I usually work from 3 p.m. one day until 3 p.m. the next day. There is an on-call room (not like the one where my son tells me the interns go to have sex on Gray's Anatomy) with a bunch of mismatched furniture, a great big window, and an uncomfortable bed. We are expected to get as many as eight hours of sleep, though there is certainly no hope that many of those will be consecutive, and I keep an old quilt that I made tucked away there so I have something familiar to cover me when I do attempt to sleep.
Our basic duties include:
- purposeful rounding, where we visit the nursing stations at as many units as we can to see if there are referrals
- follow-up on situations from the previous shift
- visits to patients being followed by our service
- random patient visits
- attending a safety briefing
- visiting suicidal patients identified at safety briefing
- responding to all Level 2 and Level 1 traumas
- responding to all cardiac arrests
- attending deaths and assisting with viewings of deceased patients
- supporting patients, families, and staff
- performing emergency baptisms
- checking patients with unknown religious preference and updating as appropriate
- charting and recording, various other miscellaneous duties
Some patient visits are very brief, up to ten minutes. Others are longer. Some trauma situations can take an hour or two, even more. The same amount of time is usual for a failed cardiac arrest. Sometimes I don't get everything done.
A recent shift was among the hardest I've experienced. Looking back on it, I know it was God keeping me going because I do not believe I could have managed it alone. Interspersed with the routine events and tasks, there was one cardiac arrest that responded and two that did not; two families were devastated at the suddenness of their loss. There were two separate incidences of teenagers attacked and beaten up by peers -- and I must point out that both were from affluent parts of our area, not that this makes any difference at all. There was a baby born too soon to a woman who was really too young; she was all alone, coming from an orphanage and birthing a perfectly formed miniature person, far too young to survive. We don't baptize stillborns; we do offer a blessing and I sat silently with the young woman for a time, just holding her hand. There was an attempted suicide by a person just out of her teens -- the mom just kept shaking her head, uncomprehending -- and a horrible successful suicide by a desperate man who had had just one too many bad things happen to him. If my shift had been a television show, I would have turned it off, knowing it was a gross exaggeration.
At the end of my shift, I felt like a saturated sponge after soaking up all of this pain.
My drive home is only five minutes. My bed and my shower were waiting and after a little nap and a big cleansing, I went over to my sister's for some pleasant company and a delicious meal. Blackberry and I had a quiet walk and then I slept. For nine hours. My friend Karla tells me often that she regularly prays for me in my work. There's not a shift that I'm not aware.