Code blue. Just the thought of hearing these words makes your heart start to race just a little bit faster. Then as you enter the room of a patient that no longer has a pulse, your own pulse makes up for the lack of theirs. Doctors calling out orders, nursing running around giving medications, putting defibrillation pads on, placing a back board behind the patient, and the starting of CPR, all within seconds. As a student, you stand there with wide open eyes unsure of where you fit in, until that two-minute pulse check comes up and you are thrown into the position of doing CPR. You will never forget the first time you do CPR, the feel of breaking ribs, the thought that someone’s life is literally in your hands; how hard, how fast, how deep you go matters. This person’s life is depending on you to be competent and accurate in the compressions that you give. Your mind is so focused on doing a good job that sometimes we forget that anyone else is in the room, that is until the nurse in charge of this patient is yelling at you that you are going way to fast and that there is no way you are allowing the heart to refill with blood before you push it out again. Little did you realize that you were going just as fast as your own heart was beating at the time. Two minutes, are you sure it isn’t the two-minute check yet, why is sweat dripping off of your face and dropping onto the patient. How embarrassing, hoping that no one noticed the sweat dripping off your nose as your stethoscope around your neck continues to smack you in the face with each compression. Why did no one tell you to take your stethoscope off of your neck and to take off your coat before starting compressions. Those are two things to remember for next time. Two-minute pulse check finally comes and your turn for compressions is over, but do you feel a pulse? Yes, but is it yours or the patients, its beating fast so you are unsure as your heart continues to race. Is it racing from adrenaline, from the workout of CPR, or fear of the patient not making it. A pulse! Yes, you definitely feel one, you look up to find a rhythm on the monitor. Success! As you walk out of the room you feel defeated, tired, yet at the same time, revitalized and encouraged. You had a part in saving someone’s life. Your hands saved someone from death. You didn’t realize you had such power in your hands. That feeling of your first code blue never loses place in your memory.
How about your next code that doesn’t end with a pulse? An hour of compressions, multiple doses of epinephrine, amiodarone, and three separate shocks to the heart. How long is enough? At what point do you know that you have tried everything to bring this patient back. When do you throw in the towel? This is a person’s life we are talking about. Someone’s father, brother, husband. As the family is screaming at you to save their loved one, how can you quit. But ultimately, you have done everything you possibly could to save this patient. So as the CPR is stopped, asystole takes over the monitor, and the time of death is called, you feel defeated. Feeling defeated in a whole new way that you didn’t realize was possible. Feeling sad for the family, for the patient. So many mixed emotions flood your body. You don’t know if you should cry or scream or do nothing.
The next code you encounter is a frantic phone call that wakes you out of your sleep, with a calm voice on the other end saying that your fathers heart has stopped and you should come to his bedside as soon as possible. As you rush into the room to find a new student at the bedside performing CPR, you have no thoughts of how well CPR is being done, or what medications are needed to be given. Your thoughts are on your father, that he is so ill that his heart stopped. You want everything possible to be done to bring him back to you. You search for words to be said but you stand frozen in the corner as the hustle of a code seems to be in slow motion. That feeling of not being able to help him, praying that the CPR and medications are successful at bringing him back to life. You rely on the medical team to know exactly what they are doing, to be competent on the most recent studies that are proven to save lives. The feeling of relief as your father’s pulse returns. These are feelings that you will bring with you to every code that you attend. The feelings that remind you that the patient’s chest you are pushing on is someone’s loved one. The feelings of doing everything you can to save a patient. These are the things that you need to feel and recognize as a student. Yes, the little things to learn are important such as good technique and knowing what medications to push when. But in the end, what matters most is those feelings that cause you to be a human being, to care about the person’s life that you are trying to save.