Saturday, December 29, 2007

I Pity The Fool: A Team versus B Team

Movin' Meat has a post up from a week or so ago about what it's like to work with the B Team of nurses.

It got me thinking about the differences between the B and A teams. I've been travelling a lot this past month to different units as staffing gets and stays wonky, and I've definitely had to adjust to the B teams on my own and other units. (Everybody thinks they're on the A team, but I think perhaps I'm not too far off-base with my thinking.) Some of the differences I've noticed:

1. With the B Team, shit simply does not get done.

Illustration: Two weeks ago I floated to another unit. Two hours prior to shift change, one of the day nurses had called in, and the night charge had not called anyone else to try to fill the spot. That's the charge's responsibility, working in tandem with staffing, at our facility. So I showed up, the floor was short-staffed as hell, and we all started with eight high-acuity med/surg patients.

Illustration Numero Dos: While on yet another unit, I got report on a postop patient who had a hemoglobin of 6 and a crit of 24, a blood pressure of 80/48, and a temp of 94.3F. The reporting nurse said, "You'll have to run two units of blood, stat." Uh, no, I replied, since the patient doesn't meet transfer criteria; you'll have to be the one running the blood. "But this guy's been down here four hours already, and I have two more patients coming in!" was the reply. (crickets...crickets) Quick cluebat: If you're postopping a patient for four hours, and he's your only patient during that time, and he's not stable, you have time to run blood. No, really. You do. Trust me.

Illustration Number C, or How It Should Be Done (The A Team): One week postop, a guy who'd had a radical prostatectomy showed up on the floor hemorrhaging from his penis, sweaty, with a temp of 95, HR 126, BP 90/50. By the time the resident had been able to cut out of surgery (half an hour later), I had drawn a rainbow of labs, typed and crossed two units of blood, started a saline bolus, administered a total of twelve milligrams of morphine for his excruciating pain, and started two large-bore IVs. I had a coudet cath set and urinometer at the bedside, along with dilators and lidocaine jelly and Versed.

I could not have done this all myself; the other nurses on the floor did things like start one IV while I did another, called the blood bank to give 'em the heads-up on the patient, and ran supplies back to the room. *That's* the A Team for you.

2. Attitude is everything. With the B Team, the attitudes suck.

Illustration: B Team tech/unit secretary/charge/staff nurse comes in, snaps the heads off co-workers, throws tantrums at the lab and radiology staff, belittles the respiratory therapists, and refuses to provide lift help. She or he spends most of the day on personal phone calls and surfing the Web. There's always a personal crisis that either takes up hours of the workday or necessitates the person leaving early. Best example? A secretary I'm fortunate enough not to work with all that often walked in and announced she'd have to leave mid-morning to attend the funeral of a relative, shot during a bungled drug deal.

How It Should Be Done (The A Team): Everybody on the unit shows up on time, clean, not hung over. Perhaps without the shiny-happy attitude that characterizes Disney employees who are still on the clock, true, but with coffee in hand and ready to work. Personal disputes are relegated to the back burner for twelve hours and cell phones are on vibrate. "Cute Overload" is checked for therapeutic reasons only. This is, thank God, where I work.

3. That certain indefinable something: The B Team Ain't Got It.

I don't know if it's experience (though newbies can certainly be A-Teamers) or perceptiveness or initiative or what, but the A-Team has something the B-Team ain't got. You'll notice that there are some nurses who rarely have patients go bad, unless circumstances are extreme. Some nurses seem always to be a step ahead of the docs when it comes to changes in their patients' conditions. Some nurses rarely if ever have patients who end up with decubitus ulcers or constipated. Those are A team nurses.

4. Humility and the ability to admit when you're in the weeds: See Above.

I work with really, really good people. Therefore, when I'm totally rag-assed and overwhelmed, I can ask for help. When any one of us doesn't remember what the hell a lipase value means or what a particular surgery involves, we ask about it, and nobody laughs. If somebody's in a bind with some procedure or other, or doesn't remember exactly how to level a ventriculostomy, we all are willing to help. And we're not afraid, any of us, to admit that there's somebody better at starting IVs or running NG tubes or putting in a catheter.

