Monday, August 25, 2008

Compassion Saturation

Burnout. We have all experienced it, and if you haven't you are either 1) Lying, or 2) haven't been a nurse that long. Sometimes it is helpful to take a step back, step out of the department, take a vacation, or take a break from your particular brand of nursing insanity.
I have always had at least two jobs, sometimes 3. It always gave me a bit of perspective and, I think, made me a better nurse; or at least better emotionally equipped to handle the crap du jour, knowing that the same stuff goes on everywhere. The grass may not be greener, but it is possible that there may be a bit less crab grass if ya know what I mean.

While I have always worked in the ER, some of my other "day" jobs have been a Visiting nurse, school nurse, working at a tiny ER on my days off from Utopia ER. I also taught CPR and First Aid courses as a road show with other ER nurses. Hey, it got us out of the ER and kept us off the street. Besides, my students were always mad for ER stories of brave saves by Community CPR trained civilians. Plus they wanted to pump us for gory ER dirt. There but for the grace of...well, you know the rest. Anyway, the point is not to fear change. It's a good thing every now and then.

When a change of venue isn't possible, letting off a bit of steam is always helpful. ER staff are nothing if not creative when it comes to inside jokes in order to cope, and every ER I know has their own moronic brand of humor. Heck, every corner of the hospital has their own coping mechanisms. It's universal.

The other day one of our new ER attendings, a Hopkins trained lad, was discussing his plan for one of our frequent flyers. Now, I could have told him that she has had 16 visits in the last 90 days, but he has that information at his disposal with a mere few keystrokes. I could have told him exactly how many milligrams of Dilaudid it would take before she would ask for a turkey sandwich, the TV on channel 13, 5 warm blankets, and finally to go out for a smoke. But hey, I don't want to appear jaded in front of Dr. New Guy (whom I really believe will be a tremendous asset) and since he was most sincerely telling me his plans, which none of the old fart docs ever do unless I back them into a corner, I didn't want him to think I was uninterested in what he had to say. So after he rattled off the labs he wanted, I very sweetly asked "serum porcelain level?"**

With that he bellowed with laughter and dragged me over to the department's only copy of the Harriet Lane Handbook, the pediatric bible (which, by the way, came from Hopkins). He showed me that it did in fact have the normals for serum porcelain.
You know you're going to look it up. Be sure to check out the foot note, too.

** serum porcelain level =fictitious blood test.
Means that the patient (or the complaint) is a a crock of shit.