Thursday, August 07, 2008
Today I worked my first shift in our new ED, which has been under construction for months. Actually, I worked my first shift in half of our new ED; the old ED is currently being gutted, and will become the other half.
But this half's still lots bigger than our old quarters. One of the staff chaplains told me that the medical folks complain about being more tired after their shifts because of extra walking, and after my measly four hours today, I was completely bushed. When the other half opens up, I'm going to have to start rollerblading from bed to bed. Either that or the hospital will have to install moving walkways, like the ones in airports.
Okay, so it's exercise, and I can always use more of that. More seriously, the room numbering system's a little wonky. There are Treatment Rooms (there will ultimately be over forty of them), Trauma Rooms, and Triage Rooms. Each has a 1-X numbering system, but since treatment and trauma both start with TR -- at least I don't have to worry about triage! -- abbreviations become tricky. We're used to referring to patients by bed number ("Hey, Susan, 3 wants some water!"), and having to specify Trauma 3 or Treatment 3 will, I predict, become annoying fast.
The staff seems as puzzled by the new nomenclature as I am. The whiteboard with patient names had Ms in front of some room numbers. I asked a nurse what they meant, and she said, "I don't know." Then she turned to another nurse and said, "I asked you about that, remember? What those Ms mean?"
The three of us trooped over to the whiteboard and tried to puzzle it out. "It means monitor," one nurse said. "Those are the monitored rooms."
"But all the rooms have monitors," said the other nurse, "and they don't all have Ms."
"Maybe the Ms mean that those patients are on monitors?" I suggested.
Nurse #1 shook his head. "That's a good theory, but look, this room has an M and it's empty."
We never did figure it out.
Meanwhile, there are new door codes to learn -- plus, my entry badge wasn't working for the first half of the shift, although it started working later on, thank goodness -- and of course there are still boxes all over the place, and no one's sure where a lot of things are. As soon as I showed up, I hunted down the water and ice dispenser (we now have several of them, which is handy), the linen cart, and the blanket warmer, since warm blankets and ice water are the most popular things I provide, after prayer. I never did find the plastic bin of coloring materials I relied on in our old ED, but one of the nurses had carefully moved the last set of stuffed animals I'd brought in; I found them neatly bagged in a storage room. That was a blessing, since we had a lot of kids today, and the toys went fast. Before next week's shift, I want to get a plastic bin for stuffed animals, fill it with critters from the dollar store, and label it with a sign asking folks to donate when the supply's running low.
I also need to adjust to the greater level of privacy. Most rooms have only one bed, which can be shielded both by a curtain -- usually drawn -- and by a sliding glass door. This is excellent for the patients, but less so for me. I'm used to being able to glance in the door of the room, look at the patient in the bed, and know (without disturbing the patient) if this is someone I've already visited, or if the room has acquired a new occupant since the last time I came around. The doors and curtains make this process much more cumbersome and intrusive than it used to be.
But, of course, some things never change. Remember the world's most unpopular ED patient? The nurse who'd given him such a hard time grinned at me today and said, "Remember our friend Mr. X? The one I told you not to talk to or touch?"
"The one you yelled at, cursing him and telling him he deserved to die?" I asked. "Yes, I remember him very well."
The nurse, and several other people standing nearby -- another nurse and a social worker -- started laughing, probably at my chutzpah. (One of the advantages of being a volunteer is that I worry a lot less about getting fired than I would if the job were paying the mortgage.)
"Oh, all right," the first nurse said, still laughing. "So I was a little . . . angry at him, I admit. But I'm better now. I said three Hail Marys."
"Nope," I said. "Sorry. For that, you have to go to Africa to work with AIDS orphans." Everyone laughed again, but the social worker nodded at me.
"Yeah, well, anyway, he's here, out in the waiting room, if you want to go say hi."
I went to say hi. Mr. X was very under the influence. He asked if I'd sit with him, if I'd be his friend. He asked if he could have some food. I told him that I'd try to score him some crackers.
"So," I said to the Newly Reformed Nurse back in the ED, "may I give Mr. X some crackers?"
"Sure! See, I've turned over a new leaf! Last time, I wouldn't let you give him food! I'm a new person!"
"I'm so happy to hear that," I said. Laughter.
"You know what? Give him some water, too. Heck, give him some juice!"
So I did, and sat next to Mr. X while he drank his orange juice. He was less coherent than he was last time, though, and when he started telling me loudly -- in the waiting room, in earshot of small children -- how his war wounds didn't interfere with his getting an erection, I decided it was time to visit some other patients. (Really, dude, I'm delighted for you, but TMI, okay?)
The next time I went into the waiting room, Mr. X was gone; Newly Reformed Nurse said, "Yeah, I couldn't find him, either." We both figured he'd left, but I'm sure he'll be back.
The new ED is all shiny and spacious, but I kind of miss our old, cramped one. I wonder if our frequent flyers will feel the same way, if they'll feel as disoriented as I did today. So many of them are psych patients, and I suspect that for them, the change will seem frightening and surreal, especially after both halves of the ED are in operation and the staff's performing synchronized blood draws on roller skates.