Monday, October 20, 2008

Frustrated plans and a girl named Scout

After the Magnetic Fields show in Austin on Tuesday, I worked three days in a row. I never like doing that, it exhausts me. Friday night I started with two patients, transferred one to a different ICU around 11 PM, came back to pick up another patient, and transferred that one out to another ICU at 3 AM. Whee.

Saturday was sleepsleepsleep, then up and downtown for a free Girl Talk show. I'm not a big fan of his, but couldn't turn down a free night of sweaty dancing. Any time I think I'll be in line somewhere, I bring a book. Wanting something that would fit in my pocket and could be cast aside if need be, I started reading To Kill a Mockingbird again. I've read it every couple years since 8th grade and its pleasures never cease. Sadly, I slept in too long and after waiting in line for an hour the venue was full.

Through most of that hour I was able to tune out the conversations around me but this one comment pierced my bubble of reading satisfaction, "If you see kittens that aren't the same color as the mom or dad, that means that the mom got like, gang-raped." I didn't hear what preceded that bit of science, but I doubt that context would have helped.

Denied my original entertainment plan, I walked across downtown to the Angelika Theater thinking there would be something I'd want to see. Bought a ticket for Burn After Reading and was promptly driven mad by the jittery picture and loud projector. Twenty minutes in I had a headache from trying to focus on the screen. Nice manager said she couldn't fix the picture and wrote me out a free pass without me having to ask.

So back home and a marathon reading session to finish To Kill a Mockingbird. A bust of a night was redeemed by the wonderfulness of Harper Lee's prose. Sometimes I wish she'd written another novel, but mostly I'm just glad that she sent this one out into the world.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Magnetic Fields 10/14 in Austin

Every time The Magnetic Fields play in Austin they upgrade from the previous venue. This time it was at the Paramount and I wasn't surprised to see the orchestra section full and a good chunk of the balcony occupied. It was also old-home week as I chatted with several people I haven't seen in years. I'm generally not a fan of seated venues - too staid - but it works for MF. They haven't had a rhythm section for 14 years and play at a moderate volume and tempo.

After a fun set of very short, nonfiction stories and very short, news-of-the-day songs (with a slide projector providing visuals) by Michael Hearst, MF took the stage. Before the first song, Claudia asked the audience, "Are you ready to rock?" To which Stephin replied, "Then go somewhere else." Ba-dump bump crash (cymbal). Aside from the actual songs, Claudia and Stephin's banter provide a good bit of the entertainment.

Of note was the debut of Stephin's new bouzouki purchased that day. The previous one had grown fatigued. This reminded me of the throwaway gag in This Is Spinal Tap when the manager Ian rants about how hard he works for the band to little appreciation, "Do you know what I spend my time doing? I sleep two or three hours a night. There's no sex and drugs for Ian, David. Do you know what I do? I find lost luggage. I locate mandolin strings in the middle of Austin!" Which is very funny to me because it was and remains tremendously easy to find mandolin strings in Austin. Less so with new bouzoukis but still.

Also, though Claudia is terribly excited by the idea of Holiday coming out on vinyl because she loves the cover, it will not be the next vinyl release. That will be 69LS next year to celebrate the 10-year anniversary. I hope it comes with a big version of the little book.

Setlist (with notes):

When I'm Out of Town
No One Will Ever Love You

Dear lord do I love Shirley's voice.
California Girls
Lots of laughs for this one.
Walking My Gargoyle
Claudia: Sadly The Tragic Treasury sold out tonight making several songs less...
Stephin: Urgent.
The Nun's Litany
All My Little Words
Old Fools
I Wish I Had an Evil Twin
Dreams Anymore
This Little Ukulele

Personal freak-out as I adore this song.
All Dressed Up in Dreams
Wonderful harmonizing from the ladies.
Javier Says
Claudia: This song is about two homosexuals in the East Village throwing shit at each other. Verbally. Like "Uh-uh Mary."
Stephin executes pro-forma, entirely sass-less Z snap to the delight of all.
Zombie Boy
Several aborted starts as Stephin interrupted to say things like, "Everyone is someone's
zombie boy."
Papa Was a Rodeo
Swoons all around.
Take Ecstasy With Me
Strangled screams of pleasure from some.

Love this! Creepy, weird, and wonderful.
The Tiny Goat
As always, heartbreaking.
Too Drunk to Dream
Raucous adoration for this one.
The Book of Love
Sam looked particularly sentimental here.
Give Me Back My Dreams
Drive On Driver
What a Fucking Lovely Day!

Introduced, "So Tu An-Gu has just impaled what he thinks is the orphan of Zhao and then he sings this."
Yeah, Oh Yeah
With Claudia swanning about the stage
It's Only Time
Claudia notes that after the previous murder ballads, this one is often played at weddings. To which Stephin added, "Before the murder ballads begin."

First "Three-way" just Stephin, John, and Sam. 2nd was Claudia, Shirley, and an
out-of-the-wings Michael Hearst. 3rd was really a six-way.
As You Turn to Go
Grand Canyon

Musically gorgeous (aside from that mic short explosion that startled everyone), attentive audience, great setlist; it was a wonderful show and exceeded my expectations.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sometimes I can only be funny in my own head

I met with my new nurse class again and one of the topics was dealing with workplace stress. The presentation was mostly garden-variety stress management techniques with some nurse-related window dressing (mixed metaphor alert). Though one bit of wisdom made my ears perk up, "Don't bring the bear home with you and into bed."

It was all I could do not to raise my hand and ask, "But what if I find it very stress-relieving to bring a hairy gay man into bed?"

Monday, September 29, 2008

Austin City Limits 2008

Too much travel, not enough sleep = sick me. Missed work and slept 18 hours out of 24 for a few days. I was still feeling tired and mucous-y when ACL started so I missed most of 1st day including half of David Byrne's all-Eno-collaboration set. Dang dang dang. Like most years, I skipped out on the headliners which was a definite necessity this year. At least the copious mucous trapped the particles from the ubiquitous dust clouds.

Fatigue curtailed my note-taking this year so I just have a few impressions and quotes. The best of the festival for me was the Neko Case show where she noted this was the last date of her Fox Confessor tour (and quite a long one too). She'd been through Texas before on this tour but I wasn't able to attend. So glad I got to hear these songs before she inevitably retired a good chunk in favor of new material.

Despite their statements to the contrary, Fleet Foxes easily take to festival performance and delivered my other favorite show of the festival. Relaxed presence, superlative musicianship, and entertaining banter all contributed to a great set. Fleet Foxes put out a wonderful EP and debut album this year and I expect great things from them in the future.

Jose Gonzalez:
Not a likely festival performer, but thankfully people kept relatively quiet. I almost corrected the exceedingly pompous guy behind me when he loudly informed his girlfriend that Gonzalez wrote "Heartbeats" and his "original vision" was clearly superior to The Knife's. I let it go. She was doubtful anyway.

The Kills:
"Come see us when it's dark. This is bullshit." Huh, from where I was standing the bullshit was clearly centered on your lame backing tracks, ridiculous faux-worn cowboy accoutrements, and general air of insolence.

Comments from the stage moved from "The bottled water has sodium in it. It will make you thirstier," to frontman Torquil referring to it as "poison water." Uh no, a little sodium is good when you're sweating so much. Brawndo, electrolytes, all that.

Really looking forward to this show as I looove several songs on their album and like most of the others. I was concerned that it wouldn't work on a festival stage, sadly it was worse than I feared. Far too wanky and lame for most of the set. "Electric Touch" was the highlight with "Kids" as a close second. Managed to summon the energy to dance a bit and wore myself out quickly.

Yet again Austin is confirmed as a big little city when I randomly bumped into five people I know, including two high school classmates. Seems like it's more challenging to not find run into an acquaintance.

Gillian Welch:
Marvelous as always. Alison Krauss came out to sing on "Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby" which was nice as I wasn't sticking around for her and Robert Plant's set.

In past years I've documented the various Here I Am! flags, but couldn't work up the enthusiasm this time. I did note with approval the perennial Beer Mug, Don't Tread On Me, and Bear Pride flags.

Uh, that's it I guess.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm fine

Hey all, sorry I haven't kept up the info stream. Myself and my residence are fine. Got power back quickly at my place, but cable/internet was out for awhile and I didn't have time to post from the hospital while I was working then I flew to NY for a planned trip. I'll put up a lot more tonight after I sleep a bit.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ike Day 2 & 3

Though I'm writing this over a week after the events depicted, I've backdated the post so the correct chronology holds.

The brunt of the storm finally hit the Medical Center in the wee hours. Rain lashed everything and the wind was strong enough to uproot young trees. The lights flickered when the generators came on, but otherwise there was no sign that power lines had failed. Through it all, a news crew van parked out front barely moved. It must have been heavily weighted. Never did find out if anyone stayed in the van. We heard that a few windows broke in the tower, though no patients were affected.

I left the desk a few times to assist others with baths and dressing changes, and of course to bust out some morale-boosting karaoke. One of the other nurses brought a karaoke machine and we hooked it up to a TV in a room. I sang John Denver's "Annie's Song," Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You," and The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry". Sadly, no one else took up the mic when I returned to the desk. In a post-apocalyptic world, I'd be useful. I can't bow hunt or fix cars, but I can patch up minor injuries, organize resources, and keep spirits up.