God help the nurse who works with the B team: she's on her own.

5. Finally, professionalism and calm: Not To Be Found on the B Floor.

Illustration: Fed-up attending throws temper tantrum at nurses' station. Charge nurse responds by getting in his face. Situation escalates. Nasty words fly. People start waving their arms around. Security is called to de-escalate the fight. (Yes, I've had a fun month, thanks for asking.)

How It's Done On the A Team: Fed-up attending throws tantrum at nurses' station. All the nurses stand around watching until he runs out of steam, then charge nurse remarks calmly that she's glad Attending feels the same way we all do, and why doesn't he write an email to the Carpeted People about it, since our complaints haven't made any difference? She then shows him how to operate the email system and thanks him for his concern. No longer fed-up, the Now Abashed Attending apologizes for his behavior. We accept the apology as a group and all go on taking care of business.

No screaming, no freaking out, no security, and everybody involved understands how professionalism was breached, how it was restored, and where we all stand individually and as a group. We're working together rather than at odds with each other.

Even A teams have B days, for sure. Sometimes everybody's a mess, or getting sick, or a mess *and* getting sick. The A teams, though, pull out of the weeds and keep going, while the B team floors fall to hell. I'm lucky enough to have landed on the A-est of the A-teams at our facility, and fortunate to be able to keep up with my coworkers. After the last few weeks, I am not going anywhere else. Ever. Period.

That's the kind of loyalty the A team inspires.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

'Twas the day after Xmas; all over the yard

A lone dog was chewing his prime rib bone hard.

He didn't believe when I gave him the bone;
He thought he'd spend Christmas night cold and alone.

But I came home at seven and gave him his treat,
Something better than kibble and raw egg to eat.
What a sight! Big brown dog-eyes with all the white all around,
As he went off to bury his bone in the ground.

Now it's the day after. His joy undiminished,
He searches for bits of the bone that aren't finished.
I have a surprise for him, here in the kitchen;
Two other prime-rib bones. Max's Christmas is *bitchin'*.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Chrissolstikah Story

We were sitting around, doing nothing except trading stories of Irritating Family Christmas Traditions.

Munoz and Galindo had nothing to contribute, as Christmas Eve in Miami is celebrated (at least in their families) with huge pitchers of sangria and a slightly tipsy midnight Mass. Porchevsky likewise spent thirty years in the USSR keeping his Christmas traditions under wraps--and Possible Detention By The KGB is past irritating and on into scary. The one Jew in the room, a neurological oncology resident from Israel, was ignoring us and reading the paper. That left only the American nominal Christians to complain.

Becka started: "My mother makes us watch 'A Christmas Story' every year on Christmas Eve. I hate that movie. It annoys me. The business about 'You'll shoot your eye out' makes me pray every year that the kid actually does have some horrible accident and has to spend the rest of the movie in the hospital."

"You think that's bad?" responded James. "My family refuses to acknowledge that I'm gay, and I keep getting books on how to meet women, and free subscriptions to online dating services." He slumped in his chair. "The worst was when the family brought three different girls to meet me at Christmas dinner. They probably hoped I'd marry one of them by New Year's."

I knew I had the ace in the hole, so I waited until everyone else was finished, then cleared my throat.

"My father," I began, "has collected over thirty different singing, dancing, light- and motion-sensitive Christmas decorations."

The room was silent except for the scrape of the neuro resident turning pages.

"Every room in the house, and some of the closets, are fucking deathtraps. If you go into the bathroom on the ground floor, there's a wreath that sings to you. The kitchen is inhabited by a plastic Christmas tree that sings and dances and *tells jokes*. You can't cross the living room without something starting to whirr, click, and recite 'A Visit From Saint Nicholas.'"

"The only thing they lack is a dancing Menorah that sings 'Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel.'" I finished.

