‘I couldn’t focus on anything but this infant lying still in the bed. Stressed? Not the word.’: Nurse-in-training ‘overwhelmed’ by responsibilities, realizes keeping ‘peace’ is most important for the family

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“I began my orientation in February 2018 with a set of amazing preceptors. These nurses would guide me and teach me not only how to be a nurse for the first time, but how to be an ICU nurse. The first day was observation only. To say the least, I was overwhelmed. I walked into the patient’s room and I couldn’t focus on anything besides this infant lying still in the bed. I guess the little boy in me kept coming back to the word cyborg. Pumps, pumps, and more pumps. Fourteen to be exact. As my eyes slowly moved across the room to take it all in, I saw a ventilator, a machine that breathes for the patient when they can’t themselves. Fourteen IV pumps, a ventilator, and what else? The monitor above the bed had rows and rows of colorful zigzags with numbers out beside them. For a second, the only one I could make out was the heart rate because it looked like a heartbeat on an EKG strip from school. I couldn’t even comprehend everything I was seeing as I looked back down at the baby. Five EKG leads, a BIG IV (central line) coming out the chest, a pulse ox, chest tubes coming out in every direction, and many other stickers and dressings that basically covered the child from the neck down. What else did I not see, did I not know, what else would I be responsible for?

I sat for 12 hours and watched my preceptor, Anna, glide across the room like a figure skater. Making assessments, exchanging one IV bag for another, pushing meds, changing diapers, silencing enough alarms that I do believe it could have been considered Chinese torture and so much more.

Oran Tubre/World Of Broken Hearts

Day 2 I was in charge of charting every milliliter that went into and out of the patient every hour, but every hour, each of those 14 pumps could push anywhere from .1ml to 100s of milliliters, depending on the patient. That volume, in addition to every liquid medication, every wet diaper, every bout of emesis must be charted. As I began to take on more charting responsibilities, I learned that every move the child makes is vital to interpreting how well he or she is doing. Down to a sneeze, which in infants could be a sign of withdrawal. A sneeze.

So let’s recap:

Make sure all your pumps are running at the right rate, with the right dose, and the right med. Don’t let any of the bags run out or you’ve set yourself up for another 20 minutes of playing catch-up. Remember every move the patient makes. Watch all those zigzags and numbers on the monitor: if they start heading in the wrong direction, you’d better alert your provider. Give all other medications on time. Coordinate your day with respiratory, occupational, physical, and speech therapists to ensure the baby is moving forward toward wellness but not overworked.

Don’t let the baby lie in a wet diaper. Turn him and brush his teeth every two hours so he doesn’t get pneumonia or a pressure ulcer. Does she have a pulse? How strong are they? How many times does he breathe in a minute? How do her lungs sound? What about his eyes? Are they the same or have they changed? Gotta check every hour to be sure you don’t miss anything.

Stressed? Not the word.

Oran Tubre/World Of Broken Hearts

Throw in two anxious parents trying to survive the scariest time of their lives, three sets of grandparents who aren’t even completely sure what questions they are asking, and one older sibling who needs Paw Patrol stickers ASAP, and you have a very long run-on sentence/12 hour shift.

What else would I be responsible for?

How about peace.

How can I bring peace to this patient, this family? After praying about this shift after shift, the answer was right in front of me. Prayer. I believe in it. And whether religious or not, I have yet to have a mother or father decline when I ask to pray for them and their child. Not only does it lift up this tiny, sickest of the sick bodies to the Great Physician to heal—I could feel it give the parents a sense of comfort in knowing the nurse taking care of their child cared enough to speak a bold prayer out loud: ‘Lord please heal them.’ Prayers don’t only benefit the patient and family, but also me. It reminds me that this child’s life is in the hands of the Maker of heaven. Not me! Phew.”

Oran Tubre/World Of Broken Hearts

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by nurse Oran Tubre. A version of this story originally appeared on “World of Broken Hearts,” founded by Suha Dabit. She helps spread awareness for congenital heart disease (CHD) and organ donation. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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