By first grey light, Ike was still over us though waning. Moving at only 10-15 mph and as large as it was it took a while for it to completely pass. The day crew came on shift reporting that the sound of the wind had interfered with a restless night's sleep. Seeking to avoid the travesty of trying to sleep on cots in an auditorium, our unit went en masse up to an ICU where most of the day crew had spent the night. In less than an hour, we were booted out. The PACU had developed leaks and patients needed to be moved back to the unit we were occupying. We scattered, most to empty consult rooms. I ended up in an office bedding down in a reclining chair. After a fitful couple hours, I moved to the linoleum floor. It was hard, but at least I could stretch out.

After a total of 5 hours sleep, I grabbed a quick shower and a meal before heading outside. A friend working at Texas Children's Hospital across the street had inviting me to drop by. We hung out and chatted for a bit before she got busy. Now that the storm had passed, there was a trickle of people bringing their kids in to the ER. After a semi-successful attempt at a nap, I went to work again pairing up with my former preceptor to care for a busy transplant patient. I can't take transplants yet, but I can pair with another qualified nurse to assist. She did all the charting and oversaw the care, I administered all the medications and changed out the fluids on the dialysis machine.

The mood was grim Saturday night. The storm was behind us, but no one had slept well and energy was low. The karaoke machine stayed in its bag. Sunday morning the managers sent the night crew to breakfast after we reported to the oncoming crew. Executive discussions occurred and we returned from eating to find out that we could leave. Friends took me home with only one detour around high water. Electricity was back in patches, but not at my apartment. The area of town where I live isn't low-lying so flooding wasn't a problem. Tree limbs were down everywhere you looked though. One had busted through the roof of my building causing a slow leak in the apartment above mine. The guy living there put a bucket under the leak and went back to his girlfriend's place.

I'd noticed the $1 store down the street was open so I walked to it looking to pick up the extra water and candles I'd forgotten to buy pre-storm. The store owners had a small generator powering one cash register. They handed out flashlights and let five people at a time roam the store. It seemed like some people lined up just as something to do. On the way home I noticed standing water all over the place so I cleared brush and leaves from a couple storm drains feeling particularly useful. When I got home I fell into bed. When I woke up around 8 PM, the power was back on. No cable & internet, but I wasn't going to complain.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ike Day 1

The city buses stopped running at noon today so I came in to work early. It felt like a Sunday morning. As I walked down to the bus stop, I saw varying levels of preparation for Ike. Some houses and stores had boarded up their windows, some just taped them, but most were left as is. Aside from the grocery store and a few casual restaurants, businesses were closed with handwritten signs in the windows, CLOSED SATURDAY, OPEN SUNDAY. One gas station had wrapped their pumps and shut down, the station catticorner was raising their prices as I watched from the bus stop.

The ride to the Medical Center was uneventful; less people out and about than usual, but still some riding bikes and walking dogs. As I came into the building clouds were beginning to roll in, though it was still warm and sunny. Out front was a line of cars picking up discharged patients.

After checking in with my unit I was assigned a bed upstairs in a cleared-out patient care area. Shoes off, ear plugs in, diphenhydramine pill taken, I slept for five hours before heading down to my unit at 7 PM. I’m working the desk now. There are more than enough nurses to go around so I’m answering phones, putting orders in, assisting as needed with patient care, those sorts of things.

I haven’t been outside since 11:30 AM. I’m told that now at 11 PM it takes two people to hold the door open due to the wind. Maintenance crews boarded up the windows on the unit so we can’t see outside. There’s a lounge down the hall where you can still see out, I’ll check it out when I get a break in a couple hours.

Updates to come as time and circumstances allow.

Letter meme

The rules: Comment and I'll give you a letter; then you have to list ten things you LOVE that begin with that letter. Afterward, post this in your journal and give out some letters of your own.

Seagulls Screaming gave me M (well, I asked for M and she assented):

Music - Big surprise huh? I'm one of those people that fly to other cities to see bands/music festivals. Magnificent Ms (or what I can make out on my CD shelf as I squint from here): M83, The Magnetic Fields, Man...Or Astroman?, Massive Attack, Marumari, Kathy McCarty, The Meat Purveyors, Ministry (early- to mid-period), Morrissey, The Moth Wranglers, The Mountain Goats, Movietone, μ-Ziq, My Bloody Valentine.

Movies - Love almost as much as music. Marvelous Ms: M, Metropolis, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, Mulholland Dr., Man Bites Dog, Manhattan, Manhattan Murder Mystery (three Ms!), Miller's Crossing, Mom & Dad Save the World, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Muppet Movie. Hey look at that, films by Preston Sturges, Coen Brothers, Woody Allen (2), Robert Altman, Fritz Lang (2) - great directors with distinguished careers all.

Elizabeth Murray - In high school I kept pictures of Murray's artwork taped to my walls after reading about her in the newspaper. There's a wonderful playfulness to her art that thrills me. Several times at museums, I've rounded a corner and been pleasantly surprised to see one of her works across the room.

Medicine - More than just a job.

Midnight - I love the turning of one calendar day to another in the dark of night. On my off days, when I see that it's around midnight I think, "Six to eight hours before I have to go to sleep. Awesome."

Memory - Just the idea of remembering is so incredible when you think about it. Moments imperfectly encoded into organic structure, then summoned forth by will or external trigger.

Moths that drink the tears of sleeping birds - Nature is frickin' amazing.

Monkeys - Well yeah. Monkeys. Even the word is fun to say. Course if I lived in one of those Indian towns where fearless monkeys maraud then I probably wouldn't like them so much.

Moshi moshi - So great that Japanese has a phrase that's only used in one context, answering the telephone.

Matt(s) - Two specifically, here's to you Mr. R and Mr. L.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

pre-Ike preparations

As expected, I got a call this evening from my boss at the hospital. The disaster emergency plan is active and I am to be there tomorrow at 3 PM in preparation for Hurricane Ike's landfall. After the nightmare of Tropical Storm Allison, Houston's hospitals put emergency plans in place to deal with future calamities. At my facility, the staff sign up to be on either the Prep and Recovery team or the Ride Out team. P&R works before the anticipated emergency, then evacuates or stays home. The Ride Out team staffs the hospital just before and during the event. Then the P&R team comes in afterwards to relieve the RO staff. Having no local family or pets to look after, I signed up for RO.

I'm neither nervous nor annoyed by the circumstances. I was well-aware that Houston is at risk of experiencing hurricanes and being a nurse at a hospital means contributing to disaster preparedness. It's part of the job. Frankly, I'm glad to go in. I have no car so I couldn't easily leave Houston anyway and the hospital will take care of all my needs.

Tonight I'll pack a bag in preparation for living at the hospital for a day or two. The expectation is that I'll work my regular 6:45 PM to 7:15 AM shift, then sleep in makeshift housing at the hospital. I'm guessing this will be empty patient rooms as part of the plan calls for slowing admissions and stepping up patient discharges in an effort to reduce the hospital census. As all non-emergent surgeries get canceled, it's possible that I'll be working somewhere other than my normal surgical recovery unit.

Currently the eye is predicted to make landfall near Galveston very early Saturday morning. Just looked up the bus schedule and dang, service shuts down at noon so I have to leave even earlier. Alright then, two antihistamine pills are in my near future as I need to be asleep by 3 AM. Updates as time and circumstances allow.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Drank found, imbibed


After reading a AV Club review, I was interested in trying Drank but none of the three non-chain convenience stores in my immediate area had it. Sure, it's distributed out of Houston but my neighborhood was not exactly ground central for screw hip-hop. Then one day I went into a store and there it was. I was way too excited about the purchase and considered drinking a can right then just to take the edge off.

Wait, let's establish some background. A Houston guy named DJ Screw invented a style of hip-hop called screw that slowed down and chopped up the music. Purple drank (or oil or syrup or any of the other names for it) was the drug of choice to accompany the music. Cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine is mixed with Sprite or what have you. Adding Jolly Ranchers is optional, that's how Oscar-winners Three 6 Mafia liked it ("Rainbow Colors", thanks Wikipedia). Codeine is a narcotic and promethazine is an antihistamine mostly used to combat nausea and as a cough suppressant. It also causes drowsiness. So, drink drank and feel kind of drunk, get a lean going. Oh, and DJ Screw and several other musicians closely identified with screw probably died from complications associated with consuming purple stuff.

Drank is marketed as an "anti-energy," completely legal version that will "slow your roll." Instead of prescription medications, the active ingredients are valerian, rose hips, and melatonin. It tastes like carbonated grape Kool-Aid and I can report that it does indeed make one sleepy. Both times I drank Drank, it was in the morning when it was time for me to go to bed (I work night shift remember) and I wasn't particularly tired. Drank worked to send me off to sleep.

The can lists the amount of valerian, rose hips, and melatonin it contains but of course as herbal preparations, there's no standard dosages for them. Oddly, Drank also contains 100% of the recommended daily value of B vitamins, something usually in energy drinks because they supposedly make people feel more alert. Even if that were true (I have my doubts, though not enough interest to research this, sorry), 100% of a vitamin isn't going to have powerful effects. On the down side, Drank is loaded with high fructose corn syrup.

