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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Drama -Life in the ER


I have mentioned before that a good part of my nursing career was spent working in the ER. While much of the excitement I witnessed there seems to run together in my memory there are a few stories that stand out in my mind. This is one of them.

It was a busy Saturday night in the emergency department. Business usually started slacking off around eleven o’clock but this night was an exception. We received a radio call from an ambulance en route to the hospital. The paramedic described the patient as a 31 year old female complaining of back pain after falling at work. I groaned, realizing that it was my turn to get the next patient. The prospective patient did not seem exciting to me at all but I knew I had to take the good with the bad and I went to prepare the room.

I was soon greeted by two paramedics pushing a rather large lady on a stretcher. The lady was wrapped in a blanket (although not very well) and I could see that she was completely naked. I said nothing but a raise of my eyebrow let the paramedic know that it was time to let me in on the whole story. It turned out that she was an exotic dancer who was “working” when she lost her balance and fell off the stage. Her complaint was back pain and she was being quite vocal about it with loud moans and groans.

I reached immediately for a large gown because she wasted no time losing the blanket that covered her bare body. I was determined to remain professional in the situation. I was not going to pass judgment or make light of her problem regardless of the circumstances that led to it. I began my assessment asking her a round of questions regarding a generalized back injury –rate your pain from 0-10, are there any aggravating or alleviating factors? She asked for some clarification regarding the questions so I asked, “Is there anything that makes your pain better or worse? Maybe a certain position like sitting, lying, standing or walking?

She thought for a minute and then replied, “The only position that really makes it better is doggy style.”

I almost lost it. “Keep it together!” I told myself. Be professional.

“You must mean that the fetal position makes it better, right? Like when you curl up in a ball?” I asked…hoping…pleading.

“Feline position?” she asked. “Huh. No I’ve never heard of that one. That right there’s a new one on me. How does it work?”

I then managed to create a fake emergency so I could leave her room and warn the doctor who was rapidly approaching and although it took some coaxing he maintained his professionalism as well. He saw the patient, examined her back and she was given a prescription for the narcotics that she undoubtedly came for.
With that she was on her way. As she left walking down the hall and out the door still wearing the hospital gown we provided her with, she inadvertently gave us a free show. Unfortunately she was unable to tie her gown properly in the back so the doctor and I stared silently as we watched her rather large backside fade into the distance. The silence was then broken when the doctor commented, “People are actually paying money to look at what we just regretfully saw for free.”

I have more stories such as this that I will share from time to time and you will notice a common theme throughout which is, the ER is nothing like you see on TV. It does stay very busy and there is plenty of excitement to go around but no one has ever screamed at the top of their lungs for me to do something “stat!” or thrown their arms up in the air and shouted “for the love of God!” Quite frankly that’s the way I like it, or the way I did like it before changing career paths. Nowadays my excitement comes from my son doing something for the first time, e.g. crawling, taking a step, shot gunning a beer, and so on.

The day will probably come when I miss it badly enough and return to the excitement and the adrenaline rush that the emergency room brings but I am forced to remind myself of the patients that I don’t quite miss dealing with. The scary psych patients handcuffed to the stretchers, the grabby drunk guys and the fat strippers. I think I can do without them for a little while longer.