Butterfly Sparks Designs

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Republic of the People.

One of my favorite things about being a Nurse is bearing witness to the people I serve.

Working in a hospital is like the set of a really good television show sometimes, and the characters are always colorful :)

Here are some characters from this week at the hospital, deep in the heart of Texas:

Mr. Westingame.

The first time I saw Mr. Westingame with all his tattoos, sitting in his wheelchair, I walked up to him and asked him his name. I was looking for a patient of mine, Mr. Bailey, who wasn't in his hospital room, whom I hadn't met yet. As I spotted Mr. Wetingame in the hallway, I thought he might be the patient I was looking for.

"Are you Mr. Bailey, sir?" I asked the man with shiny, tanned, and tattooed arms, who had a bald head and an attitude you could ascertain from a mile away.

"No, I'm not, I'm Mr. Westingame," he said.

"I'm sorry, I was looking for someone else and thought it was you," I said.

"Oh, baby, you've been looking for me all your life, you just didn't know it until now."

Smooth. Mr. Westingame is, and I gather has always been, smooth :)

Last night, a motorcycle gang showed up at the hospital to visit their fallen friend, Mr. Westingame, who suffered a motorcycle accident. Mr. Westingame has been in our Rehabilitation Hospital awhile now, learning to walk again, feed himself, and perform everyday grooming tasks. Mr. Westingame is walking now, he is feeding himself quite well, and grooms himself just fine. I came down the hallway last night to see the entire "rough and tough" gang walking towards our outdoor deck so they could "hang" and "chill" together on a Friday night at the hospital. The men were tall and hulking. The gang had on their black leather, cowboy boots, and various tattoos, but couldn't have been nicer as they continually addressed me as "Ma'am." Mr. Westingame made sure to let Alice, his nurse for the evening, know in front of his friends that she was quite special to him and his "favorite nurse- very good at what you do."

He meant it sincerely and said it with a tender smile towards Alice. Then he winked at me and set off down the hallway with his gang. That made Alice's night, and I have to say it made mine to come down the hallway and see this entire Motorcycle Motley Crew, gracing the halls of our hospital :)

Ms. Smith.

General Anesthesia, along with certain combinations of medications, has a way of altering some patients. If you ever have a loved one who will undergo the anesthesia, please say a prayer for them, the Nurse advises.

Ms. Smith, another of our patients, hasn't been quite the same since her recent vascular surgery. Seems the general anesthesia threw her for a bit of a loop. Prior to surgery, she was already on several psychotropic, mood-altering medications for various psychiatric diagnoses.

Many of our patient rooms house two patients to a room. These are called semi-private rooms. You can just imagine how pairing two total strangers in a room just leaves the door wide open for all kinds of antics, but that's another book for another time :)

Last night, I entered Ms. Smith's room to do a few dressing changes on her incisions. On my way out of the room, after I'd finished, I stopped to talk to her roommate, Ms. Whaley. As I was talking to Ms. Whaley, I heard Ms. Smith on the other side of the curtain, talking to someone. However, no one else was on the other side of the curtain with Ms. Smith. Knowing she had been suffering from hallucinations the day before, I peeked back around the curtain and said,

"Ms. Smith, who are you talking to?"

"Well, I'm talking to this man sitting right here on my bed," she said.

I cocked my head and looked at her, with a twinkle in my eye and a slight, smiling curve to my mouth.

"Oh! I know, okay. He's not really here, and I know that now. At least now, I know it, and I'm sorry, I'll stop talking to him."

"Yep, he's not here, Ms. Smith."

This might sound patronizing, but work with psych patients long enough, and you'll understand the humor that lies within it sometimes.

"Alright, alright. I'll stop doing that," Ms. Smith said, "I know Herman and the rest of them aren't real anymore."

Needless to say, Ms. Whaley asked for a room change later in the evening, for fear her "confused" roommate might start seeing more "friends" in her altered state and harm her in the night :)

Ms. Whaley's family approached the Nurse's station sheepishly and wide-eyed, after they'd stopped by to visit Ms. Whaley. After hearing Ms. Smith on the other side of the curtain talking to "Herman," they very slowly and nervously requested that "our mother please be moved to another part of the hospital- away from that woman talking to people who aren't there."

Seems Ms. Smith's talking to Herman had turned to yelling, making everyone within a five yard radius very uncomfortable.

We nurses looked at each other later and smiled.

I visited Ms. Smith later and told her she and Herman were going to have to quieten down, so as not to disturb the rest of the hospital.

"Oh, okay, we will. He just is so annoying sometimes," she replied


This has always been and forever will be my favorite part of being a Nurse: the people; the colorful, wonderful, beautiful people I meet every night.

We are all unique, and that makes my world go 'round a little better on any given day of the week :)

Happy Saturday, friends-- Enjoy the world moving all around you :)

Camp Nurse

Every summer, come May and rising temperatures, I don a different Nursing cap: a Camp Nurse cap.

I walk into the wilds of a large and busy summer camp which serves nearly 900 people each week.  The summer camp where I work houses a health center which weekly employees four nurses to staff it and take care of campers and camp staff alike.

We do four times per day medication calls for all the kiddos on scheduled medications.  We do sick visits throughout the day for anyone who might come down with a sore throat, stomach ache, or flu-like virus.  We are emergency responders for things like lake accidents, water slide injuries, ropes course mishaps, etc.  We do much more, too: like lice checks, launder soiled bed linens for campers, allergy shots, manage diabetic campers, and cure homesickness with our secret weapon- Pop-Ice.

It is a wonderful change from the walls of the hospital and adult medicine.  Working within an outdoor setting at the camp, with smiling kiddos, always renews my heart for nursing.

We also work very hard.  Our health center opens at 6:00a.m. and stays open until midnight.  After a full week of long hours, we nurses always go home dead tired but very full in our hearts from all the people we have served and met throughout the week.

By day 3, you begin to remember the individual kids as they come through the "Med. Call" line for their morning medications.  You begin to build rapport with them and are able to encourage them in their day, love on them a little, and always, always- laugh.

For a nurse, camp nursing is a challenge.  With no doctor in the immediate vicinity, and the potential for absolutely ANYTHING to walk in the door- good assessment skills become a must.  I've seen everything at camp from snake bites, to a raccoon attack, to orthodontic mishaps requiring minor oral surgery on the premises, to a swine flu outbreak that resulted in Camp Quarantine 2009. 

There is never a dull moment in camp nursing.

Last week at camp, we nurses made up a little Med. Call song with a guitar to sing as a diddy for the campers and counselors.  The words went a little something like this:

"It's the crack of dawn,
as you start your day;
you've gotta get your meds,
so, you'll be on your way...."

Then we nurses went into a little coordinated rock and sway routine with our Pop-Ice, band aids, and stethoscopes that would rival the Rockettes any day.  In fact, we aptly named ourselves for the musical number, "The Nightingales," as a homage to Florence.

Being a nurse is always an adventure, and being a nurse at a camp is a very special and unique adventure.  If you've never tried it, you're a nurse, and you might be interested, Go for it! 

Nothing will brighten your day more than a wet, swimsuited camper, coming into the health center with their towel dragging behind them, ready for a day of fun in the sun, who just might need a boost from a smiling, caring nurse.  Nurses have a special gift of comfort and care, and it's awesome getting to impart that to the little campers who come through our doors.

So, nurses- what are you waiting for?  If you'd like to learn more about Camp Nursing, visit the Association of Camp Nurses's website at http://www.acn.org/.

Happy Summer, friends!