Sadly, the store I bought it from no longer stocks it. I'll endeavor to find another source so that I might bring some on a certain camping trip coming up soon.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Read and unread

Instead of doing something truly productive, I've been catching up on Spacebeer's blog as is obvious from my citing her posts below and adding her to my blogroll. Hi Spacebeer! Why did it take so long for me to read your blog? I've been remiss. Please forgive. Anyway, to placate your ferociousness, here you go:

"someone compiled a list of the top 106 books tagged "unread" on Librarything, and started a nifty little meme.

Here is the plan:
Bold = I've read it for fun [I guess this is a catch-all]
Underline = I read it for school
Italics = I started it but didn't finish
Asterisk = I own it, but haven't read it"

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian: a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections*
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes: a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake: a novel
Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit [6th grade reading group - cool teacher]
In Cold Blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences*
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Man I'm way behind on the classics. Oh well, too many books, too little time.

even patient nurses wound know

Spacebeer finds cool things on the internets. For instance, Wordle. I suspected that somewhere there was a site that created word clouds, but never looked for it assiduously. Here's a cloud of St. Murse blog:

I think I might edit the text a bit and make a T-shirt out of it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Last night I worked in another ICU at my hospital for the first time. The surgery schedule has been light with some surgeons on vacation, so my unit has been overstaffed with nurses. It's the way of hospitals, if one unit is overstaffed and another is under, then nurses float to even it out. Technically I'm not supposed to float until I've been off orientation for six months, but my home unit had to keep the experienced nurses to look after the complicated devices (continuous dialysis machines, intra-aortic balloon pumps, ventricular assist devices) which I cannot. Oh well, that's nursing for you.

It was great experience actually. The principle is that floated nurses shouldn't be given a difficult patient load because they're not in their regular environment. Doesn't always happen that way, but it did for me last night. My patients weren't confined to bed, had stable vital signs, and each had only one IV medication running. After assessing them, administering their meds, and performing one dressing change, I didn't have much to do for the rest of the shift aside from charting their vital signs and changing out their IV lines. Then one of my patients who had transfer orders to move to a lower level of care got a room at midnight. After I packed him up and moved him out, I only had one patient for the rest of the shift.

I was able to talk with the other nurses and get a feel for the unit which, though laid out much like the majority of ICUs at the hospital, is very different from my home unit in cardiovascular surgical recovery. With free time on my hands, I read my one patient's H&P (history and progress notes made by doctors) to get a better feel for the situation. Then I moved on to re-reading some hospital policies in an effort to A) know them better and B) stay alert. All in all, it was a nice break from the pace in CV Recovery.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gross, in a sort of cool way

Squeamish alert! Do not read on if discussion of open wounds gives you the willies.

A nursing classmate of mine told me a wonderfully vile story. The patient she was caring for was a woman whose hysterectomy incision had opened up. I don’t know the specific circumstances of the case, but even well-approximated incisions (the edges coming together nicely) can open up if the stitches or staples burst open due to a forceful cough or errant Valsalva maneuver.

Anyway, that’s just academic. The reality was that the patient was quite obese and the wound was a foot deep. Yep, from the skin all the way down to where her uterus used to be was a solid 12”. Care for such a wound involves cleaning the bed of the wound to minimize the risk of infection and promote healing. It took two people bracing themselves on either side to pull back the sides of the wound enough so that another nurse could get all the way down in there with a sponge.

Wheee! Sometimes nursing is just delicious huh?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Memo to Mr. Misogynist Q. Patient

If, when you ask if I have a sense of humor, you mean laughing when you say, "Now that I've got better blood flow, maybe I can do something with it," while I'm cleaning your catheterized penis, or joining you in denigrating your female relative's job as a way of complimenting mine, then no, I don't have a sense of humor.

Also, refrain from automatically assuming that male staff are doctors. Despite us referring to ourselves as "your nurse," you continually called the day shift nurse and I doctors. The women in the white coat with her name clearly printed on the pocket? She's the surgical resident who scrubbed in on your operation, not as you assumed, the charge nurse.

I am being a little hard on the guy. He was anxious, feeling out of control and his coping mechanism of choice was joking around. It's a much more positive mechanism than regression or somatization. It's why I gave him some slack, kept quiet, and ignored his attempts at humor. And yet, even though he "comes from a different era", you have to know that making sexual comments about the female staff is big fat no-no. By the morning, I was weary of it.

When I leave at the end of my shift, if my patients are awake and likely to be transferred out to a lower level of care that day, I sincerely wish them well. This guy, I just said, "Feel better," without eye contact. Petty, I know, but man he was grating.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Another thing I love is tarnished, though electroplated in hate would be more accurate

While my love of science fiction began in high school, it truly flowered in college thanks to books loaned and recommended to me by a couple of friends (thanks M & E). Many college bullshitting sessions were spent discussing the implications and questions arising from the works of Le Guin, Varley, Brin, etc. Above them all though, was Orson Scott Card. How we adored him. He's descended into almost total suckage over the last decade or so, but still, Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, The Worthing Saga? Masterful.

Well, now he's done it. Sure I always knew he was a devout, Elder-kiss-up Mormon, but now he's calling for violent revolution against the U.S. government if gay marriage becomes common. No need for me to rant on as Michael Swaim (who knew had such astute writers?) has laid out the arguments beautifully. Warms the heart really.

Unlike Swaim and others I've seen, I'm not tossing the Card books I treasure. I won't buy another copy new, but good stories are good stories even if they're told by a greedy, bigoted asshole who I nonetheless will endeavor to consider a person deserving of love. And I don't even claim to be a Christian.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Where to start with the wonderfulness of Tom Giesler's anatomical chart art? Hilarious and gorgeous.

Attention to detail: How to avoid dumb questions

A few weeks ago at work the patient care techs were busy and my patients were tucked away so I answered a spate of phone calls to the unit. One call was from the lab, "Patient X? The sample in the green top [test tube of blood] is hemolyzed [red blood cells are ruptured]. We need another one sent."

I walked down the hall to convey the message to the patient's nurse, "Lab called. That sample's hemolyzed. Can you send another one?"

"Well no," she said, looking at me curiously, "The patient's dead."

I looked over at the bed and monitor for the first time. Sure enough.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A little medication-based nursing humor. Very little.

This week I was talking with a couple of women at work and the conversation turned to diets and losing weight. We’re all nurses so we know about the physiological processes involved and how some diets (i.e. Atkins, South Beach) initially show quick response because they result in mostly water loss.

That reminded one nurse of the time she found Lasix among her deceased grandmother’s things. Lasix prevents the kidneys from reabsorbing sodium and where sodium goes, so goes water due to osmosis and all that. No sodium reabsorption means peeing out a lot of fluid. Water weighs 2.2 pounds per liter (or the metrically more sensible 1 L = 1 kg), so that can add up to tidy weight loss. Along with all that water, important electrolytes are also peed out, particularly potassium, a dearth of which can cause life-threatening heart arrhythmias.

With all that in mind (I know, it’s a lot to keep in mind), the nurse explained her logic thusly,

“I found Lasix pills in my grandmother’s medicine cabinet and I was thinking about fitting into pants better, but I had no way to monitor my potassium levels and I don’t like bananas so…”

“Aside from the ethical implications of a health professional taking medications not prescribed for her,” I responded, ”You could have just eaten avocadoes.”

“Avocadoes?!” she exclaimed, “The whole point was to make my butt smaller.”

“Yeah St. Murse,” the other nurse said, “Duh.”

I love my co-workers.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Take every 6 hrs as needed for indifference

Every couple of months the class of new nurses with whom I started meets for continuing education. The day’s agenda always includes time to talk about the challenges of the job. Essentially it’s a good-natured bitch session. Last time we met, someone brought up calling residents for orders and getting a less-than-confident or lackadaisical answer. Residents are still training as doctors and don’t know everything so nurses often coach them along. A common response from the docs is, “What do you usually do?” or “What do you want to do?”

I prefer the first question because it falls back on the routines of the attending physicians. They’re usually asking because hospitals differ in their preferences, not because they are clueless. At Hospital A, the typical orders for nausea are medication X at such-and-such dose and timing, while at Hospital B it’s medication Z. The second question, “What do you want to do?” is more annoying to me, because, you know, they’re the doctor with prescriptive authority. It’s putting the onus on the nurse with the doctor just agreeing or not with the suggestion. The worst though is when they obviously aren’t engaged. As one fellow nurse dramatized it:

Nurse: Doctor, Mr. Smith is getting increasingly hypertensive.

Doc: Uhh. Hydralazine 10 mg, or whatever. I don’t care.

In class I wistfully offered how great it would be if we could write out the order and fax it to the pharmacy just like that.

8/23/08 1935 Hydralazine 10 mg, or whatever. I don’t care.
TORB (telephone order read back) Dr. Apathy/St. Murse, RN

Monday, August 11, 2008

Found: paranoid chart

I found this taped to a bus stop. "Beware LADIES HE Will Come and SEX you at Night" and by HE, the author means SATAN.

