Most great days in the life of a nurse, include working with someone having a terrible day, potentially the worst day of their own lives. Having a positive attitude, a passion for the job and a sharpened skillset enable a nurse to tackle the tasks at hand efficiently and successfully. Often times this will include critical care and advanced life support and the decisions we as nurses make, can determine whether or not a seriously injured or ill patient survives. For even the most piped-up, energetic nurses, an incident requiring life-saving interventions can be stressful and overwhelming. The most effective strategy I have found, in remaining prepared for the difficult calls, is to stay abreast on clinical skills. It’s imperative that we familiarize ourselves with the tools and equipment, practice with what we have, inspect it often, ask questions and look over user manuals. We must find a team member with whom we can study and practice. Complacency is the most deadly beast for a nurse. Often times nurses go long periods of time without needing to rush in and “save a life”, but when the time comes we want to be just as prepared to do so, as we ever were before. No good nurse allows themselves to become too comfortable in their procedures or daily routines without keeping in mind that every patient and every circumstance must be evaluated individually; what worked for John Doe, might not be the same appropriate intervention for Jane Doe. With every scene or situation to which you are called, safety for the provider is paramount. Knowing what resources are available to you, to what tools you have access, and to what hazards you are exposed, can also make all the difference in survival of not just the patient but the responders. Donning the appropriate precautionary gear and protective equipment is top priority, thus it’s extremely important that we take a full sensory assessment of the scene, whether it be a fallen patient’s hospital room or the middle of a busy highway.
Working to improve and solidify your skills, continuing to refresh your knowledge, and always being willing to learn about new methods of patient care are tantamount to a nurse’s job fulfillment and success. It is also vital that we make time to dump and debrief the emotional burden of the critical incidents we handle. In our career we will see many things and make many decisions that evoke a powerful emotional response and we will likely never be able to erase from our minds. Nurses are not invincible to the vulnerability of certain visualizations or certain people, however we cannot carry the pain or discomfort of our exposure with us on a day to day basis. Doing so would wear us down to the point of defeat. Debriefing allows those involved with the incident to process the event and reflect on its impact. This enables care providers to take the complexity of what was seen or what interventions were made and turn those into a lesson learned to benefit the next patient. We must unload the emotional distress of losing a patient, or a failed intervention, and not dwell on those feelings.
As a nursing student, I must prepare myself daily for what is yet to come. There are clinical rotations I am yet to experience, patients that will need my help, and patients I won’t be able to do enough for. I will look into patients’ eyes and see defeat and sadness, I will see joy and excitement, and I will see confusion. Each and every shift as I prepare myself for the job at hand, I will suit up with my scrubs, my stethoscope, and my compassion. Every day, even in my role as an EMT- basic, I strive to leave something or someone better than how I found them. I will continue to exercise that principle as a nurse. As I form my initial impression and begin my primary assessment, I will forever try to put myself in that patient’s shoes, and the shoes of their family members begging for answers, and for a solution. I will approach every patient with everything I have to give and do my very best to remember they could be having the worst day of their lives, or this could be the very last day of their lives.
Lastly, I will strive to treat every patient as an entire being and encourage every nurse to do so. You can’t treat a wound without improving a patient’s hydration and nutrition, attempting to do so may seem to work and progress some, but may not be a permanent solution. We must see the big picture and tackle patient care from every angle, taking care not to overlook what seems less important.
Nursing offers an incredibly fulfilling, in-demand career option. There are more than one hundred specialty options, flexible schedule choices, and excellent salary and benefit packages. Great nurses who get the most out of their job never stop learning, first and foremost about their limitations, and secondly to sharpen and acquire skills. Time-management is vital, including making time for yourself; if you have given all you have to give, then you have nothing left for yourself, and you can’t continue to give. We must learn to manage stress, take advantage of critical incident stress management sessions, and never settle for mediocrity.