One of my last days working on the floor, about 5 minutes before change of shift, an emergency bell sounded. Staff moved quickly towards the room knowing that the staff was respectful of what the bell was signaling: someone really needed help. Upon entering the room and quickly assessing what was going on, everyone went into motion. Some grabbing the appropriate papers to document what was going on, others grabbing emergency equipment, making calls to the appropriate staff, etc. The patient was in extreme distress and it was all hands on deck to try to save him.
Standing on a chair, I was documenting the situation and keeping time while other nurses performed CPR on the patient. Another nurse was giving the patient medications through his IV access. A nurse stayed by the code cart to grab whatever tools and equipment were needed. About 30 minutes after that emergency bell rang, the patient was motionless. Despite all efforts, the patient died. People left the room but the nursing staff remained. It was time to clean up the patient, the room and to gather ourselves.
Once in a while I have flashbacks to this situation. I think about my coworkers putting every ounce of strength they could muster into performing CPR on this patient. Literally sweating. Sore arms, back and necks the following day. I thought about the nurse who was quickly and correctly administering medications to the patient. I also thought about the calm and efficient way the nurse was able to grab equipment needed from the code card that had numerous drawers and sections.
I don’t think that I will ever forget the specifics of what happened that day. I felt such a range of emotions. I was, and still am, sad for the patient and his family because he was so sick and the last few minutes of his life were traumatic. I was, and still am, filled with a tremendous amount of pride, respect and love for my fellow oncology nurses. Everyone dropped what they were doing to help a fellow nurse and the patient who was in distress. Everyone from day shift was still working well past the end of their shift and not one person complained. We sat with the family as they arrived, we checked on the patients we cared for that day, finished up documentation, gathered our belongings and headed home.
To all nurses I want you to hear this: Thank you. Thank you for the work that you do during waking hours and in the middle of the night while others sleep. Thank you for giving of yourself what others could not even dream of giving up. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for. Let’s be honest, you work a job that most others simply could not do. While some think you play cards, you are in fact keeping people alive. You are using that “doctor’s” stethoscope to listen and assess heart beats and lung sounds. You are not “just a nurse”. You know who and what you are, embrace it.