Note: We’ve launched a new series of “confessions” where we ask certain professionals a quick set of questions and keep their responses anonymous so that they can tell the complete truth. If you’d like to participate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We promise to keep you anonymous.
The intensive care unit sees the most life-threatening illnesses and injuries that come into the hospital. And the men and women who work in the ICU are about as close as it gets to real life superheroes. Here are the confessions of one Charlotte ICU nurse about making fun of whiners, being blamed for deaths and patients playing in poop:
What’s the most annoying thing that your patients do?
Any ICU nurse out there will tell you the most annoying thing is when patients hit the side rail nonstop. Patients with a breathing tube are unable to talk, eat or drink, however that is exactly what they want to do at any given moment. What ends up happening is we calm them down enough to leave the room, and then they start banging on the side rails to get some attention. It is a never-ending cycle.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen happen in the ICU?
I find it weird and a little disgusting when someone is overly affectionate with their significant other. The patient is sedated, intubated and has more than likely pooped themselves recently, please quit trying to make out with them. Oh, and I have walked in on more than one patient playing in their own poop.
Do you make fun of your patients?
I hate to say it, but yes. Not so much being hateful but laughing at the weird things they say or do. The whinier a patient is, the more we roll our eyes. If you have 25 tattoos but are “afraid of needles” we are going to dish about what a baby you’re being.
Do you ever stick people’s veins multiple times just because you don’t like them? (I’ve heard some nurses do this, but it could be a rumor.)
I do not do this! I have a 2 to 3 stick maximum rule, especially if the patient is alert!
What’s your favorite part about your job? Least favorite part?
My favorite part is the friendships I’ve built and the sense of teamwork. Least favorite has to be a tie between cleaning up poop and having angry family members yell at me.
Do you cry when a patient dies?
What gets to me is when the patient is surrounded by loved ones and they are praying and reminiscing. The younger patients also affect me, it’s hard to watch someone in their late teens or 20’s pass away. I’m pretty sure every nurse I know has cried at least once over the death of a patient.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made at work?
My biggest mistake happened back when I was a relatively new nurse and gave someone too much medication. Thankfully, no harm came to the patient and I caught the mistake pretty quickly. However, when I realized my mistake I damn near passed out on the patient. I was beside myself. I called the doctor and let them know, spoke to my charge nurse and self-reported on our incident reporting site. Nurses are humans, and as humans we make mistakes.
What annoys you most about ICU visitors?
People who bring their kids in. The hospital is seriously dirty and there are people with some very contagious bugs. You don’t want your kid exposed to any of that! Also, a serious hospitalization can bring out the worst in families. We have had to call in security and kick out families for fighting over the dumbest things. A hospital is not the place for a fist fight.
What advice would you give readers to stay out of the ICU?
Quit smoking and drinking, don’t do illegal drugs, wear your seatbelt/helmet/safety gear, eat healthy and exercise, take your prescribed medications and always keep a list of what you take on you!
Any other confessions?
We know when a patient is going to die, and there are patients who will die no matter how hard we work to save their life. It’s a challenging time for everyone involved, but it is especially difficult when the family loses their minds and starts blaming you or accusing you of trying to kill their loved one.