Look at his Face Likes GOAT

My favorite part is "Stupid Idiot Daft Punk." Sure they might be harder, better, faster, and stronger, but apparently they are also stupider, idiotic, and somehow involved with Satan.

Obese begets obesesier

In an August 9th New York Times op-ed piece, Olivia Judson writes about rat studies which show that mothers who consume large amounts of junk food (as opposed to balanced rat chow) while pregnant give birth to babies with a hankering for junk food. Human studies are less definite but,

"...the results of several studies suggest that the very fact of a woman being obese during pregnancy may predispose her children to obesity. For example, one study found that children born to women who have lost weight after radical anti-obesity surgery are less likely to be obese than siblings born before their mother lost weight. Another study looked at women who gained weight between pregnancies; the results showed that babies born after their mothers put on weight tended to be heavier at birth than siblings born beforehand. Since the mother’s genes haven’t changed, the “fat” environment seems likely to be responsible for the effect."

Speaking as a health care professional who routinely cares for obese people, uh, yikes. This could result in a nasty geometric progression of obesity and related disease (diabetes, hypertension, heart and vascular disease, stroke, cancer, sleep apnea) in the next generation. Not to mention the increased incidence of lower back problems in the nurses who have to move such patients. Body mechanics of moving patients was one of the first things I learned in nursing school skills class and rightly so.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Heart, in wire

I commissioned this sculpture from a talented artist, CW Roelle. I like it.

Heart, in wire

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dark, only slightly muggy, night

As I've said many times before, I don't miss having a car. I really can get to almost everything I need on the bus with advanced planning. Or even spur of the moment. After reading several enthusiastic reviews last night, I immediately wanted to see The Dark Knight. One series-of-tubes search later and I had a ticket to the Angelika downtown. After one bus and a few minutes walk, I was ensconced in a nice seat in an only half-full theater. Hooray for working nights and therefore seeing movies at 9:15 on a Sunday when few jerkwads clog the theater with talking or rampant cell phone use!

Anyway, the movie was great, really pushes out the boundaries of superhero movies. I recommend it. Be prepared though, it's long (2.5 hours) and densely plotted. There's enough plot for two films really, which actually detracts from the last 30 minutes as it introduces a new element, though anyone with a basic knowledge of Batman lore will see it coming. Let me also jump on the pile-on of praise for Heath Ledger's performance. Astoundingly, creepily awesome. I went in with high expectations and he blew me out of the water. Multiple times I audibly, involuntarily horror-giggled.

Though I was prepared for this via a review, it was still remarkable how much of an ensemble film The Dark Knight is. Bruce Wayne/Batman is decidedly *not* foregrounded in either plot mechanics or screen time. I won't take away from the story by explaining further, you'll know what I mean when you see it. Also great is the degree to which the citizens of Gotham are involved in the story. Multiple, nameless Gothamites are essential to the theme of ordinary people taking responsibility for creating civility.

Some elements that distracted me:

- That goofy, scary-voice Bale employs as Batman.

- Why is Nestor Carbonell (the Mayor) wearing so much mascara and eyeliner? (Also, is
his casting a fun nod to him playing Bat Manuel on The Tick?)

- A certain medical aspect of the last bit drove me up the wall. Can't say what it is without spoiling, but argh! No.

- Is the minor character Berg Ramirez (or as his nametag says, Ramirez, Berg) an
obscure shout-out to UT Austin Film/Latin American Studies professor Charles Ramirez-Berg? Cause Berg is not really a first name.

So go see it and then we can talk about it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

At last, poker night

For the first time since moving to Houston I made it back to Austin to play poker with my McJo's buddies. As was clear from my play, I really wasn't paying attention to the game. I'd build up a nice little stack then piss it away while I chatted with everyone, just happy to be surrounded by snarky, opinionated, politically-aware, ego-hammering, magnificent bastards. Regardless, I held on and finished third.

Slept well then had a late breakfast before Mick convinced me to make a specialty shoe purchase. Some other folks at work have Z-coil shoes (spring in the heel) and swear by them. Haven't broken mine in sufficiently to wear them to work for 12 hours and now I'm having a touch of buyer's remorse just from the price. I'm still in the refund window though. We'll see.

Lastly (for Corrosion), shark wants a taco.

Monday, July 14, 2008


ABC has been airing a six-part miniseries documentary about the staff and patients at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Though it delves a little too much into the personal lives of the doctors (more medicine please!), the ballad-heavy soundtrack is egregious (apparently husky-voiced singer-songwriters = emotion depth), and more nurses should have been profiled (duh), I recommend it as an interesting look at medicine being practiced today.

Thankfully, the episodes are available to watch online.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Cure, Austin Music Hall

Despite a couple missed opportunities that are too ridiculous to go into here, I've previously only seen The Cure once. As a way to get fired up for the show, I made up a dream setlist as I drive to Dallas. As the encore began, I was struck with gleeful awe when I realized that they had played every damn song I wanted to hear! This is what I love about The Cure's live shows. They have a extensive career and dedicated fans, so play long shows with songs across their whole discography.

When my friend Dan heard that they were coming to Austin, and to the relatively small Austin Music Hall we were committed to going along with other friends. Tragedy struck when computer problems (?) or something prevented Dan from getting tickets for everyone and the show sold out. After seeing the setlists from this tour, I knew I couldn't miss out and so paid premium for ticket off eBay (grumble, grumble).

As the carload of friends drove to the show, we engaged in the witty banter that's a mainstay of our group (how frickin' self-agrandizing can I be? Ass). We speculated on the intricate goth outfits that were sure to be on display and then we rounded a corner to the sight of miles of black cloth and fishnets. As Chad put it, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Exhibit A."

Austin Music Hall has been extensively refurbished with more seating upstairs, a fancier entryway, better sound, and much improved intimate feel. After some nosing about, we set up downstairs about 30 feet from the stage. After a bland, boring opening act The Cure took the stage and blew us all away. Disintegration and Wish are about tied for my favorite albums and so opening with, well "Open" and then going right into "Fascination St." made me extremely happy. The show continued with plenty of songs from both albums with others sprinkled from across their career. It wasn't until they ripped into it that I remembered how much I love "Push" from Head on the Door (I re-listened to that CD later and rediscovered how great it is). "Catch" resulted in a happy emotional meltdown for Karen which was great fun to witness. During the show Dan and I confirmed out loud what was obvious, it had vaulted into our top ten concerts of all time.

Push from elsewhere on the tour

In Between Days

Sure Robert's put on a lot of weight and looks a bit silly with the make-up and hair at his age. This was balanced out by Porl Thompson ripped physique (how nice to have him back in the fold after years away and just killing on lead guitar) and the fact that Simon has not aged in 25 years. Jason the drummer isn't as good as Boris but I'm not complaining. They were in fine form. One of the coolest thing about the show is that they had no keyboards. All the synth lines were played on guitar by either Porl or Robert. I think The Cure uses keyboards very well, but it was invigorating to hear the songs without them.

From previous shows, we knew there would be at least two encores, but we still clapped and called for more. "M", "Play for Today" (and yes I sang the keyboard chorus melody), and "A Forest" just killed. Away to the wings, more clapping, and then back out for the highly anticipated run of seven songs from their 1st album. Even though I knew it was going to happen, it was still wonderful.

Jumping Someone Else's Train & Grinding Halt

After a 90 minute nap, I drove back to Austin tired but exhilirated for work the next morning. Absolutely worth the lack of sleep and jacked-up ticket price.

One last thing, coming so soon on the heels of the REM show in Berkeley it was inevitable that I'd compare the two. Both started off as "college" bands and broke into the mainstream before settling into the rock canon. Their best work is behind them but they both still write some good songs and play well. My estimation of these shows however is miles apart. REM played a good set to a rather flaccid audience who couldn't care less for older material. The Cure played a fantastic, almost three-hour show for a energetic audience filled with big fans. Blame it on the difference between Berkeley and Austin or the intimacy of the TX show to the outdoor venue in CA, or maybe the band themselves. Whatever reason, it certainly bumped up The Cure in my estimation.

The full setlist:

open, fascination street, alt.end, torture, the end of the world, lovesong, the big hand, pictures of you, lullaby, catch, the perfect boy, from the edge of the deep green sea, the figurehead, a strange day, sleep when i'm dead, push, doing the unstuck, inbetween days, just like heaven, primary, the only one, signal to noise, the hanging garden, one hundred years, end

E1: at night, m, play for today, a forest
E2: three imaginary boys, fire in cairo, boys don't cry, jumping someone else's train, grinding halt, 10:15 saturday night, killing an arab

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


The timing of my trip to SF was dictated by REM's tour stop in Berkeley. They weren't/aren't coming anywhere close to Texas and I always said my first trip after graduating from school would be to visit MidSav and Rob in SF, so the timing worked out well.