The neuro resident looked up from his paper and fixed me with a stern eye. "That is *not* Kosher," he said. "Hannukah is for making donuts and lighting candles. It is not about dancing Menorahs. Besides," he finished with a wail, "I HATE THAT SONG!!"

"No disrespect meant," I said, "But you have to admit that a toy fat guy in a red suit kicking his feet as he hangs out of the chimney isn't exactly embodying the spirit of Christmas, either."

"In fact," I said, struck by a sudden thought, "The only thing my folks lack, besides a dancing Menorah, is a Nativity scene in which the Virgin sings 'Papa, Don't Preach.'"*

That did it. Everybody, including the neuro resident, collapsed laughing, and then we all had some donuts.

Happy Holidays, everybody. Whether you spend it drinking sangria, praying in an onion-domed church, dancing around a fire, or eating potatoes in various forms, I hope it's a good one.

*I post this thought with some trepidation. I'm sure Dad will start looking for a singing Nativity now.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


A bouquet of roses on the thigh of a woman who'd been a whore in Paris during the second world war.

A shirt and shorts of Japanese history on a pierced guy about my age in for back surgery. "Will the incision mess up my art?"

The names of three children arranged in a biohazard sign on the bicep of a Marine.

Tiny parachuting stick figures and a crudely-rendered plane on the upper arm of a man who'd been a Russian paratrooper during WWII.

Four dots on the foot of a woman with a huge brain injury.

A teardrop on the left cheek of a man who'd been shot in the head.

Two, in the same week: one on the inside of the left forearm, from Monowitz. One, upper left chest, tattooed all at once earlier in the war, from Auschwitz I.

Umpteeen trails of barbed wire around biceps.

A dragon over a mastectomy scar.

The names of four children, all born dead, winding around an ankle.

One very well-padded woman on the chest of a Korean war veteran. He was embarrassed to let me see it, thinking I'd be offended.

I wish I could take a camera to work.

When it hurts, I cuss.

Prodigally. Fluently. Creatively.

When it hurts a lot, I just make a sort of "Ehnnnggaaaahhh" noise

Today, because I know how to have fun, I stepped on a needle. It was large, but there's no such thing as a small needle when it's going through your foot.

It went straight through the ball of my foot, between two bones (thank FSM for that), and tented the skin on top of my foot, just north of the second and third toe space.

The going-through wasn't as bad as the tenting, and the tenting wasn't as bad as the pulling-out. Like babies and bad oysters, that sonofabitch hurt more coming out than going in. But, after I'd made the requisite "Ehnnnggaaahh" noise and sat down heavily on the side of the bed, there was nothing for it but to pull the damned thing out.

[My earliest memory is of looking through the French doors into the dining room of The Old House at my father as my mother rushed me upstairs. Seems I'd stepped on a needle at whatever age it was (two? Three?) and the needle had gone into the bone of my heel. I have vague memories of watching her pull it out as I sat on her lap in the rocking chair, but the strongest memory is of Dad looking up from his desk in the dining room (which was then his study) and seeing his face go slack.]

This was not that bad. In fact, the worst part of it was momentarily feeling the lump in my skin where the needle eye wanted to break through (because I had, of course, stepped on the thing wrong-end-up). Chef Boy was right there, grabbing my arm and keeping me from becoming hysterical. Bravo, Chef Boy.

So, after a moment for contemplation of the possibilities, off I went to see my friendly neighborhood Doc-In-A-Box. The MD entered the room with the words, "How's the seamstress today?"

Everybody's a comedian.

I have a tetanus shot in my left shoulder and 500 milligrams of Keflex to put in my belly thrice daily, as it would be a bad thing (as the MD pointed out) to get an abscess in my foot just before Christmas. Silly me, I thought an abscess was a bad thing at any time.

I also have about 300 ml. of Pommery POP champagne in my belly. Yes, it's only 13:24. Yes, it's a weekday. But dammit, I finished my Christmas shopping after getting a tetanus shot and stepping on a needle; I'll be damned if I face the rest of the day without help.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

So I'm weird. What's it to you?

