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We love this ‘day in the life’. It’s by Gabriela Parvu. In her own words she describes a typical day in her job as a nurse on a surgical ward in the hospital she works in. If you ever wanted to know what a ward nursing job is like, on a day-to-day basis…. this is it! And it ends on the three words we hear all the time (despite the stress, the emotion, the physical strain…)… “I love nursing”!
9th December 2014
I’m Gabriela. I’m a nurse on a surgical ward in a hospital.
I'm going to work this morning.
I'm getting up at 5,30 am and I'm finding my way to the kitchen with both of my eyes half closed, and grabbing some coffee.
The coffee machine's already on and a piece of toast is on a plate for me. Bless my husband, he's a sweet one. He just left for work and he’s left me breakfast.
I drink the hot black coffee and enjoy the toast. I take a quick shower then blow dry my hair really well (it's minus 2 degree out there and I don’t want my hair to freeze on the way to work).
I put on warm clothes and boots, grab the car keys and I’m gone.
In the hospital, I'm heading for my locker so I can change into my hospital uniform. I head for the surgical ward where I’m welcomed by a familiar scene: very busy staff nurses and care assistants. Everyone’s smiling, even though they’re probably all tired after a night shift.
The shifts are 12 hours long, days and nights. Handover’s at a quarter to 7. Handover means walking on the ward and seeing every patient. If you’re the one handing over you have to describe everybody's condition to the colleague you’re handing over to and inform them about any investigations that patients need to have. If anyone has an operation today, that has to be noted too.
I have to make sure that all patients have a wash, and that all carers know the diet for each patient and that everybody is comfortable. It’s important to make sure that nobody lies on their drain (tube) and that the tubes are free from obstacles and are permeable.
Most important, I need to have all staff on the ward…
Thank God, it's a gorgeous bunch of carers on the floor today. They’re all girls who know exactly what they have to do. I can rely on them and I know the job will get done. It’s going to be a good day today!
It's really important that all members of the team work together as one. I have to be sure that everything gets done when it's meant to be done, and done correctly. That way all of us, patients and medical staff, are safe.
Me and my nursing colleagues give our support to the carers every time it's needed. Just as the doctors help to support the nurses when we need it, the nurses must support the care assistants. Everybody and everything has its right place in the hospital’s puzzle. We need to move together as one to ensure that the patients we are responsible for receive the precise care they need.
Good, then; everything is fine. No one is bleeding, nobody’s in pain at the moment, drains are intact.
There are two herniated discs to be repaired and a gallbladder to be removed today. There are a few drips still on and I need to give an insuline at 8:00. I need to set the watch to beep for that.
I'll start take observations on all patients I'm in charge for. And, right, I’ll set my watch now - I won’t forget the insuline.
Quickly, I have a look on patients’ charts and make a list of the investigations they have to be sent to. I write down the time for the three operations, and get the names of the patients that will need to have their catheterisation removed.
I fill in the charts with the observations I just took and write down the amount that has been collected by the drain in the collecting bag for patients that have been given an abdominal drain during operation.
OK, charts are ready to go to the doctors, which, right on time, they start to gather.
They will have a report, all seven surgeons, first, then walk on the ward with us, the nurses. We’ll see all patients to gather information about their evolution. Further medication may need prescribing.
Prescriptions are made every morning. Nurses, like me, order it from the pharmacy, and then sort it out for each patient.
Next up, change the surgical wound dressings where necessary, take out drain tubes and sutures from healed wounds. Give out tablets, deliver any intravenous and intramuscular injections, put on drips…
Oh, they just phoned from the theatre to send the gallbladder. I'm getting a care assistant to escort the patient and I'm also with her, calming down her emotions, which she still has despite her pre-op mild sedation the doctor prescribed earlier this morning.
So I'm holding Maria's hand and I'm talking to her. Good, I can feel that her pulse is starting to slow down while I'm reassuring her that everything will be just fine and I'll see her around 5:00pm when she returns from the recovery unit. Maria is looking at me and says she's ready now, and I'm telling her I’ll see her soon and here we go, there we are.
I carry on with the drug order. In a couple of hours, I’ll need to send the discs to theatre. They’re two male patients. Both of them were bravely trying to hide their anxiety in the morning. But after I gave them the same mild sedation, they were cool with everything.
Drug order ready (I’m taking the orders from the other two colleagues of mine) it's my turn to take it to the pharmacy and to distribute the drugs on the ward. I'm walking quickly to the pharmacy, I'm leaving the orders and I'm thanking to the pharmacist: she'll phone me when the order will be ready to collect. I rush back to the ward.
Right, now I have to clean the tools from the dressing kit I used and pass it over to sterilisation: scissors, anatomical forceps, Peann forceps, curette... well, all of them.
It's midday and time for the intravenous antibiotics drips to be given, so I'm carrying out this drug round.
Phone rings. It’s the theatre, asking for the discs. I'm calling my right hand, Alina, the carer, and I'm asking her to take the patients to the shop to be fixed. All four of us start laughing.
It really makes a difference to be able to joke. It always helps to take the tension away.
They’re in the elevator, heading for the theatre. I'm taking a break. I’ve not eaten since breakfast. We'll have a break one nurse at a time so that the ward’s covered at all times.
Phone call from the pharmacy. The drug order’s ready. Luckily I’ve finished my food already so I can get upstairs, on to the ward and start handing the drugs out. Quick walk on the floor, to make sure all present patients are fine, clean, comfortable and fed. All good.
Here are my colleagues from the recovery unit. They’re delivering us the patient with the gallbladder op, Maria..… Oh, my God, that means it's 5 pm. The days fly past like this.
Maria is happy and she’s smiling. We take her down to her room, I'm checking the dressing, taking obs, no pain. She’s perfectly fine.
I need to take another round of observations on all patients, quickly write in their notes, then carry out the 6:00pm drug round. Soon, the night nurses will arrive so I’ll have to prepare to handover to them.
It’s 6:45 and I'm going to my locker to change and go home.
That's how it looks for me each day as a nurse. It’s busy. Today was actually quiet. It can become much busier if there are multiple new admissions or a deterioration in a patient's condition that needs a quick intervention. Those days see more challenges, increased agitation and stress.
Being a nurse has taught me to value each moment of my life, to enjoy my health and care for it and for all persons close to me. Nursing has taught me that it age and wealth don’t matter. I’d not change my profession for anything.
I love nursing.
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