ICU panic button

  1. I have been a LPN for about two years, so I am not totally clueless of what's involved in patient care, although I am still very green. I am also finishing up my RN degree. We started our ICU clinicals last week for my RN. Oh my gosh, I was so lost. I felt as if I had never been a nurse a day in my life. I was so overwhelmed by ventilators, trach's, chest tubes, central/arterial lines. I always thought well what is the difference between an RN and LPN. I have a completely new outlook after spending a day on that floor. Is everyone overwhelmed by ICU at first. I thought I really had it together as a nurse before that experience. I know if I felt completely in control and unintimidated it would not have been a learning experience, but I have never felt like I was drowning. Will ICU ever be better, I hope so I have it here on out.
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    About lorrie

    Joined: Dec '00; Posts: 34; Likes: 1
    LPN, pain management/RN student


  3. by   Stargazer
    Lorrie, the answer to your question is YES, everyone finds it overwhelming at first. I would seriously wonder about any student or non-emergency or critical care nurse who walked in and thought s/he had it all figured out. I took care of a vent patient my very first day in ICU (with my preceptor at my side)and was intimidated and scared to death. Vents and PA catheters freaked me out the most. I would panic a little when the vent started alarming and vents were the hardest thing for me to get over being intimidated by.

    The main thing to remember is: LOOK AT THE PATIENT. The whole point of an alarm is to call your attention to the problem, but you don't want to run into a room and start messing with the piece of equipment that's alarming, you want to LOOK AT THE PATIENT, which is all the alarm is trying to get you to do, anyhow. If the pt is blue, troubleshooting the monitor or the vent or the pump is not your first priority. A similar piece of advice a preceptor gave me helped me get over my "vent fright" once and for all: if the vent is alarming and you don't think the pt is being adequately oxygenated/ventialted, disconnect the pt from the vent and bag him while you or someone else troubleshoots the problem. Once I knew I could do that, I got over it and quit panicking.

    You are not weird or wimpy. You are perfectly normal. Remember your very first clinical rotation ever and how foreign and intimidating everything seemed? You know how (relatively) comfortable you feel now doing pt care? ICU is like that. When in doubt, ASK FOR HELP!! No one expects you to know everything yet. Good luck!
  4. by   iamme457
    Two years is a good time to stop having night mares about ICU nursing, you probably will become kinda comfortable with it then. Yeh, I have been there done that but we are talking about you now. You sound like a really wonderful person and an exceptional ICU nurse. You just have to learn the alarms, the drugs, the problems and kinda learn how to save the adrenaline for when you really need it. Time, commitment and a lotta sleepless nights are what you have to look forward to. The end result is self did it and you are saving lives and you are on top of things and you continue to learn and save more lives. Oh and yes, you lose lives too and you have to grieve with the family.
    There are just a few tidbits I would like to share, and please carry them on with you as you grow. Dead is dead.....Asystole is the easiest protocol as you arent gonna make em anymore dead.....and dignity in life, dignity in decline and last but most important.....dignity in death.
  5. by   minurse
    believe it or not, there will come a time that you treasure the vented, paralyzed patient...when you only have to care for the patient's highly specialized needs...when you don't have to run down the hall for the "critical" cup of ice, bedpan, bandaid, etc. Even as an experienced nurse, the first day of ICU orientation, I thought "I'm not sure if I can keep track of 10 IV pumps and a vent and a monitor and vitals and,......
    It all works out.
  6. by   Zee_RN
    The fact that you felt overwhelmed and clueless is actually a GOOD sign. The new nurses who do the best in ICU are those who realize they have a lot to learn not those who walk in the door thinking they know it all. And you can get more support from your fellow nurses if you freely ask questions rather than try to act like you've got it all covered (when you don't--'cause they'll figure that out).