Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Florence Nightingale reporting In

My favorite Army nurse is checking in...

I must tell you that it has been a busy week for me. I have not been able to write or email as much as I would like. I have gone through a variety of emotions this week from happy to sad to upset and stressed. Everyday can be a challenge here because you never know what will come through the doors. Never mind, the constant challenges you constantly face in the ICU as you take care of your patients. Often though it feels like Ground hog day, like in the movie. I wake up every afternoon around 1600 or so. My battle buddy usually gets in the shower before me and I get the extra 10-15 minutes of sleep. We put all our gear on and walk over to the hospital before dropping our stuff off and heading to dinner. Dinner of course has turned into eating the same thing every night; it just has a different name. Then we sit for a few minutes before we “assault the mail room”. We head up stairs, change into our scrubs and our night begins. We hit the gym in the morning and then race to go to bed. Then it starts all over again.

I don’t even know where to start now. I learned an important lesson this week about the interaction of people you work with. It is always a difficult test to throw a whole bunch of people together who have never worked with each other before, send them to a place where no one speaks the language, take away the pieces of their life like family and friends and expect them to perform. I think most of you who have ever heard me talk about nursing know that I have very high standards. I like my patients and work area neat, clean and organized. I always feel that if you keep the area you work in organized that when stuff goes wrong you know where everything is and can act fast. I also always put my patients’ needs before my own. That includes going to the bathroom, eating, or anything else. I also have high expectations of the people I work with too.

I have learned that not everyone will share the same ideals you have. Not everyone will work as hard as you do to do the right thing. Not everyone will know what they did wrong or where they can improve if you don’t tell them. I have always had a difficult time correcting people. I hate the confrontation, especially with being in the military. Being here throws an interesting twist on things. Here, you can never get away. There is no place to go. There is no real escape. We all live, sleep, eat, and work together all the time; 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It’s not like you put in your time and head home and become distracted by your life. This is your life here.

I have learned that regardless of how I feel about confrontation, I owe it to myself and the person I have issues with to tell them about it. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding. Maybe they didn’t know that what they were doing was wrong or not the right thing to do. I have learned that not only am I an officer, I am a leader, a registered nurse, a teacher, an advocate. I will need to work on this idea while I am here.

My goal for the next year will be to take the CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse) exam while I am here. They are conducting a review course for the exam and they plan to give in the spring. I don’t yet feel like an ICU nurse even though I am told on a daily basis that I am now. I’m hoping to pass this exam so I can finally feel like I know something. I think that it will be helpful on my resume or my curriculum vitae for the military.

I have been taking care of an Iraqi burn patient all of this week. Whenever I am working I will get assigned to this patient. He requires so much care and I have taken on the difficult task of it. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t necessarily enjoy taking care of this type of patient, but I am probably good at it due to my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) tendencies. There are multiple dressing changes to be done throughout the day and night. He also requires the same regular care that you would provide for every patient anyway which include oral care and bathing, hourly monitor and vital signs, medication and pain management. I did get a compliment from one of our docs though; He said that the patient was getting better and that I should take care of the patient each night. The sad reality is I don’t think that he will. If it wasn’t for the medication we are giving him he would never be able to maintain his blood pressure or breathe on his own. A harsh reality. Perhaps if he were back in the states he would make it, but one never knows.

A little over a week ago our area was hit by a rocket. It impacted just behind our building where I sleep and near the trailers where some of my fellow co workers sleep. The blast wave from its impact broke most of the windows in our whole building. It apparently shook up the trailers next to us as well. My buddy and I had just finished dinner and were sitting out on the smoke bench ( she smokes, not me) waiting to do our daily assault of the mail room and all of a sudden we heard this loud boom followed by some fire like sparks over in front of the hospital. The smoke bench is located on the back side of the hospital by the EMT entrance. We both just sat there and stared at each other. It was like we couldn’t move. I was frozen. Finally I just said “run” and we sprinted to the hospital.

Everyone was obviously shaken and there were people putting on the IBA (individual body armor) and moving toward the front of the hospital. My buddy and I reported upstairs to the ICU and everyone was talking about what had just happened. Inside my heart was beating a mile a minute. I was trying to control my breathing and think clearly. I took report on my patient but I really wasn’t listening. I was numb. It took a couple of hours before I was back to myself. Our roommates and fellow co workers were coming in periodically from other places to let us know what was going on and that they were okay. One of my roommates was in the shower when the rocket hit and was attacked by the fan in the window that blew out with the blast. She also was greeted half naked as she was trying to pull on her clothes and get out of the building by someone barging in and telling her to get out.

When we returned in the morning, we found broken glass and were thankful that we have heavy curtains covering all the windows. We also have very tall concrete barriers around our building with concertina wire on top. It was at this time that I realized I’m really in a combat zone. I hear gunfire all the time. There are “booms” every now and again. I know that I am lucky though. I am not listening or engaging the enemy on a daily basis. I am not living in a tent or out conducting convoys or patrols. I am not a combat arms soldier who faces this danger every moment of everyday they spend here in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Well I should probably end this here as it seems like it is already 3 pages long. I tend to get a bit long winded. Sorry about that. I hope you all are enjoying my updates and that I am not boring you.

I’m hoping everyone is doing well. I am still taking it one day at a time. I appreciate all the support, emails, letters, and packages. Thank you so much. I will be in touch
With love


Anonymous said...

Amazing! I couldn't stop reading and felt like I was there with you shaddowing an Army nurse. For some reason, I always assumed that hospitals in Iraq were WAY out of the way from the real war. Thank you for sharing your experience. And thank you for being there. For us.
Fellow ICU RN in Washington.

Summer said...

What a wonderful young woman. I am so proud of her and I don't even know her, but then I do. This girl is everybody's daughter, she belongs to each of us...She has the heart so many of have lost, I will continue to pray for her safe return. She may not know this, but, she is nothing less than an Angel on earth, God protect her so she can send those home that need to come home, protect her hands that she can continue to take care of our children.

Chancelucky said...

We have someone close to our family who recently enlisted to be a dental tech in the Army. The recruiter stressed that she wouldn't be in combat.

This reminds me that in a war like this, there's no such thing. I admire the courage and the dedication of those who serve there on our behalf in all capacities.

brainhell said...

Wow, brave and young. Glad she's an officer.