As the night wore on, each way you looked patients were dying or in the throes of death. And there were the patients who were so sick that you were begging the ICU or "the floors" for beds. But there were no available beds and so some patients were simply put on stretchers in the halls. We hooked them up to heavy portable cardiac monitors and IV pumps for their medicines. Carrying the heavy monitors and IV pumps were backbreakers. But we had to keep them alive.
I knew I was in a bad mental place. I knew I was so worn out that I was not feeling any caring towards any of the patients. And then it hit me---I was close to clinical burn-out. And I didn't want to be one of the burn-outs.A burn-out lost their empathy for nursing in general and worked on autopilot. Their eyes were dead and they rarely spoke except to exchange patient information with the lab, doctor, or other nurses. I knew I had to change my attitude this night or I'd sink into a burn-out state and would never feel anything for any of my patients again. I didn't want that to happen to me. I knew I would have to do something to change my attitude. But what? What could I do? How could I see through all that blood and vomit? The patients were all starting to look alike to me. I was becoming less and less able to comfort them.... I didn't know what to do but I kept on working. I was starting umpteen IV's an hour. And I was so good at it that my patients didn't feel a thing. Hell, I was so good at IV's that I could slide an IV into somebody's arm in the dark with one hand tied behind my back. And, thankfully, I could still charm the little children that needed IV's so that they wouldn't be frightened too much and wouldn't need strapping down for the scary task. I was stemming the blood flow on countless patients. I was bandaging wounds, giving suffocating patients oxygen, applying casts, helping the doctors stitch up people with deep, bloody injuries that I'd rinsed out with a cleansing fluid, and I was drawing blood on literally every patient I got.