The Extent That You Will Go for Your Patient

I was standing next to his bed, telling him a joke and he got majorly, majorly tickled and started laughing really, really hard...and blew a hacker (coughed up a huge phlegm wad) right on my bangs! Nurses Announcements Archive Article

Ok, so picture this. Brand new nurse, in the 1970's, in her little white uniform with her long hair severely pulled back into a bun in order to bobby pin her white cap with one black stripe in place. And of course, there is a caduceus stick pin at the tip of each side of the cap to hold that stripe in place. She feels confident.

After all, she made Nationals on her boards (an obsolete term now!) and proven everyone wrong that you could score an 8% or a 36% on your NLNs and still highly succeed!

She walks into the room of her very first patient, leaving behind a little hick town in Pennsylvania and venturing to the dazzling hospital lights of Duke University Hospital in North Carolina. "Hi, my name is Shelley and I'll be your nurrrr...." as my very first patient decides at that very moment to have a carotid blowout.

Blood is spurting from his fresh trach tube but all I can see is the fear in his eyes. Thank the good Lord for adrenaline and a big mouth. My hands flew, first to the right side of his neck to apply pressure and the other to that big, fat, red emergency call bell as I calmly told my patient that he was going to be fine and then screaming for HELP.

All in all, it was a good experience. The floor was known for these emergencies and was there for my patient and me in a heartbeat. It gave me confidence in the place I had chosen to start my career and it also gave me a close friend for the next 9 months of my life. My first patient, 'Jack' (not his real name).

Jack had multiple, multiple cancers and had actually donated his 40-year-old body to science for experimentation prior to dying of one of these cancers. His contribution to the world. He was willing to undergo surgeries as well as chemo clinical trials in order to hopefully help just one person in the future.

When I worked, I always had Jack. He knew lots about me and I knew lots about him. He loved the taste of coffee more than anything and couldn't wait for his upcoming surgery to hopefully reconstruct his cancerous esophagus. (It had been 6 months since he had had anything to eat or drink at all.)

He hated the non-fitted bottom hospital sheet. I loved my mom's lasagna and hated phlegm, which of course was a hoot to him because as previously mentioned he had a trach. I lost little time in switching on the instruction mode and taught him and his wife the correct suctioning technique. The thing we had in common was a great sense of humor.

The long awaited day arrived. Jack was recovering nicely from his esophageal reconstruction and today he was going to have his first cup of coffee! We were both joking around as we were passing the time for his wife to bring in a thermos of her coffee.

Oh, please, hospital coffee on such an auspicious occasion? I think not!

And then it happened...

I was standing next to his bed, telling him a joke and he got majorly, majorly tickled and started laughing really, really hard...and blew a hacker (coughed up a huge phlegm wad) right on my bangs!

He was laughing hilariously and I was freaking out with just as much emotion. And of course, we all know what happened then...

Grand Rounds shows up!

The whole group thinks Jack is having a seizure and the whole group also thinks I am an incompetent nurse not knowing what to do. They all started ordering Valium for each of us, assistance for Jack, a paper bag for me to deep breathe into. But rather quickly I resumed control of the room and explained we were both enjoying a well-deserved laugh and actually received a hearty "Ha-ha" from the Chief of General Surgery.

A little later Jack savored each sip of his fresh brewed coffee with his wife by his side and me staying a decent distance away, just in case.

Oh God, our caps! The cute little tacs we had to hold on the stripes! We made ours stick with KY jelly!

You made me smile. I never had too much trouble with mucus, but have seen more than one poor nurse gag from it. Loved the story!

Great story!! I have the same issue, I applaud you for your commitment to your patient.:yeah::chuckle

Specializes in Derm/Wound Care/OP Surgery/LTC.

Thanks for the laugh...I needed that!

Specializes in Psych, LTC, M/S, Supervisor, MRDD,.

