Um...I Don't Know What an EKG Is

The good thing about writing about my beginnings in the nursing field more than 2 years after the fact is that it's easy to see how far I've come. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

Um...I Don't Know What an EKG Is

Case in point: when I started working in the hospital, my experiences in the medical field included several emergency room visits and one overnight stay as a kid, and sleeping in a chair at my grandmother's bedside the night before she died.

I guess my personality sold me to the nurse manager when she hired me on as a part-time unit clerk because it certainly wasn't my medical expertise!

So on my first day of computer training for the unit clerk job, I was sitting in a room with about 15 other students in it, I was the only one who wasn't at least an LPN. We were given a page of pretending doctor's orders to enter into the computerized ordering system for practice.

Now, on a side note, these were nothing like real doctor's orders. They were neatly typed (not scrawled illegibly), and they were distinctly sorted into lab tests, radiology, dietary, etc (not: BMP, CBC am, CXR am, advance diet to full liquids, troponin q8h x3, CT of abdomen stat).

So, anyway, I'm pretty computer literate, so I'm doing okay, finding the tests in the computer, ordering them and checking them off. It's been pretty easy to figure out so far, X-rays come from radiology, blood tests from the lab, and food from dietary, so I'm doing okay. Except for the EKG. I have no idea what an EKG is, or where it should be ordered from. But there are about 15 other people in the room, and no one else is asking stupid questions like "What is an EKG again?"

So the instructor comes over to check on me:

Her: "Looking pretty good... Oh, look you missed the EKG!"

Me: "Right, okay..."

Her: "Let me see you put that one in!"

Me: "Right, so I would... Um... I don't know what an EKG is."

Her: (stares at me dumbfounded) "Cardiology services?"

Me: "Oh, right, yeah I knew that!"

Fast forward 2 years. The hospital and I, we got along just great. I love the chaos, I enjoy talking to the patients, and I feel like I'm really coming into my own. After I got the unit clerk thing figured out, I moved on to working as a patient care technician.

I'm doing EKG's now, drawing blood, suctioning, and lots more things that probably don't need mentioning if you want to keep your lunch down. I also have three semesters of nursing school behind me.

One afternoon while working on the cardiology floor, we received a patient from the cath lab, complaining of a headache when she arrived. The resident happened to be there, so the RN asks her for an order for pain medication and heads into the room to check on her patient. I'm sitting at the desk putting together the patient's chart while the resident thinks out loud to herself.

Her: "Well she's allergic to Tylenol, says she takes Excedrin at home, but I probably shouldn't give her that because of the caffeine..."

Me (muttering to myself): "Yeah, plus it has Tylenol in it..."

Her: "Yeah. Oh well, I guess I'll just order a whole lot of aspirin..."

Me (still not looking at the resident, because I don't want her to think I'm telling her what to do): "Really? Aspirin? When she's already got all that Plavix onboard from pre-procedure, she's got integrilin hanging, and she just had a large hole bored into her femoral vein? Aspirin?"

I don't know what she ordered, but it wasn't aspirin. I'm going to love being a nurse!

I'm an emergency department nurse. I also have 5 years of experience in neurology and cardiology. I'm a former chef with almost two years of experience as a Registered Nurse. Prior to that, I worked in the healthcare field as a Unit Clerk and a Patient Care Technician. In my free time, I enjoy traveling to warm locations, spending time with her hubby and pets, and of course, surfing!

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Good for you...its amazing the things you learn not only in school but also listening to those around you......just from the conversation, you had the pt's best interests at heart.......good luck with school!!

You sound like you will make a great nurse with enuf tact not to **** off the pretentious older docs! good luck

Specializes in Pulmonary, MICU.

You have great insight and are obviously demonstrating the type of thinking that will make you a great nurse. But remember this...Residents are essentially students too! Even though they've graduated Med School 2-3 years ago, they should be (and most are) very aware that they don't know everything. Interns are typically acutely aware that they don't know much of anything. So don't be afraid to pose suggestions in the form of a question.."Would the aspirin's anti-platelet properties be overly synergistic with the medications the patient is already receiving?" Typically residents and even attendings are more than happy to consider this and explain their logic. It is a TEACHING facility, is it not? Kudos and good luck!

Specializes in CARDIAC.

I can almost see that very thing happening on my unit. We have several excellent unit clerks and though not persuing a nursing degree, they are very knowledgable. You seem to have good insight into how to talk back and be the residents sounding board. You could have created a scene and then where would you be? Sometimes I have found myself in similiar situations and I talk to myself. I laughingly say "If I think it, speak it, hear it,I will catch myself before I make a mistake", and some times I will find myself with another "talker" and we will make corrections for each other and laugh when we realize how wrong we were but by concentrating and talking thru our delemmia we are able to prevent problems. Sometimes the residents may have so many things on their minds that it is easy to miss the simple solutions. If I find a problem in noting an order, a phone call will usually solve the problem and the resident is appreciative and I have found they will brings things to me and ask if I see a problem before they leave the unit.:idea:

im so glad, I have read your story. :)

Somehow residents have the ability to appear knowledgeable than nurses. But yes they don't know everything. If you ever have doubts about a medical order, ask them, tell them what you think. It's not wrong to express your side. Good luck!

Specializes in Tele, Acute.

You will go far, my dear. Good Luck!

Hilary Clinton said "It takes a village to raise a child". This applies to caring for a patient. Everyone has a part to do and sometimes that is just listening and speaking up when you have concerns or issues. After 30 plus years of nursing I can say it takes many nurses a long time to learn what you have demonstrated as a student. Keep it up...your patients will benefit and so will your coworkers and physicians.

Specializes in Medical Assistant, LPN.

:redbeathe OMG.. i loved your story..sounds very familiar to what occurs to me currently at work. Though i am a CMA now only because I have not re-newed my LPN license here in the US, But very soon I will... Yayyyy!!! But your story reminds me of the scenarios at work currently and it is funny cuz though I have the nursing exp. I am only looked at as an MA right now, but not for long...!!!