I was the charge nurse for a general surgical floor and you might say that things were a bit hazardous. That’s actually putting it mildly. You might have less risk of harm bungee jumping off the Kawarau Bridge in New Zealand with rubber bands wrapped around your ankles than receiving patient care under these circumstances.
Between sundown to sunup, just what would the body count be?
Working on the night shift meant that in addition to myself and a LPN, my staff was composed of a rotating group of five or six graduate nurses still waiting to see if they passed State Boards. They weren’t licensed, but the hospital let them practice as though they were. This small band of ragtag, inexperienced, semi-educated, youngsters and I had to take care of forty-nine very, very sick, post-op surgical patients.
We had twenty-four patients on cardiac monitors, and I was the only RN on duty and the only nurse certified in the reading and interpretation of EKGs. I was the only nurse on that shift for that ward with any length of experience. In addition to supervising my grads and ensuring their patients’ safety, I had to take a full load of my own patients. And based on the hospital’s patient acuity system, each nurse would routinely be assigned 14 to 16 hours of patient care to deliver in an 8-hour shift.
I worked those shifts at a full gallop. And once the graduate nurses got their licenses, they would move on to other units and other shifts and be replaced by another group of graduates. Thus, the five to six-month cycle of rotating bodies. This always left me with a staff of inexperienced nurses who needed constant supervision and on-the-job training.
Crazy and dangerous as this was, we also had conflicting and distracting interpersonal situations to deal with during work hours because of the many doctor-nurse relationships. It was quite a simmering stew of young women mixed with older, rich, prestigious men.
Soap opera and reality combined to form some pretty insane chemistry experiments. Anything you can imagine, from nurses having “quickies” in the treatment room, to giving doctors blow-jobs in the bath room. It was safe to say that there were more than just the patients’ body secretions floating about on the ward.
How long would a patient have to wait to get their call-light answered . . .