Okay, here we go. This is a rant, and I only half apologize if I offend you, gentle reader. But the past two days at work cannot have occurred without my having written an entry about it on my day off. And holy God, it was a doozey.
It should come as no surprise to you that as nurses (and docs), we are burnt the hell out. After the year we’ve had, ALL medical professionals are burnt out. I mean, you think the general public has had it bad? Yes. They have. But multiply your woes by 100%, then you’ll have where we’re all at right now in healthcare.
We are running on empty, 1/4 tank at best, and then this shit happens. And it just pushes me over the edge.
I need to preface this entry by reminding you all that I truly am a compassionate, empathetic, caring person, both with patients, and with people outside of work. I can usually, if not always, empathize with people. But hot damn, my patience was tried at work these past two days.
Any coincidence that patience and patients sound the same? I bet not.
So, the ICU was a hot mess clown show the last two days I worked. It was nuts, with confused people jumping out of bed, COVID rule-outs requiring us to put on full garb every time we went into the room, suicide watches…you name it. And then a rapid response on our sister unit, which turned into a code. If any of you reading this knows anything about healthcare, a code is as emergent as it gets. For those of you who don’t know, a code blue is when a patient becomes unresponsive, loses their pulse, and requires CPR. It’s a hospital emergency. It’s called overhead, docs, medics, pharmacists, people from all walks of life suddenly appear. It’s a crowded, overwhelming situation where emotion and tension run high, and life is literally at stake. So it’s a big deal, right? If YOU coded, you’d want everyone there attending to you, right?
So this code happens. Not only does this code take up out last ICU bed–the code bed–we have jumper-McGee down the hall setting off his bed alarm, COVID pump beeping two rooms away–a whole unit full of other patients requiring critical care–and the patient next door sets off their call light.
“Hi, yeah, I need my klonopin.”
“Okay, well, there’s a code going on, patient #9. Your nurse is tied up helping try to save their life.”
“Oh yeah, I know. I just wanted to make sure they didn’t forget.”
Um. What?! Pardon my French but, are you fucking kidding me?!
When I heard this I lost my shit. After the year we’ve all had, this is NOT the kind of hubris we need on our unit. Sorry, patient #9, you are NOT as important as patient #10 who is basically DEAD in the next room. Your request for klonopin is NOT as important as the epinephrine I need to give to the nurse pushing meds on patient #10 who just got a pulse back but is still going in and out of PEA and needs the epi and chest compressions. Patient #9, if you code later, you can expect all of us to pay you just as much attention as patient #10 is receiving right now. So. Just shut. The. Fuck. Up.
That’s what we all wanted to say. That’s what patient #9 needed to hear. But of course none of that was said. It probably would’ve fallen on deaf ears anyhow.
But the audacity of such a statement! The entitlement of “I want this now, even though I know someone else is sicker than me and is getting all the attention right now, but I don’t care because I want what I want, and I want it now” is just not acceptable.
It honestly makes me sick.
How can someone go through life behaving that way? Knowing someone else is DYING in the next room and believe their request for medication is more important? Maybe they are that ignorant. Maybe they are that clueless. Maybe they are that heartless.
I don’t know man, but holy crap that made me mad. Especially because the patient we were trying to save was a patient we frequently cared for, someone we knew well, someone we desperately had to save.
Well, you’re probably wondering if we saved them, right? We did.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Patient entitlement followed me into the next day.
So Thursday is just as nuts, but with a different cast of characters, namely being the nurses on shift and a couple of different patients. I was the only nurse to return after Wednesday’s shit-show. We’ve got a new patient, Screamer, to add to the pleasantries of the unit.
But Thursday was hard for other reasons. Patient #10, the one we’d saved on Wednesday, lived to actually say good-bye to their family, and on Thursday, we terminally extubated them. They died quickly, and that was hard for all of us. Our life-saving efforts from the previous day culminated in what we all knew would happen, and they passed. It was both sad and relieving, to see them breathe easy for the first time I’d known them. They finally looked at peace, and I think that brought me some solace amidst this quagmire of hell.
Then I got an admission. A patient who’d had a big heart attack at home and survived, then decided to come to the hospital the day after it happened. Go figure.
The ER brings them up and they’re a real peach.
“So I’m gonna need you to turn off all the beeping and shut the lights off so I can get some rest.”
I’m dumbfounded and immediately on edge. “Um, you’re in the ICU, you had a huge heart attack. We’re monitoring you. We’ll do our best to minimize things but you’re going to be getting vital signs checked every hour.”
Like what the HELL!? If you don’t want to be here, then why the HELL did you come in?!
Then I have to ask all my dumb admissions questions to this person who doesn’t even want to be admitted.
“Did you get that COVID vaccine?” they ask me.
“I sure did! I feel great.” I’m trying real hard to be nice here, people.
They then proceed to tell me they don’t believe in vaccines. I find this irritating, as I find all anti-vaxers, but okay, fine. You can refuse the flu and pneumonia vaccines I’m offering you. No skin off my back. You do you, boo.
“I especially don’t believe in that COVID vaccine,” they say.
Now I’m annoyed. Are they trying to piss me of? Are they trying to clout importance of some sort? Not only am I not even offering it to them, they know I’m vaccinated because they just asked me!
“That’s fine. We’re not offering it to you, it’s just for hospital staff right now,” I reply with a hint of curtness. Part of me wonders if they noticed my growing agitation. At this point, I don’t even care.
And this gets me to the part where I proceed to try and get an IV in this person. I have the overhead lights on and they say, “I need you to turn these off.”
“Well, I like to see when I’m placing an IV, so they’re going to stay on until I’m done.”
I mean, what can you even say to these people? I often wonder where they think they are that they think they can behave so entitled? I want to ask, “Do you think you’re in a hotel? A restaurant?” Of course I could never says such things to our “customers” but DAMN I wish I could.
Why is healthcare treated like a business? Why are patients treated like customers? I think this is where the entitlement comes in. But the fact remains, they aren’t customers. They are patients. And don’t EVER come at me with some bullshit from Dr. Google. If you know so much about medicine, then I guess you don’t have to see a doctor. I mean, it’s not like doctors do anything extra to earn the title of Medical Doctor–as in, Doctor of Medicine–right? They didn’t attend four years of undergrad, possibly having majored in pre-med, only to attend four years of medical school, then endure more years as interns and residents–I worked with residents and interns at a teaching hospital, they work their BUTTS off, 6 days a week, 12 hours a day–before becoming fellows, and then finally, attendings.
Clearly, doctors’ education is no different than you or me sitting in front of the computer for an hour researching symptoms on Google. That’s all any of us should do, right? I mean, that’s how it seems when entitled patients argue with providers and then cite Google as better medical information.
Come on. Get a grip and get your head out of your ass. That’s what I want to say to these bozos coming in, complaining and dictating their care, ignoring the fact we have other sick patients on the floor. Get a reality check. You’re not the only patient here, you’re not the only sick person in the hospital, or even on the planet! If we’re not in your room that often, be GLAD. It means you’re not crashing! That’s a good thing.
And for the love of the gods, if you know a code is going on, have a little humility and wait to ring that call bell, unless of course, you think you’re going to code, too.
Thank you for reading, and let this be a PSA to you, if you or someone you know ends up in hospital. I know you’re feeling unwell, and we want to treat you! But we need a little humility on your end, and some trust. So please, give us the benefit of the doubt and let us do our jobs.
By the way, we saved that patient, remember? They woke up after coding four times, and were alert and oriented enough to write on a clipboard to their family members.
We don’t tell you how to do your job, so please do not tell me how to do mine.