Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Beep beep beep! I was up at 5:55 AM. Lovely. I think the last time I was up this early was when I was an infant. At least for regular school days, I only have to get up at 6:30. Next week, I'll be up around 5:00. But enough with my whining.

This hospital campus is huge. Well, maybe not by some standards, like a hospital in LA or New York or something, but it's big to me. Many buildings of many ages hodge-podged together and connected with underground tunnels and hallways and skyways, it reminded me of a combination airport and university. After a long, boring, and relatively useless orientation, we began the tour of the locations we would be during this semester. The cardiac cath lab, the ER, the OR, the dialysis unit, the PACU, MedSurg, and Trauma unit.

We started by touring the cath lab, and the nurses and techs were awesome. They really seemed to love their job. Honestly, most of the people we came across today seemed to really love the unit they were working in. I guess when almost any job that can be done in a hospital setting is available, there's no reason to not love your job. The video footage of what a cardiac catheterization really looks like was incredible! I couldn't believe I was looking at a 20-inch view of someone's left ventricle pumping blood and dye. It was awesome. But the cath lab as a whole? Terrifying. Snaking a wire and catheter inside a femoral artery, through the aorta, and into the tiny arteries of the heart is dangerous. They actually cath some people with the defibrillator pads on them, just in case.

The ER - wow! The director told us this is busy season - they had 380 patients on Monday and 330 yesterday. Not looking forward to fresh car crash victims. At all.

The OR and PACU we couldn't tour, because people are pretty delicate there and they don't need 10 squawking 20-somethings waking them up.

The dialysis unit was the worst. And that's putting it lightly. I've never been in such a miserable place in my life (although I'm sure I'll see worse soon enough.) It was about a 12-bed unit, just one big open room with some curtains between the patients but they weren't pulled. I don't think the patients cared. The room was so quiet, only the whir and beep of the machines and one portable TV in the back corner was noticeable. There was one woman I noticed immediately, in the second bed on the left. Her skin was pale and her head was just a skull with skin pulled tightly over it, and she looked to be in such pain. Her body was so thin it was just a few jutting bones beneath the bed covers. Right when I was thinking "Don't cry. Don't cry." one of my classmates whispered to me "I'm going to cry. Seriously." It was bad. None of the patients were talking, and the nurses were just sitting there monitoring them. Most of them looked like they were running on borrowed time. It was depressing beyond words. I dread the day I'll spend there. The way my instructor behaved was awful - she gave us the guided tour, talking loudly and jovially as if there weren't people dying around her. It was like we were in a zoo and they weren't real people. I was pretty disgusted. Certainly, a nurse has to turn off some emotions some times or else they'd go crazy. But when you've turned yourself off that much... something's wrong with that.

I'll be with a patient on the Trauma unit next week. There are people with head injuries and giant open infected sores and who knows what else. I'm mortified. Nurses' jobs are a lot harder than people give them credit for. I'm beginning to be much more appreciative.