I've been an REM fan for a long time, but back in the late '80s I was deemed too young to attend the Dallas stop on their Green tour. After that they didn't tour for years. So I've only seen them three times, Monster tour, Up tour, and at ACL during a tour promoting a Best Of. All good shows, though the ACL one wins out because A) I was so close, B) I was surrounded by great fans, and C) they played plenty of old stuff (setlists from that tour). The one-two punch of "Finest Worksong" and "Begin the Begin" made me wish yet again that concert joy could be bottled to enjoy later. Still, I was bummed when I saw the setlist from Houston. Maps & Legends?!

REM's new album, Accelerate, has been hailed as a return to form which really just means that there are some loud rock songs and it's not so wan like that last couple records. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but I really do like it for the most part. Anyway, I was excited to see them again and especially at the Greek Theatre on the University of California, Berkeley campus. It's a open-air, tiered venue so everyone can hear and see well. I'd bought my ticket early but since I'd let my fan club membership lapse missed the prime seats right up front.

MidSav & Rob dropped me off outside and I hurried in as The National had already started playing. They were good, but really belong inside a dark club. Next up was Modest Mouse, a band with several songs I like and many I find tedious and uninspired. The show was OK. The best part was (finally!) seeing Johnny Marr play guitar. Even when I closed my eyes I could pick out his lines. That Smiths reunion will never happen but if it ever did, I'd get there some way. Marr stills play beautifully and Morrissey can still belt it out.

Then REM hit the stage to huge cheers. The three actual members (Peter, Mike, Michael) were supplemented by usual tour guitarist/keyboardist Scott McCaughey and new-to-the-fold drummer Bill Rieflin. Rieflin's a great drummer and I wondered if anyone else in the audience knew that he used to play drums for a long line of industrial bands like Ministry and KMFDM.

They kicked things off with a new song "Horse To Water" to a muted reception considering. Next song was "Little America" and I was all excited, "Yay old stuff!" and then I looked around and slowly realized that though a big chunk of the crowd was the right age to have been fans of REM when during their mid-80's IRS years, they didn't know this song. Third song was "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" and the crowd roared its approval.

This sad pattern continued through the rest of the set and severely impacted my enjoyment of the show. Song on the radio? Big cheers. Not on the radio? Boredom and tepid response. Me all ranty in my head, "C'mon people, "West of the Fields"? "Wolves, Lower"?! They haven't pulled that out for almost a decade. But oh you'll finally start moving around when "The One I Love" starts up." Grumble, grumble, gnashing of teeth.

Best part of the show (aside from the lovely old chestnuts) was their reworking of "Let Me In" into a gorgeous acoustic-guitars-and-organ version. Even Rieflin came down off the drum riser to play guitar. Here's a recording from a different show:

With this wonderful version arrangement and the subject matter, I got all teary (wouldn't be an REM concert if I didn't at some point). The main set ended with "I'm Gonna DJ" which grates because it indulges Stipe's penchant for twangy hollering. Encore proceeded as per usual (when did encores for headlining acts become customary? The '70s? When did bands start intentionally putting popular songs in the encore rather than deep cuts or unpolished covers? A topic for another post) kicking off with the best song on the new album, "Supernatural Superserious". After another new one they started up "Driver 8" which sparked at least a little recognition in the audience before tearing into "Life And How To Live It"! I danced up a storm and focused on the band and the little group of superfans up front. Show closed as it often does with "Man On The Moon" which I've grown tired of, especially Stipe's silly hollerin' version.

La la la, get back to MidSav & Rob's place, talk about the lame-o audience, still enjoyed the show, go to bed.

Well, a little more to the story. REM sold out the Greek Theatre so fast that after I bought my ticket they added a second night. At the time I had thought about buying for that night (for which I was sure to get a better seat) and just selling my first night ticket, but I didn't. Sigh. After I got home from SF I pulled up the setlist for the 2nd night and was crushed. Leading up to my trip I'd been listening to a lot of REM, particularly my favorite album Lifes Rich Pageant. Four songs on that album I love particularly and are among my favorite in their whole career. The 2nd night in Berkeley they played three of them, "Begin the Begin", "These Days", and "Fall on Me". Oh the disappointment. Full setlists for the whole tour here.

The lesson I learned from this is that I will go see REM whenever feasible for back-to-back shows and I will do my best to be right up front with the superfans who love the old stuff too.

UPDATE: I found a note I'd jotted down during the show. After they played "West of the Fields," Stipe talked about the lyrics and how early REM songs were fairly impressionistic and didn't always make a lot of sense. It's well-known now that he doesn't have a great memory, even for his own lyrics and that's especially true for the early songs. When they started playing them more often live, he went online to find out what the fans thought they were. He was amused to see what many lyric websites had posted for "West of the Fields".

Stipe: Now, I wrote some bad lyrics when I was 21 and did drugs back then. But I never wrote, "The animals are strange, try to put it in."

Mills: What are the words?

Stipe: (mock testily) I don't know what the fuckin' words are. What were you doing in 1981 Mike?

Mills: Oh, this and that.

Stipe: Yeah. I have photographic evidence.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

My trip to San Franciso, and overcast Berkeley

After working 12 hours, with a 2 hour nap under my belt, I left the apartment for my trip to San Francisco. I was glad that I found a bus route that goes to the airport, less enthused when I realized how many stops it made on it's way there. Oh well.

The flight was uneventful with a layover in Arizona only noteworthy for this odd, planes-circling-a-vortex carpet pattern in the terminal. Thankfully, SF/Oakland has a great metro system of trains and buses. I easily navigated from the Oakland airport to the Mission district where I met up with Middle Savagery and Rob. Though quite tired, their sparkling conversation and enthusiasm perked me up and we had a great time eating dosas at Dosa.

Eating round, flat things would turn into an unintentional theme for the weekend. Thursday dosas, Friday pupusas, Saturday pizza. I don't think Sunday's meal, Mission burritos, held true but MidSav argued that they were round and flat before being rolled up so they counted. Though all the meals were yummy, the pizza from The Cheese Board was phenomenal. Also a standout was the Bug Juice Ale at Triple Rock, a brew pub in Berkeley.

Most of my time in SF & Berkeley was spent eating, reading graphic novels late at night, walking, and window shopping. SF is stuffed with little shops selling cute things. I think we went into at least four stores along the line of Giant Robot, which we also visited. The best window display goes to DoublePunch. Despite all the browsing, I didn't buy much. A few things from Little Otsu and a pile of CDs from Amoeba Records Berkeley branch. I went into the main Amoeba records too, but after a few minutes I was just too overwhelmed to focus. I'll go with a specific list next time.

Saturday night I went to see REM, but I'll cover that in the next post.

On Sunday we hit the Castro generally so I could see the gay(er) part of SF, but specifically so we could see the new Indiana Jones movie at the historic Castro theater. See, MidSav is an archeology grad student and so we just had to see the movie. The theater itself was grand and it was great to have the curtain part and the movie start. No ads, no trailers. I went in with low expectations, yet was hooked in the first five minutes by Spielberg's fantastic use of mirrors and shadows. And then the George Lucas crap came in and those low expectations came rushing back. Best action sequence of the film? The motorcycle chase, which un-coincidentally had no (or at least subtle) CGI effects. Anyway, we laughed walking out.

The two best things I saw in the Castro was the sex toy shop, Does Your Mother Know? because I love inappropriate ABBA references, and the guys in pink bunny suits giving out free hugs and roses. On the way to eat, we passed an alley covered in impressive graffiti. Turns out it's the well-known Clarion Alley.

After burritos, we returned to find the vehicle gone. Towed. Suck-o. Well, we weren't parked legally, just had followed others illegal lead. Between the three of us we worked out who to call and where to go to get it back. Sorry about that budget buster friends!

Monday I had some time to kill before my flight out so I rushed to the city and hit the SF Museum of Modern Art. I wrote some notes about the work that impressed me most, but I seemed to have misplaced it. I'm sure I'll come across it and then I'll just edit this entry.

UPDATE: The notes were found, though really it's just a list of works I liked.
Gerhard Richter - Lessende (Reading)
Lichtenstein - Rouen Cathedral Set V
Rothko - No. 14, 1960
Richard Serra - Boomerang

Oh yeah, we also went out to the beach, ate at a diner overlooking the ruins of the Sutro Baths, walked through Chinatown, drove through the Presidio, and got offered "nuggets" while walking through Golden Gate Park. MidSav, according to the DEA, love nuggets are marijuana, so now you know. At this point, I'm kinda tired of writing, so the activities of this paragraph shall not be expanded upon.

More trip photos here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fun night

I wasn't with my usual night preceptor one night, though I don't think the events of the night would have gone differently if I was. Night.

One of my patients had gotten out of surgery earlier that evening and was to remain intubated and on the ventilator all night. Usually we try to wean patients off the ventilator and get the tube out as soon as the anesthesia has worn off sufficiently. Though I don't remember the one time I was on one, it's clear that people mostly do not care for ventilators. Instead of gently sucking in air as usual, patients now have a tube down their throat that blows air into their lungs. Unnatural, uncomfortable, and often anxiety-producing.

