Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A 14.5 hour workday, in three parts

I didn't intend to, but I just finished a 14 and 1/2 hour shift. My day-and-night can be broken up into three sections with wildly different moods.

Part I: 3 to 11 PM

I worked the triage desk where you see it all. I generally try to maintain a friendly and helpful manner, but today was supa-busy and I was a hard-ass. After essentially hearing, "Did they call my name? I was wandering around even though I am supposedly in pain," for the fifth time, my response became, "You need to listen for your name, we can't chase you down."

The wait time was long and wasn't helped by the number of people coming in by ambulance who bumped everyone in the waiting room down. Overall there wasn't anything that remarkable in terms of complaints, mostly the usual top five: abdominal pain, vomiting, laceration, abscess, vaginal bleeding.

Near 11, a man comes into the ER saying there's someone outside who may not be breathing. The nurses hustle outside with Security and they bring in the patient on a gurney. Wow, excitement!

Turns out she's breathing fine and faking being unconscious. Here's a hint, to pull that off you need to keep your legs still. A nurse waves an ammonia capsule under her nose for a good 20 seconds and the patient does an admirable job of pretending not to smell it. Finally gets to her though and she rears up coughing. Turns out she's likely having a self-induced anxiety attack. It's actually quite easy to make your body freak out. Hyperventilating on purpose will do the trick nicely.

A nurse sits in a waiting room chair with a paper bag to breathe into (yes, that actually works), but as soon as the nurse walks off, she stops holding it tightly to her face and speeds up her breathing. When the patient sees that we're watching her, she starts coughing. After the third such performance, one of the Security guys holds up a piece of paper so only we at the desk can read it. It says 3.50.

I know all that sounds rather callous, but we really have better things to do. Like, oh I don't know, helping people with real problems? I'm fairly green about these things and so followed the lead of the experienced staff.

Part II: 11 PM to 2 AM

I stayed late to help out since we were shorthanded and switched over to working the pediatric ER. It was enjoyably slow and I only registered a few patients. Even when they're sick, the kids can be unbearably cute.

One of my co-workers was sick and I convinced her to go home since we were so slow. Then I read most of a Calvin and Hobbes book. Time crawled on.

Part III: 2 AM to 4:30 AM

Three kids came into the ER. One was sick. One had attempted suicide. One had been sexually assaulted.

That was my 14.5 hour day. I should get to sleep. Got to be back at work at three today, but I don't think sleep is going to come soon.


  1. St. Murse, you're my hero.

    xox, Colleen

  2. Aww shucks, it wirn't nothin.