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.