This young man was prescribed medication to decrease his anxiety and surgical pain. They weren't really keeping up despite a couple calls to doctors for increased dose and over the course of the night he was getting increasingly agitated. His hands were tied down with soft wrist restraints as we usually do with intubated patients who are not yet calm and rational enough to not grab for their tubes and IV lines. This guy was clearly not with it mentally, yet had the presence of mind to try wiggling down in bed so he could get hold of something to pull on. Several times an hour I had to readjust his position because he was close to grabbing his Foley catheter or airway suction line. Through rubbing it against the mattress, he managed to slightly dislodge the line going into his radial artery (the wrist) that measures blood pressure continuously. While I was trying to re-tape it, he yanked back and it came out. Great. I bandaged the site and got an order to follow cuff blood pressures instead.

With all this, and upon the advice of my temporary preceptor, I called a doctor to get the patient started on a sedation protocol where we could adjust a continuous drip of medication to the desired effect, calm and not fighting the restraints. Unfortunately, the middle of the night is not the best time to request the needed medication pumps as the supply staff is only a skeleton and take forever to deliver items.

At one point, I had to reach across this guy and hold his arm down because he was grasping at his chest tubes. These are tubes that are inserted between ribs or under the sternum to drain blood and other fluid from the chest after surgery. They also help reinflate lungs that have been deflated either for surgery or because of a pneumothorax (good picture of deflated lung and chest tube there). I couldn't go around the other side of the bed to readjust and retie his restraint because I was worried that during transit, he'd grab and pull his tubes out. I said, "Sir, I cannot let you pull your chest tubes out." He looked right at me and vigorously nodded as if to say, "Oh we'll see about that!" The other nurse in my pod had gone to the supply room and my preceptor had stepped away for a moment. So there I was leaned over the patient, holding his wrist, craning my head around toward the hallway waiting for someone to walk by. It was kinda funny. Kinda. After only a couple minutes, another nurse walked by and quickly came over to help.

Around 4:30 I started to give him his bath. My temp preceptor, who is a large, strong guy, held the restraints while I washed down the patient. Despite doses of medication before the bath, the patient was still agitated. The medication pump had arrived, but we hadn't titrated the medication up enough yet to have the desired effect. At one point while we were concentrating on his upper body, he managed to get his Foley catheter tubing between his toes and yanked on it. Um, dude. There is a balloon inflated in your bladder to anchor that catheter. You do NOT want to be yanking on that. Can you say traumatized urethra? Well, not with that tube down your throat.

Toward the end of the bath he settled down though. I was just finishing up redressing his surgical incision when the patient jerked suddenly and I looked up to see a look of shock on my preceptor's face. The patient, moving quickly, had grabbed a chest tube and yanked it out. My preceptor covered the hole with his glove and called for help, I ran to the supply room for some gauze impregnated with vaseline which is used to cover the hole so air doesn't leak in.

A couple other nurses came over to help and I paged the resident on-call to come reinsert the tube or suture the hole closed. Woken up in the sleep room, the resident was groggy when he called back and at first didn't really get what I was saying. "Just come down here now please," I said as nicely but firmly as I could. The patient wasn't putting out much fluid through the tube and had another one on the same side so when the resident showed up fully awake, he just sutured it closed. While he was working, early morning visiting time had come and I tried to head off the family before they came on the unit. I caught the mom in the hallway and explained the situation, worried she was going to panic. Nope. "I thought something like this might happen," she said looking apologetic, "He's a pretty anxious person usually. I sorry he's giving you so much trouble." Oookay, then.

From there, we switched to a different, more powerful sedation med which worked well. The pulmonary doctor showed up soon after, thinking she was going to be extubating him. "What's going on here?" she asked innocently. I told her the whole story and she sympathized. I paused the sedation med so she could see his behavior (it gets out of the system quickly) and within five minutes he was back to pulling and wiggling. By this time we were at shift change so I reported off to the next shift nurse and went home to well-deserved sleep.

A couple days later I walked by the same pod and saw the pulmonary doc. She beckoned me over saying, "Look here." I rounded the curtain and there was my guy, sitting in a chair eating dinner. Thanks to the amnesiac qualities of the sedation meds, he didn't remember a thing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Night shift and getting the hang of it all

I've been working nights for a couple weeks now and it's going well. My night preceptor is great and I've learned a lot from her. It was up in the air how long I'd be with her before I'm off orientation and working solo. At the end of last week, we both agreed that I needed more practice caring for unstable patients needing interventions such as vasoactive drip titration (regulating the dose of constantly delivered IV meds to keep heart rate and blood pressure within certain parameters) along with a second stable, but still critical patient. Managing both while still making and receiving calls, delivering scheduled medications, completing paperwork, and drawing labs, all within the alloted time, is a skill I've yet to completely master. Then of course I also have to be using critical thinking to work out what's needed when.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A beautiful thing

I laid down for a little cat nap tonight and unintentionally fell into a deep sleep where I had an incredible dream. It was late at night and a big group of my friends ringed a microphone set up in Mybloody's front lawn. We were playing a gorgeous song. Some had acoustic instruments: guitar, orchestra bells, viola, banjo, shakers, wood blocks; everyone was singing. It was a gentle, sweet song cut with a fair bit of longing and even though the words were sad, we kept looking at each other and smiling as we played on and on and on.

When I woke up to the roar of the A/C fan, I laid in bed stunned by how wonderful it all was. Then I scrabbled for a tape recorder, trying to hold on to the melody. Like many dreams though, it faded away and didn't make much sense when I tried to get it down on tape. I admit I teared up a little, both for the idea that my friends and I had made something so beautiful and out of frustration that I'd lost it.

I'm not convinced that dreams are a window into the subconscious, but this dream integrated two things I love very much, music and my friends, in a way I wouldn't have in my waking life. So friends, pick up an instrument today or just sing and try to catch a moment of joy or fear or sadness. I'll do the same.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Art Guys - Nothing To It

After a work shift on Saturday 5/3, my preceptor dropped me off at the University of Houston so that I could see The Art Guys' show Nothing To It: An Evening of Itty Bitty Witty Ditties. Despite the trying-too-hard-to-be-humorously-obnoxious name, it was a lot of fun. The Art Guys are a Houston institution. I won't recount their biography, you can read that here. In brief, they are performance artists with an emphasis on the fun and funny rather than the dull and ponderous.

This show was a retrospective of their work performed in front of an audience that was clearly heavy on their friends, family, and ardent supporters. The first work sounded like a good idea, but in practice only partially worked. Called Future Music [In Three Movements], a projector displayed instructions that each audience member should, at a random time during the rest of the show, shout out one word. As soon as the description was up, people started calling out. The words were almost exclusively nouns like asparagus or chicken, you know "funny" words. And once the children got started, oh man was that annoying. Again, good idea for a piece, but when the audience is full of wannabe comedians and hyperactive, bored children, it don't work no good.

I won't go through every piece, just hit the highlights. A great work that worked was Kiss Piece where the two Art Guys applied lipstick and kissed every member of the audience. It was funny and sweet. Good friends and (I think) family got kissed on the lips, bald guys got kissed on the head, shy little girls on the hand. I can imagine that for a different audience it could be uncomfortable or even hostile (which would also be interesting), but for this hometown crowd it went smoothly. Kiss Piece was immediately followed by Guzzle A Beer - At Any Time - (For Tom Marioni). It's exactly what it sounds like. For the rest of the night, the director would intermittently flash up the title on the projection screen and the guys would crack open beers and guzzle them. Near the end they handed them out to some of the other back-up performers and even one guy in the audience. Seeing as the guys aren't really party animals, it was more to be endured than enjoyed, at least after the first round.

Inverted Karaoke was great. Jack, who cannot play, sat at a piano and attempted to perform "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" while listening to it on headphones that blocked out all other sound. Michael, equally horrible, "sang" along while also listening to headphones. It was cacaphonous and hilarious. Another mostly auditory work was Wrap Piece where the guys pulled out giant rolls of industrial-strength plastic wrap and proceeded to stretch it around rows of seats and handrails, working to express all the squeals and thrums they could. Plywood was a visual spectacle with dancers and chorus singing the praises of plywood. While fun to look at, this elevation of a mundane object to glory went on too long.

The last piece was also the most serious. Entitled For Martin, Jimmy and Bill, it consisted of Michael breathing audibly into a microphone while Jack slowly turned a rain stick. Sounds kind of lame, but in the near-dark, as a meditation on breath and the end of life, for someone like me that cares for people on ventilators every work day, it was beautiful and moving.

The whole show was filmed and will air on the Houston PBS station at some point. There are photos from the show on their website as well as clips from other performances.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Amorous RN, or how not to be accused of same

During a brief moment of live TV, where as I'm usually watching something recorded by my Tivo, the weekend weather guy for the Houston CW affiliate was doing his thing. I was a bit dumbfounded by his name, Casanova Nurse. Really and truly, that's his name. Unfortunately his bio does not reveal the provenance of such a unique moniker. I like that he (most likely) does NOT live the life that his name could have dictated, skillfully wooing then abandoning patients in an endless string of medically-based conquests.

On that note, last week I was advised that I should make sure a female nurse or patient care tech was present whenever I examine female patients and to leave bed baths to the female staff as precautions against allegations of impropriety, which have ticked up recently. With the pain, lack of natural light (and therefore cues to the time of day), dearth of quality sleep, medications for pain and anxiety, or just idiosyncrasies, patients who've been in an ICU for days can become confused and somewhat paranoid. For instance, even in my short time working I've seen several patients who think that all staff discussions are about them, including gynecological surgeries for men and imminent childbirth for elderly women. Good thing I have a psych background, it's useful.

