame him-but he changed his attitude after I explained for the second time that I didn't think my ribs were broken, but a nurse I knew told me to get x-rayed. After that sunk in he relaxed and explained the anatomy of the area I had injured and what led him to believe  that it was probably just a bruise. After the second doctor left I waited for a while for the my nurse to return-that is when the pain-killers kicked in. When she came back my nurse took my BP again  because I had been so freaked out about how high it was. My nurse even switched arms because my left arm is permanently messed up right where the blood pressure cuff goes, it hurts, and doesn't always seem to give good readings. After rechecking my BP she explained what I needed to do in addition to popping pills to help with my breathing. She carefully showed me the posture to maintain while breathing and told me to grab a pillow and hold it up against my chest to stabilize the bruised ribs and to inhale deeply and to make sure I took the deepest breath possible. She told me to hold my position for a few seconds after each breath to make sure I was getting a full inhale and exhale. When I asked her if that was the same reason they wrapped broken ribs she smiled and nodded and said yes to make sure I knew she understood what I was asking. After that she went over the doctors instructions and told me to get my blood pressure checked every day and to see my primary care physician-she also handed me a prescription for percoset and told me to take it whether I wanted to or not. She explained that it was because it would help my breathing, she also recommended that I take ALL of the medication if I was still experiencing pain because otherwise I would keep doing what was restricting my breathing. All of this she made sure I understood because I was now officially doped-up.

That last part was surely something she has learned from experience dealing with knuckleheads like me who won't take their meds/follow instructions. After making certain I wasn't driving I was released.

   I want to be clear I am not trashing the docs. They did their job just the way they were supposed to. I have known a couple of ER doctors and I know the stress and long hours they work-and I for one am no Prince Charming when stressed and tired. You can argue that the nurses were just doing their jobs and that the extra care was what is expected of them. The difference is that, by openly making a point to show they cared about my welfare, they were making me feel better. They taught me things I didn't know before I walked into the ER. Things that can and will prevent me from winding up in the ER again. 
   From my nurse-friend Tracy and my friend Melissa (who also works in an ER) making me get x-rays, which resulted in me being made aware of the fact I have high blood pressure, to the teaching and instruction of the ER nurses, three hours of my time was turned into knowledge which will have long-term positive effects on my health. 
Like not having a stroke when I thought I was healthy as a horse. 
Or impaling various parts of my cardiovascular system on a broken rib. Perhaps most importantly, I learned about being cared for by someone else when I didn't have the brains to do it myself.
  Thank you, nurses. 

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