I find the most fascinating site on the Internet.

Macerators? Power showers? Bathrooms en suite? It's a whole new world.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Things I have learned on my winter vacation:

1. I am a cheap-ass S.O.B. Instead of dropping twenty-eight smackers on an in-drawer knife holder from Williams-Sonoma, I cut off part of the cardboard center from a roll of shelf liner and cut slits into it. Insta-knife-holder, for free, which not only keeps the knives from getting dull, but also prevents unwitting finger amputation! (I also use magazine subscription cards and those "Have You Seen Me?" things as coasters. Yes, I suck.)

2. I am a clumsy mother(shutyomouth) as well. Friend Pens the Lotion Slut and I were exiting the local shop-n-snack when I tripped and fell. Spectacularly. On dry, flat pavement. That was probably the highlight of Pens's trip, sadly.

3. I am not as good a cook as I thought. Friend Pens and I visited another friend of ours, who made such wonderful food I felt thoroughly spoiled in less than 12 hours. Of course, any recipe that starts with butternut squash and 3.5 cups of half-and-half will be good, but still. Plus, Bek and her husband live in a pastoral setting just up the hill from the Brazos and have a firepit. It was a perfect visit. Perfect.

4. Lane Bryant *rocks*. I went there just a few days ago for the first time and was amazed. I'm technically (in Big-Girl Speak) a "tweener"--somebody who can wear a 10, 12, or 14 depending on the cut. LB specializes in Big Girl clothes, and man, does their stuff *fit*. Every shirt I put on fit my lats and shoulders. Every pair of pants and skirt I tried fit my weightlifter's thighs and butt--*and*! you can buy pants with smaller or larger waists, so those of us with a size 10 waist and size 14 butt won't go naked! They're having a huge sale right now, so go. Seriously. I'm still not mentally over not being a size 6 any more, but the staff and clothes at LB made me feel normal and sexy and stylish.

5. My dog rocks more than I ever thought possible. Hanging out with Max for two weeks uninterrupted made me so grateful to have him around. He's smarter than most people I meet and better-lookin' than all of 'em.

6. I am capable of heretofore-unimagined feats of laziness. The first five days of vacation? Couch. Chair. Eat. Sleep. Beer at noon, with pizza. Couch again. The only time my metabolism got off baseline was when Atilla the Cheerleader showed up to make me run and lift weights. I have no memory of my first week off, and it was heaven.

7. I don't miss having a TV.

8. Not working is highly underrated. The most I did regarding work was to visit my work email and read the occasional, short email, then delete it.

9. If they'd pay me regular wages for staying home, I'd consider it.

10. I am going to be very sad to go back to work. Very sad. Especially when the alarm goes off at oh-dear-thirty on Monday.

11. But I still have two more days!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

(Insert clever title here)

Change of Shift is up at Doctor Anonymous's place right now. Yes, yes, I'm a couple of days late. What's new?


I am going on vacation for two weeks. That means I may or may not be blogging. So if I'm not here, don't panic; it's just that I'm napping or walking the dog or something.

It's about damn time, too. I think this is the first real (read: no plans) vacation I've had since before I started nursing school. I didn't have ten full days off during those two years, let alone two weeks without homework. The last time I took time off was for Beloved Sister's wedding, which was lovely, but a house full of my family is not exactly relaxing.

So. I'm going to paint my nails. I'm going to wear my hair *down* for a couple of weeks, rather than *up*, and possibly wear high heels during the day, just for fun. I plan to un-stick the drawers in the kitchen and scrub the house top to bottom and rake leaves. Friend Pens the Lotion Slut is coming to visit for a few days, so that'll be a nice interlude. I might even go shopping. And, of course, drink champagne for no reason, eat artichoke hearts, and do silly crafty things with paint and glue.

I'll see you guys in a few days to a couple of weeks. If I remember something that happened that I simply have to talk about, I'll talk about it...but otherwise, Head Nurse will be Nap Nurse until mid-December.