It's rather annoying that I have to be so cautious as I have no interest in molesting my clients and I can't really imagine a nurse getting in to this line of work with that intention. Still, better safe than sorry or as we often say, CYA.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Up all night

I started working nights this week. My schedule in general is:

- Wake up at 5 PM
- On the bus to work at 6:05 PM
- Work 6:45 PM to 7:15 AM
- Home by 8:00 AM
- In bed by 9:30 AM

Soooo much better than waking up at 5 AM. On my days off I'll wake up and hit the gym, do laundry, and grocery shop before those places close at midnight, then enjoy the peace and quiet of the night. At first I'm sure I'll do a lot of reading and movie-watching, but I do plan to go on some photo excursions around my neighborhood and finally get out to the music clubs to see some bands. A social life would be nice as well.

I was going to advise my friends to avoid calling me during the day, but I accidentally left my phone on yesterday and didn't wake up despite three separate calls. Yay for the air conditioner/white noise generator in my bedroom.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hectic day, but I did it

Started the day with two patients, both of whom were ready to transfer out of our unit. After getting the requisite doctor sign-outs and orders for Patient #1, I started packing up the his things when the monitor for Patient #2 alarms. I look over and see no blood pressure on the monitor, then flick my eyes over to the patient who is calmly sitting up in her chair, then to the blood on her wrist. Dang, the arterial line has come out. I ask another nurse to grab a blood pressure cuff while I get some clean gloves and gauze to hold pressure on the site of bleeding. Cuff goes on, site stops bleeding, secure it with tape, then toss the bled-on pillow.

Call report on Patient #1 (the one who didn't bleed) and move him upstairs. Back to the unit and my open spot is already assigned for a patient currently in surgery. Call housekeeping for a stat clean and start setting up for the admit. Intersperse setting up suction cannisters, tubing, monitor cables, etc. with prepping Patient #2 to transfer upstairs. Call report on her then hand off to my preceptor cause here comes the admit, a "pump case" - cardio-pulmonary bypass pump during cardiac surgery - who will be on a ventilator while recovering from anesthesia. These guys can be quite unstable and this one is initially very hypertensive. Treat that, have family back for a quick visit and status update, and then catch up on charting.

Now as Patient #3 warms up (they're chilled during surgery to reduce metabolic demand), he's vasodilating and dropping his blood pressure. Calls to doctors for fluid orders. Hang multiple bottles of albumin (yes the protein in egg whites and shampoos, though this version is human albumin) as an intravascular volume expander. Success! He's stable, which is good because now it's time to set up for another admit in the bed formally occupied by Bleeding Wrist Lady. It's not part of some cruel hazing, just happens to be the only spot open for an admit.

My preceptor helps me set up the spot while I keep one eye on still-intubated dude. Patient #4 rolls out and we're off again with stabilization, family update, and charting. While fetching a medication my preceptor says in passing, "Don't worry about the bloody sheet behind [Patient #3]'s head. It's all good. Just wanted to warn you so you don't look over and panic." I appreciate the heads up.

90 minutes later it's time to report off to the oncoming shift. Whew. Four patients in one day with two of them pump case admits is unusually heavy. Of course I had lots of help from the other nurses in my section as everyone pitches in during new admissions and nobody's going to let you (and the patient!) drown. I was most proud when a co-worker said, "I like that I didn't hear any crying over here."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Love my Car Olé

Another nice weekend in Austin. This time I came up to visit with my wonderful (but slightly misanthropic), adorable (yet occasionally menacing) friend and former roommate Carole and her sister. Both now reside elsewhere and it had been a while since they'd been back to Austin. I didn't join them for the requisite trip to Toy Joy and Momoko, but I did attend the night swim at Barton Springs. Sure the water is 68 degrees but if you just start swimming, the exertion keeps you warm. Getting out is mildly uncomfortable, though I find that vigorous towelling and thoughts of perhaps going to Kirby or Magnolia for pancakes soon resolves the shivering and goosebumps.

Lots of eating out including meatloaf at Hyde Park, Thai pizza from Flying Tomato, breakfast tacos at Tamale House, and a strawberry cheescake snowball from Casey's where we heard but did not directly witness a two-car collision. Thankfully everyone was OK and I didn't have to spring into action. It makes me nervous that I might be called upon to render medical aid outside my job and volunteer activities. Of course I'll do it as needed, I'd just rather not have the "opportunity".

Oh hey, I just realized that Carole, her sister, and I failed to convene a meeting of the organization we founded many years ago. BOTA, or Bring On The Asteroids, is dedicated to periodically becoming so frustrated by the general suckiness of people that we throw up our hands and welcome an asteroid bombardment that will wipe out humans and allow the rise of a new sapient race. Hopefully the bonobos who are generally groovy and prefer sex over violence.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Medicine on TV

So I was watching an episode of a TV drama and there occurred a medical emergency which played out so poorly, I shrieked, "WHAT?!" at the TV. A very fit young man is in the hospital after being beaten up. One minute he's talking, then suddenly the EKG monitor (which an assault victim with no history of cardiac problems would not have) alarms and IMMEDIATELY a doctor comes running in saying "He's crashing. Get me O2 and an ambu bag." The monitor completely flatlines (wrong) and a couple more staff members (nurses, possibly) run in. The MD starts totally ineffective, fake-ass chest compressions with the patient still up at a 30 degree angle in the bed. The nurse with the ambu bag gives a few breaths, then caresses the patient's chin. Huh?

Oh it was so bad. I'm sure police and lawyers get riled by horribly inaccurate portrayals of their professions too. A guy asked me once which TV shows were the most medically accurate. The best one is Trauma: Life in the ER but that's a documentary show so it really doesn't count. I haven't watched it in a while, but ER was pretty decent in that the actors had practiced doing fake intubations, chest compressions, and other procedures. I recall as well that the treatments they rattled off by and large were accurate for the patient's condition. Of course, like all medical shows, the doctors did tons of stuff that really nurses do.

Scrubs is rather bad, both in the wildly inaccurate depiction of medicine and in severely dropping off in quality after the third season. Don't even get me started on House.

And then there's my favorite quack doctor. No not Dr. Nick of The Simpsons. I'm speaking of Dr. Spacemen (SPA-CHE-MEN) on 30 Rock. A couple episodes back Dr. Spacemen (wonderfully played by Chris Parnell) rushes in to see an unconscious man who he instantly and correctly identifies as being in a diabetic coma. After some ineffectual bungling, Alec Baldwin's character says, "Couldn't you just, you know, inject something right into his heart?"

Dr. Spacemen, with a look of concern and pity, responds, "I'd love to, but we have no way of knowing where the heart is. You see, every human is different."

BWAHAHAHA! Thank goodness for Tivo so I can pause and rewind because they weren't done. Spacemen grabs the phone and says, "Is it 411 or 911? [pause] New York. Uh, diabetes repair I guess?"

Oh how I love, love, love Diabetes Repair.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A typical Monday of late, in that it involves work, frustrated desire, and something funny

I didn't make it to the dramatic presentation. I transposed two theaters when I was looking at directions originally and when I realized the mix-up it was too late to make the show. Oh well, there will be other opportunities. I'll just have to stay on top of what's playing and plan ahead. What I like about Houston is that classic and contemporary, much-lauded works get mounted here. Quite different from Austin.

Yesterday work was a study in contrasts. When I started the day, I took two patients with the plan being that I'd give them up at 9 AM to another nurse so that I could get more practice admitting difficult cases. Two hours to assess the patients, document, give medications, while also managing phone calls from family, updating doctors on condition, and providing comfort care isn't much time. I didn't quite make it and by 9:30 just ended up fetching one patient's meds for the relieving nurse to give. Dang. Then I found out that the surgery schedule started late because resident interviews had begun that morning. We wouldn't be getting the kinds of patients I needed till much later in the day. I kept myself busy helping others and studying a little till my manager called me up for my 90 day review. I'm doing well apparently and get a small raise. Yay.

At 3 PM (or 1500 as medicine uses military time) I took back one of my original patients and prepared for a fresh post-op case. He came out at 1700 and the race was on to do as much as I could get done before the next shift showed up at 1845 while also, you know, taking care of the patient. As I was saying to Mybloody last night, I once started to write a post about post-operative care of patients who required heart bypass during surgery but when it took three paragraphs just to establish the basics of hemodynamics, I deleted it. Too complicated and therefore boring for anyone that doesn't want to actually do it I think.

Anyway, I again didn't quite make it in the time allotted. Between assessment, calls and conferences with doctors, warming the patient, managing blood pressure, giving meds, and documenting I didn't get to some paperwork and a few of the less important medical orders. I was and am disappointed that, though improving, I'm still slow. My preceptor said, "You did fine. Are your patients still alive? OK then." To which I replied, "That is *not* the standard I'm shooting for at this point." I'll get there eventually but I'm not one to be patient with my own progress, grumble grumble.

