I felt like I was on my very first shift all over again.
My preceptor who taught me recently left after being in our unit for five years. She's going to CRNA school now and was recently accepted into a program. She taught me everything I needed to know to go out on my first shift by myself. When you start off on your own, you kind of just want to crawl under a rock when you don't have that person to guide you anymore.
Am I going to make the right decision?
I don't have anyone to ask me, “Why didn't you do this?” anymore.
You have to start thinking long and hard about all the decisions you're making for the patient. As a young nurse, I have to ask my questions and make sure I'm getting great feedback. I love to ask questions, so I don't mind making sure I have it right. As far as the nurses who are older than me, I think, “What can they teach me?”
A pandemic was the furthest thing from our minds. COVID-19 slowly crept its way into my hospital and then into my unit. It started with one suspected patient and then just as quickly, the entire 32 beds became filled with COVID-19 positive patients.
We take care of the sickest patients in the region in my unit. That was until COVID-19.
These people easily became the sickest of the sick, and it was so many at once. It was one thing to still be understanding how to care for my unit’s complex surgical patients, but then to jump into caring for a number of people with a disease process we know nothing about was hard. I felt like I was on my very first shift all over again.
Before COVID-19, we let a lot of families know if something was not looking great, but most of the time the doctors would go into depth with each case. You build a rapport with a family and may have that patient a few days in a row. You speak to the family frequently with updates on the patient’s condition. Some of them can’t take it all in at that moment, and for others, you have to hear the agony in their voices on the phone. It brings you down, but you have to continue to do everything for that patient.
There was one instance where I had to call the family of a patient. I would use her phone to FaceTime her son. When I had her initially, she was intubated and had been for a while. I had to say, “Hey, she's waking up, but she's not doing as well as we would like.”
You could hear and see the disappointment he was. Her son would say, “I really want her to come home. This is my senior year. I haven't been able to have a real graduation.” I felt what he was feeling, even though it was through FaceTime.
It sucks when you have to say things are not getting better.
I was, however, able to FaceTime him when we were removing her breathing tube. You could see the happiness beaming across his face and other family members from the other end of the screen. It made me feel so good.
There are so many newer nurses starting out on my unit, and what a time for them to be joining. Whether it is our own surgical patients, or even the much more complex COVID-19 patients, I find new nurses asking me for guidance.
I always say, “You’re asking me?”
It is a whirlwind of new information these days, especially on how to efficiently care for the COVID-19 patients. Their thought process or plan of action is probably as good as mine, but I am always ready to help my colleagues in any situation.
I am moving forward and growing in so many aspects of my nursing career. I feel like this pandemic has certainly propelled a good part of it. There is so much more ahead to learn and see, especially post pandemic. As nurses, resilience is very important. We have to be ready for what is next.
“You’re Asking Me?”Ashleigh Conerly