Ive been a nurse for 13 years and still puke when I see sputum. I'd a barfed on poor jack. I'd a laughed about it later. Thanks for sharing that was great!

Thank you for the heart warming story.

lmao ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww that is yuck!!!

OMG your story made me laugh & brought tears to my eyes!! I worked a unit like that for many years in the 80's- I remember the caps/pins & crisp white uniforms- also getting 'nationals' on boards, LOL! I was never so happy the day they said caps were "optional"- and wearing scrubs is sooooo much better than those uniforms that we had to iron- LOL. Thanks for bringing back some fond memories from those days!

Specializes in Geriatrics, med/surg, LTC surveyor.

That is a funny story, thank you for sharing. It reminds me of why I am in nursing to begin with. :yeah:

Specializes in Hospice, Geriatrics, Wounds.

I don't know why - but I can handle ANY body substance except sputum. Sputum makes me so nauseated. I had a similar experience, I was bending over to give an injection of lovenox (I was working in a LTC facility) and my Pt (had throat, lung CA) had an emesis basin on his bedside table full of yucky sputum (from the whole night). When I stood up from giving the injection, I noted that my hair had dipped in the emesis basin and was now stringing up my arm, on my shirt and just hanging from my hair. I almost lost it. Thankfully I only live 1 mile from work and my DON let me go home and shower while one of my fellow nurses covered my halls.

Valuable lesson learned: wear you hair up, always

:up:kudos to you! I too been there ,done that:D trach, and clogged feeding tube irrigations! You could always tell when the prev. shift nurse had failed to do these cares for whatever the reason! :o I used to keep a clean uniform in my locker; unbelievable!!! things like that happened so you tried to find the humor No matter if I worked in hospital, or nursing homes, I went out of my way to ensure my pts were clean and needs met. I was tought that if you are going to do something then do it well! So, with instances like that you had to find the humor in itfor both of you, or cry! An instance that stands out for me was when I worked on the oncology floor and one of my pts had throat cancer; last stages, and a trach. The Dr had told us he was a DNR, and at some point his corotid would just blow, and that would be it! The pt was given one of those hand bells to ring when he needed help, and an hr short of the shift ending, I heard his bell and went into his room, The artery had ruptured and blood spurting every were! All I could do is grab a towel and put at the site, and not block his trach. The head nurse heard me yell for help and saw his light was on over his door, and came running! Between the both of us we were able to at least ease his last few mins. You try not to get too attached to the pts, but believe me, I've shed lots of tears for pts! It is for real no job for anyone that thinks they are just going to run around in a white uniform, giving out pills all shift! Sometimes even though you are careful and follow protocals stuff still happens. Sometimes your shift goes easy, and sometimes stuff happens fast! Sometimes you wonder if nursing was a right choice. Most of the time though you know you wouldn't change it for anything, and you give it your all! Learn well the stages of death and dying as it gives you understanding not only the pts, but their families actions. Sick people don't always act approperately to a situation, but they act out at the nearest thing, and sometimes it's the nurse,. and you have to understand it is nothing personal, just a release on their part at trying to deal with it all. Some days you might wonder why anyone is a nurse! Between Pt's, their families, your co workers, and the Drs you can have quite a day! It just comes down to you are as good as your team you work with.:yeah:

OH yuk..hahaha..That is horrible. Horrible...Glad I was not the only one with sputum on me....

What a great post. Yes you are correct. I just know I am so done with hospital nursing after many years. I now work out in the community doing psychiatric assessments. No medications, No IVs, No bedpans, No dying patients...well not usually unless they jump off a building doing a suicide. (that is not the norm). After I do my assessment I call an ambulance and off they go to the psych unit. I see 2 to 3 clients in a 10 hour day. LOVE my job. Easiest job I ever had. You get up and personal with these clients and hope you are actually helping them in some small way to just live another day...We all need to WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER.....newbie nurses will learn this. Us old ones are climbing out of the trenches and doing other type of nursing that is just plain easier to do.