On a lighter note, this made me laugh:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I was ready to be impressed

Oh Houston, I'm trying to like you but you're making it difficult. Last week I got excited because I found out about the Westheimer Block Party. Lots of bands and artists, free, and just a 20 minute walk away. It started at noon, but after a long week at work I slept in, read a bit with Muriel's Wedding on in the background, went to the gym, and ate a leisurely early dinner before heading down to the Party. Three hours later I was walking back home rather disappointed. Here are some notes I jotted down:

- This band would like to be the Strokes. Now they're playing Tom Petty's "American Girl". Huh.

- Bandana. Why?

- The painter of stylized rotund people is here.

- Shitty drummer for a jazz band. Saxomophones.

- Screw is still a going concern in Houston. [Reading the Wikipedia entry, it's still a going concern everywhere. Shows what I know.]

- Between song time > song time = no good + me moving on

- Suck.

- Nice guitar, belongs in better band.

- A song I like! Now sucking.

This was the most entertaining thing I saw

I really should stop comparing Houston to Austin, but it's hard when the city you love to pieces is not the one you're in and the one you're in jabs you in the ear with mediocre to poor music.

Tomorrow I get my first taste of Houston theater. My cultural hopes are elevated yet wary.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tiring, yet fulfilling week

Very busy at work this week, particularly today. My preceptor has almost completely stepped back, leaving me to handle things on my own unless I specifically ask her input on my plans or for a hand in boosting in patients in bed and the like. It's stressful doing the job without her help, but she and I agree that I'm ready and I best get as much practice handling the work solo because I'll be switching to night shift soon enough. After a couple weeks with a preceptor to get the hang of the work flow at night, I'll be on my own. Of course I can still ask the other nurses for help or input, but the responsibility will be mine with all the little mental freak-outs that come with shouldering it.

As I said, today was busy. I started the morning with one patient, admitted a fresh surgical patient, transferred the first one to the floor, admitted a third patient, transferred the second one out, then managed the third until shift change. Despite it being so busy, I had time to fall in love with my first two patients. Though their quite different backgrounds played a big part in why I was so taken with them, for confidentiality reasons I can't go into detail and changing the details to hide their identities just defeats the point. I can say that their motivation was a joy. Too often post-surgical patients just want to lie still in bed. These patients wanted to get better and followed the medical plan of care to achieve that. More than once I told one of them, "I wish I could shoot a video of you to show other patients how it's done!" I'll have to remember them both when I have the inevitable bad day.

I still really like my job. Yay.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A taste sensation?

A little Tex-Mex place near my apartment has a drink on the menu called Vampiro. It's a combination of orange, carrot, and beat juice [sic]. In rapid succession I thought of the following definitions for that last ingredient:

beat juice

1. the combination of blood and saliva that flies or leaks from the mouth whilst being pummeled: After he provoked those bikers, they extracted at least a pint of beat juice.

2. reputation for DJing skill: He's got massive beat juice.

3. semen: After holding off for 18 days, the masturbation session resulted in massive beat juice. At least a pint.

Beyond adding a deep red color and therefore justifying the name Vampiro, beet juice just doesn't sound all that appealing. Still, it's preferable to making a drink with definitions 1 and 3.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Anti-clotting med shortage

Though reports vary, it appears that there is a world-wide shortage of heparin. Heparin is an injected medication that prevents clot formation and extension. Where I work it's used to keep IV pressure lines and dialysis catheters from clotting off, to reduce clot formation until longer-term anticoagulation therapy kicks in as well as for the prevention of thrombosis formation in patients who have reduced mobility, i.e. lying in bed all the time. We got word that the normal supply was disrupted and so for single doses would have to use syringes that Pharmacy is preparing and distributing.

After some reading of wire reports, I think I got a handle on the shortage. Starting at the end of last year, there were reports of patients experiencing allergic symptoms such as difficulty breathing, rapid drops in blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting after single doses of heparin. In February, Baxter Healthcare Corp. issued a recall of heparin after many more reports of reactions including some deaths. Later Baxter announced they were suspending manufacturing. A couple weeks ago B. Braun Medical Inc. and American Health Packaging issue a voluntary recall as well.

Turns out that some of the ingredients were originally produced in China. In early March, the FDA found that the Baxter heparin had a substance called chondroitin sulfate in it that had been chemically changed so that it had a similar effect as heparin. Chondritin sulfate is much cheaper - shades of lead-based paint on toys huh? At first, the Chinese government said that quality control on the manufacturing of heparin should be carried out by the importers. They about-faced several weeks ago and issued new guidelines for stepped up testing and registering of suppliers.
Between this lax control on manufacturing and the Tibet crackdown, I'm a little peeved at China.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) publicly stated that there was no heparin shortage because of the recalls but, uh, when you've got three of five manufactures recalling it and hospitals practically rationing supplies, that's a problem.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

St. Arnold's Brewery, an afternoon of beer

Yesterday I went to the St. Arnold's Brewery here in Houston with some friends. The brewery conducts a tour and tasting every Saturday afternoon. It was packed so the "tour" consisted of an employee with a mic explaining a few things about the brewery, which maybe 25% of the audience cared about. Then he explained the way the tasting worked, which I guess about 75% of the audience cared about (the other 25% were clearly veterans who knew quite well how it worked).

$5 gets you the speech, a souvenir St. Arnold's half-pint glass, and four tokens you redeem for drinks. Even the kids or teetotaling friends can join in as St. Arnold's has a root beer. If your kids are bugging the hell out of you I guess you could go half root and half real beer so they'll become sedated, or possibly belligerent. I kid of course, alcohol for children is a no-no.

I had two Lawnmowers and an Amber. By the time the final call came, I was too full from lunch and beer to use my last token. Next time I'll be more diligent. Click the above pic to go to Flickr for more photos, if you're into that sort of thing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The South Park me

South Park Studios, where you can watch any episode from the series, recently launched. Following the lead of other animated program websites, they have an avatar generator.
This being South Park (with all that implies), you can chose from the basic body types of Female, Male, Canadian, 4th Grader, and Kindergartner. Skin tones offered are Hispanic, Caucasian, African, and Gay Tan. Yeah. I went with Male and Caucasian. The outfit is the closest I could get to scrubs, though the color is exactly right. Wish I had the Photoshop skills (and the actual program) to take out the "T" and add in a stethoscope and a pocket with pen, scissors, and hemostats. Still, fun!

UPDATE: Mybloody made my wishes come true. Picture now updated with stethoscope, pen, and hemostat. Thanks Mybloody!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My nursing assessment Part I

As I've written about before, patient assessment is a major part of being a nurse. Here's Part I of what I do within 30 minutes of getting a patient either when I'm coming on shift or they roll out from surgery. I was going to type up the whole thing in one post and then I realized how long it takes to write it all out versus just doing it. It's organized by body system and yes, we have a form to remind the nurse of all the things to check.


Shine a flashlight in their eyes and watch for pupil constriction. Grade the size of the pupil (esitmated in centimeters) and the speed of constriction (brisk or sluggish). Grade their level of consciousness (alert, lethargic, obtunded, stuporous, or comatose). Grade their behavior (sedated, inappropriate, confused, agitated, or combative). Ask them their name, the day/date, where they are, and why they are there to judge how oriented they are. People who only know they're name are Ox1, if they know they're in a hospital and why and at least can get the month then they're Ox4. While they're speaking, grade their speech (clear, slurred, incomprehensible, or they have a breathing tube in and cannot speak). If they are aphasic, note whther they are having difficulty speaking (expressive aphasia), understanding what I'm saying (receptive aphasia), or both (global aphasia). Put two fingers in their hands and ask them to squeeze and release. Have them push against my hands with their feet and pull back their feet toward their knees. Grade their strength in these movements. Note if they have a drain or pressure monitor to their cerebral spinal fluid and if so the condition of the dressing over it, the level it's at, and the type of drainage (clear, serosanguinous, sanguinous).


Listen for heart sounds, note presence of S1 & S2 (the lub-dub sound) and any extra sounds. Check capillary refill at fingers and toes, grade brisk or sluggish (<>3 seconds). Note nailbed color (pink, pale, dusky, cyanotic). Grade the temporal, brachial, radial, dorsalis pedial, and posterior tibialis pulses (palpable, heard with Doppler, absent). Note chest tubes, their placement (pleural, mediastinal), suction applied if any, and what they're draining (clear, serosanguinous, sanguinous). Note pacemaker and/or internal cardiac debrillator and whether it is on. Note whether unused transcutaneous pacemaker wires are wrapped. Print a EKG strip and analyze it for the heart rhythm. Note or adjust the alarm settings for heart rate, blood pressure, and ST segment elevation or depression.

Note all IVs, their size and placement, when they were inserted, how the insertion sites look, and if the dressings over them are intact or due to be changed. If A-line (arterial line used for continuous blood pressure monitoring) and/or CVP (central venous pressure line used for monitoring that pressure as a measurement of right-side heart function and fluid status) present, calibrate the transducers and note how the monitor waveform looks and that the dressings over them are intact and up-to-date.

That's enough for now. I'll get to pulmonary, renal, etc. later. Is this boring? Should I spice it up with stories of things gone wrong?