Thursday, January 30, 2014

This was an ethical problem with a simple solution.

If you have a patient who's been a heavy drinker and heavy smoker (like five 40-ouncers and a couple packs a day) since their teens, and they're now in their 60's, and they live with family members who are unlikely to stop smoking and drinking just to keep them healthy, and they also live in a food desert and have multiple comorbidities and things generally suck, it is not a dereliction of duty not to suggest that they get their carotid arteries Roto-Rooted in order to restore blood flow to their brain after a minor stroke.

Especially since no amount of improved blood flow is going to repair the damage caused by forty years of vascular dementia. You could've driven a truck through this guy's sulci. I mean, seriously. There was so little working brain tissue in his skull it would've been a crime to reperfuse it.

So we sent him home on blood pressure medicine that he won't take, and aspirin that he won't take, and comforted ourselves with the knowledge that, had we done everything in our power to make him better, he would've been nickel-and-dimed to death with tiny strokes. This way, what with the drinking and smoking and high-fat food, he'll likely have one huge stroke and that'll be it.


In response to a question below in the comments on the last post: Where I come from, "CCU" means "Critical Care Unit." It's the same as an ICU. NCCU, therefore, is Neurological Critical Care, whereas NSCCU is NeuroSurgical Critical Care. There is no difference, just as there is no difference between an LVN and an LPN--they're both skilled nurses who aren't allowed to hang blood in this state. The difference in terminology is a conceit of the facility, nothing more.

And with that I'm going to go eat junk food and fall down for a couple of days.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

You know how, sometimes, things get brown and ucky and dull?

That's the way things have been around here, lately. Every couple of years I kind of brown-out--not burn out--on work, and blogging, and people and nursing generally.

Then I get better.

That is what happened this last couple of months: I browned out and then got better.

A lot of it had to do with work. You guys might've heard that the flu season has started. We have a thirty-bed medical CCU, and sixteen of those beds are filled by people under the age of 50 on ventilators or ECMO (a way of oxygenating blood by taking it out of your body, zapping it with O2 through a membrane, and returning it--sort of like lung dialysis) because of the flu. These are previously-healthy people, too. The old and sick ones are just flat-out dying.

Plus, there seems to be a sale on myesthenia gravis these days. I hear that if you have six patients with MG in your NCCU at once, you'll get an eggroll. I need our eggrolls to be delivered, please.

Meanwhile, as the plague is sweeping the state (and our staff), we were preparing for a couple of really hugely fucking important surveys. One was a TDH (Department of Health) thing that happens occasionally, just to make sure we're not all licking our hands clean between patients. Another was a certification survey, which was a very, very big deal, given that the surveyors would be coming to our unit, primarily, and going through charts and asking tough questions and so on.

Joint Commission surveys are generally held to be bullshit. They go like this: everything gets repainted, stuff gets put in storage rather than left out in the halls, the bathrooms finally get fixed in the locker rooms, and you get multiple nastygrams from chart auditors in the weeks leading up. Then the JC shows up, does whatever it is they do (pity the poor souls, though it's probably better than whoring), and things go back to normal.

This was not a JC survey. It was actually, you know, hard: thorough and comprehensive. Two very nice people showed up without much warning one morning and started asking me questions about neuroanatomy. One of them stuck around until the afternoon, watching us care for patients (there are certain things you do differently for neuro patients, and differently if they're, say, stroke patients versus neurosurgery), sitting in on patient education, and generally making me and my coworkers nervous. The two of them were critical care specialists, too, which made it even more fraught.

We passed. We passed perfectly, with no demerits. First time out, spandy-new NCCU, and we fucking aced it. Nobody else in the country has ever done that on this survey. So we got that going for us, which is nice.

Our manager, for whom I would take a bullet, bought us a huge lunch to celebrate. Our manager's manager, another woman I'd step into the line of fire for, came up the next day and was so overcome she was actually teary-eyed. The director of medical services and the critical-care big boss came up and congratulated us. So did the president of the entire Consolidated Research and Medical Care Gargantuan Whingnut, of which Sunnydale General is a part.

And the new nursing officer? The individual Der Alter Jo and I nicknamed The Dalek? Said nothing. No acknowledgement whatsoever.

This is the person who's responsible for approving hiring and firing and wages and working conditions and safety and all that shit, and he has not said word one about a survey which, to be honest, focused less on medical care and more on nursing care.

I kind of expected that, to be honest. Still, it sucks that the person whose job it is to make sure that my colleagues and I have safe, sane, decently-provided working conditions, continuing ed, all that stuff, was absent from the hallelujah chorus.

It baffles me that somebody so tone-deaf could keep moving up through the ranks like he has. I wonder what photos he has in his posession.

Anyway, it's been a hard slog of a couple of months. I don't know if things are getting better, or if I'm just getting acclimated to being torn four different directions at once for twelve hours at a stretch. I gained all of the seventeen pounds I had so carefully lost, and slept worse and bitched more than is normal for me, but that all seems to be evening out now.

Anyway, I'm back. Mongo is a big, furry goofball. The cats are just fine as froghair. Boyfiend is doing something brewerish tonight. Sherlock is in his flat and all is right with the world.