Friday, August 15, 2008

Excuse Me, But Have You Seen My Brain?

If you ever eavesdrop in on a group of nurses, you will eventually hear someone cry out in extreme anguish, "I've lost my brain!" Other nurses will stop what they are doing to assist in the search for the lost brain.

The proportion of the disaster is inversely related to the number of hours left in the shift. To lose your brain in the first couple hours isn't all that bad. But to lose it near the end of the shift is a catastrophe of epic proportions.

The nurse's "brain" being whatever form the nurse uses to write down all the things she/he has done so that when there is finally a moment (usually after giving report to the oncoming shift) when the nurse can sit down to the computer and chart everything she/he has done.

My brain is a simple thing, it has enough columns for six patients and a box for each hour so I can jot notes about what I have done under the appropriate hour so that 12 hours later, I can easily reconstruct my night. I have a separate brain that I use for a new delivery, up to when the new baby joins the big kids out in the open nursery, when he/she is switched to my regular brain.

When it has been hectic, I leave all my brains shoved in my work mail box. Just in case I've forgotten something or someone following me has a question about what I did/didn't do. The other day, I pulled out eight delivery brains and four regular brains to dump in the shredder.

And technology is killing nurses. I have no less that 10 passwords to various programs. I can no longer retrieve a medication, check the chart to make sure it is correct, then give it.

I have to go to computer number one, enter name and password, retrieve the medication, go to computer number two, enter name and password, pull up the patient's name on one screen, switch to another screen, scan the medication (just like at the grocery store), fill in the amount I'm going to give, where I am going to give it (typing this in while juggling the scanner thingie), scan the patient, then give the medication. Then go to computer number three, enter name and password, select the patient, go to the correct charting screen, chart that I gave the medication.

So if you need your nurse and she doesn't show up for a half an hour, she is crying over one of dozens of computers trying to remember which password goes with what program and which screen under which button has the drop down list of which things she has to click in a very particular order or alarms will go off and she'll have to start all over.

So, this morning when I accused poor Jason of drinking my second cup of coffee, realized that I had already had two cups, apologized, then later accused him of the same crime again, then later when I forgot to turn (don't read any further Jason, really, for your own peace of mind) off a stove burner and didn't realize it for almost two hours, I can only assume all the computer programs have staked out the last of my brain cells and I have nothing left but a few stray neurons chugging along making sure the autonomic systems are still functioning somewhat normally.

Or else my real brain is stuffed in my work mail box and I've got a scrap of paper in my skull.

Loki sez: Or gray the new blonde.


Anonymous said...

In the past 10 days I have spent time in the emergency room at 2 different hospitals and the operating recovery cubicle at a clinic. I must say with only one exception the service that my relatives received from the nurses was excellent!!!!I know that the hours are long.....the electronic aspects are challenging...but the eye contact....questioning confirmation...and explanations were perfect!!May God Bless all of you who chose the many professions of ministering to the sick.

JanetLee said...

Thank you! That is nice to hear. Most nurses, myself included, like the new technology, but fear as we have more and more "administrative tasks" to attend to, it means less one-on-one time with our patients.

Less than five years ago, it was nothing for me to be able to sit down with a frightened or stressed out new mom and be able to spend a half an hour or so with her, talking and teaching and listening.

Now I'm lucky if I get five minutes here and there to spend with the families. And it is frustrating because the teaching we do in our corner of the nursing world is what makes us feel successful in our jobs. To not be able to do that makes me feel like I am failing my patients and the families.

I simply hate "do-the-best-you-can" nursing.

Anonymous said...

There should be no reason why you cant use the same password or a close variation - so no more than 2 - for different programs. I would hate to think I would be lying in pain while my nurse tried to figure out which password to use! Try changing them, or have your tech change them. Just use a secure one - 6 or more characters, numbers and letters -
k1tt3n5 comes to mind!

Anonymous said...

Janet, many a night I have swapped brains with you, did we ever swap them back? hmmm...

Your nursey friend, StarlaJoMaySue

JanetLee said...

StarlaJoSueMay, honey chile, I don't know about swapping brains, but we swapped many a giggle way back in the old days ( trailer trash self-portraits ring any bells?)

Anonymous said...

...and not to forget how many of those photos resembled those on the sex offender list...(baa haa haa)
And Chihuahua Tales, those were the good ole' days!