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I originally wrote this post two years ago when I was working in an ER in a hospital close to my home town. I have not worked at that ER for over two years now, but I do remember it all so well.
What was it like?
When I started nursing back in the ’70s, we had a lot of patients to care for, but the technology of nursing care did not exist. We cared for patients with love and presence. That has changed today with all of the monitors and introduction of life-saving drugs into the medical profession in the past forty years.
In this fast-paced world of medicine, we could not care for 20 patients at a time as we did 40 years ago. Do you know that 40 and 50 years ago people were admitted to the hospital so they could get some rest? There were no beeping and lights left to keep them awake. People were allowed to sleep through the night if the doctor wrote a note in the chart requesting this.
Complicated financial changes
Every hospital is trying to save money and the time frame placed on patients stay weighs heavily on the care provided. Patients are to be in and out of the ER in 1-3 hours to increase the revenue.
To move people in and out of the ER so quickly relies on the coordination of all caregivers at the same time like Doctors, Nurses, technicians, respiratory therapy, pharmacy, social workers, laboratory and radiology. All of these entities have to work together to perform tasks as quickly as possible and produce results of testing to determine a diagnosis.
To care for one patient in the ER today involves monitors, pumps, numerous intravenous medications and a constant minute by minute changes with new updates.
I tried to prepare
I thought I was ready for my day ahead but quickly found out there was no way to predict the outcome of the horrendous assignment I received or the same for my co-workers.
But in my preparation for a long day, I did have a 35-minute drive to work each day. I liked my long journey as it gave me time to unwind and set my mindset to care for others in the best way that was available to me.
So, as I drove to work, I listened to my music on the radio with the sunroof open and prepared myself for a typical day. A typical day in this ER was becoming a minute by minute marathon.
ER nurse zoning
When you work in an emergency room each day and each moment is a new situation. On this particular day, I arrived at work around 11 am for my usual 12-hour shift that usually turned into 13 hours. I clocked in and went to my station.
In most ER settings a nurse is assigned to a station or zone which has 4-6 patient rooms that he/she will care for the patients placed in those rooms.
In this ER my zone was to open when I clocked in and was at my station. But on this day as many times before this, all 5 of my rooms had patients in them and no nurse caring for them because they had just arrived.
What this entailed was; I had five patients that I would need to check in, assess and follow through with the orders on each patient. The orders consisted of IV’s, meds, travel to modalities and meeting the physical and mental needs of each person.
On this day
On this particular day two years ago when I walked into the ER that I currently worked at I felt a sinking feeling as I clocked in. I not only had five patients but all five of those people were very sick and required my care in each room at all times. Now how can one person be in 5 different places at the same time? Impossible!!!
I was responsible for keeping these five people alive and carrying out all of the orders to maintain their wellbeing.
Any extra help?
Nurses work well together for the most part and help each other out. But on this day the staff was cut and running on bare minimum needs. The other nurses were in the same situation as I was. There was no one to help any of us.
I am sure many nurses are reading this post that understands exactly what I am saying. Many hospitals across the country have decreased the number of staff and increased the patient load per nurse. It all makes sense in the business world.
The nursing shortage in a business world
But this is not just a business world. These are people who need our loving touch to help them. They need our understanding and knowledge to alleviate their fears.
Another reason for the shortage is the lack of nurses to hire to care for patients. I attribute the nursing shortage to young nurses realizing that nursing is not for them after they have finished school. The constant beating mentally and physically exhausting lifestyle a nurse receives is not something that some new nurses want to experience.
Also, the average age of a nurse today is 50.ibu This means more and more are retiring, and less are choosing to become a nurse.
My only option was to pray.
Let’s get back to my day in the ER. It was horrendous. I felt like sitting down and crying because as one person I could not accomplish everything all at once. I was only one person, and the patients assigned to me were five.
What was I going to do? I had no options except to pray. So as I sat at my station with all five patients in need I bowed my head over my computer, and I said a silent prayer. “oh Lord, please help me care for all of these people today and don’t let me kill anyone” That was it a short prayer and plea to the Lord above.
I felt the hand of God on me that day. I felt the presence of the angel he had sent from heaven to be with my patients and me. What I accomplished was not humanly possible, and no one died. I couldn’t complain because everyone else was just as busy.
This poem birthed itself from this undeniably impossible day. I wrote this to remind all of us that it is not you or I who cares for each person, but it is the hand of God through each of us.
Today I am retired, and I have had a lot of time to think about the frustrations of our society today and how we care for people.
The nursing shortage is becoming an epidemic. The patient population are presenting to the hospital with more complications and require more in-depth care.
Our care we provide to the sick has become a business that requires a profit and the nurse to patient ratio has increased to dangerous proportions.
Nurses and hospital personnel can sit and complain, but that will only affect the care given to those who are very sick and in need of our loving touch.
Nurses do need to fight for the right to give good safe care, but they need to accomplish this diplomatically.
The only real answer to this problem is divine intervention. People deserve the best care. They need the best medical equipment and the love of a knowledgable person. And in light of the changes in nursing today this is an insurmountable human problem.
God can make a difference, and he is always here to answer your prayers even when the prayer is not formal and worded just perfect. He took care of me and all of my patients that day, and he will do the same for you.