Monday, May 13, 2013

I Am a Nurse, I Am an Island

By Laura Webb, BSN-RN, MRP

Most nurses value our autonomy at work. Much of our time is spent working independently, caring for our personal load of patients or engaged in a unique administrative role. It is empowering to be “on our own” sometimes.

On the other hand, the autonomy in our jobs can sometimes leave us feeling isolated and alone.

Do you ever feel like you are working on your own, hectic little island? Whether you work at the bedside, or behind a desk or podium, it is important to find ways to reach out and bridge the gap between your patient population or work silo and the rest of the medical profession.

It can be easy to get caught up in our own silos at work. We may be too busy “fighting the fires” that are inherent to patient care. Or, we may not have access to an easy mechanism for connecting with our colleagues.

Social networking sites can help to bridge this gap when we are looking for support and insight about our nursing roles. In fact, they are vital to many of us. But, we must be ever mindful of patient and staff confidentiality concerns and it can be hard to resolve an imminent crisis online.

So, how do we connect to our colleagues in meaningful and timely ways? Many facilities encourage – or require – nurses to round with doctors in order to share pertinent information and develop interlacing plans of care. It is important that we have consistent, timely, honest and mutually respectful means of communication with our colleagues, our patients and their loved ones. Shift-reports sometimes take place at the bedside, for this very reason.

But what about those times when you feel swamped, overwhelmed, or abandoned with a heavy patient load? Who do you turn to for help? Do you have an SOS system (formal or informal) within your facility, or among your colleagues?  Obviously, for severe patient distress we have formal means of calling for help, including rapid response teams and code teams, and formal consults with colleagues and other professionals.

But, how do you handle all those less dramatic, but also exhausting, events at work? Like the JG tube that springs a leak, leaving gastric juices and/or tube feeding fluid all over our patient, or his bed, the floor, or the nurse? What about the arterial line that suddenly dislodges, erupting a pulsating volcano or arterial blood? Even the day-to-day incontinence of a debilitated patient can become physically draining when we are left alone at the bedside, or tending to multiple other patients.

You may also experience technical problems, such as a computer that seizes up in the middle of a med run, or an equipment failure in the middle of a presentation. Who do you turn to in these moments of distress?

Most nurses develop an informal support group at work. We all know and love a few reliable, caring nurses and nurse assistants who will always assist with a bedside crisis. Unfortunately, most of us are also familiar with nurses who disappear in our time of need.

For the most part, however, much of our work ends up being a team effort, and we all know that there will be times when we will be in need of that team support. What goes around comes around, in nursing as in other aspects of life.

How do you reach out to your colleagues for help? Do you have a formal mechanism for addressing informal crises, like “Code Browns?” How can new nurses develop a reliable support system at work?

Let’s hear your stories and ideas -- you can leave a comment here and/or start a conversation on NurseZone’s Facebook page as one way to reach out to colleagues.

1 comment:

Chelsea Degree said...

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