Thursday, January 23, 2014

If you are a patient in the ICU, or have a loved one here: this is what you need to know.

Look, I get it, you're in a scary, unknown environment with some crazy women {and men} all around you asking you questions you already answered 10 times downstairs. For some reason, that makes you hungry. It's a trend, it seems. But, please don't keep complaining about it as soon as you get to the ICU. Let us first try to figure out why you are vomiting, your blood pressure is in the 70s, and you look like the color of a white piece of paper. Food is the last thing you need right now, trust me. Might I add, it's midnight.

Your grandma does not want you to see her at her most vulnerable state. In other words, please step out of the room when we give our spa treatments. Some things are just meant to be private.

Oh and that grandma? The 95 year old? She does not want or need to be on a ventilator, trached, pegged, or go in for a big belly surgery, or any surgery for that matter. Just so she can end up at a nursing home for the remainder of her life. Those DNR papers that your loved one worked so hard to have authorized and printed? Honor them. They cannot speak at this moment. But you can read. I imagine that you know their wishes as well. Honor them, as hard as it may be. The person, and the papers.

There is a very small chance that you will get decent sleep while you are here. So bring something to do. But please do sleep when you can. When it's been days, weeks, months with no changes--it's time for you to take care of yourself because your family member will need you even more when they begin the recovery process. Not while they are paralyzed, sedated, and on every drip and machine possible.

And for those on the machines that aren't paralyzed and sedated? Getting in their face is helping no one here. Be present without being in the way.  See that number that says 150 and that other one that says 200/100. Yes, that's their heart rate and blood pressure that goes up every time you stimulate them. It's not a coincidence either.

Nurses are stern in certain situations. Really. It's in their nature to get to the point when need be. Crawling out of bed {for the millionth time}, swatting your arms at us, or even trying to bite, will not do anyone any good. And trust me, when voices get loud people come running.

And if you are a nurse {or a family member of a nurse} and a patient at the hospital, rest assured that we {the other nurses} are most likely playing rock-paper-scissors in the report room to see who is going to have you.  Nurses can make the worst of patients. So can doctors. Probably because we know what goes on on the other side.  That and we are stubborn as hell.

Nurses tend to also laugh. I know, strange. Even after your loved one may pass, you may come out to the nurses station and see someone smile, or laugh, or say something completely inappropriate. For one, just know that you have to have a sense of humor if you do what we do. You have to. And nurses have seen it all. As have doctors. So naturally that brings out the most inappropriate of human beings. And loud ones at that.

Speaking of being loud, it's just the nature of the ICU. From constant alarms to constant chatter. Day in and day out. I know it's a terrible thing, and I wish there was a mute button for some people. Trust me, I do. But it's just very, highly, unlikely. You may even hear things in your sleep. It's part of the environment.

If it means anything to you, just so you know, I strip down in my garage before I walk through the doors of my home. I'm talking shoes off, pants off, shirt off, socks and all. Undergarments are allowed to stay on. That being said, trust me when I say this---you do not want your children crawling around the floor of a hospital room. Honestly? You really don't want them there period.

We're a little obsessed with our sheets and rooms. In fact, we cannot even start our work until our lines are all straightened out and room is picked up. It's a sick obsession.

We also much prefer our patients to be tubed and on drugs. But believe me, we are your biggest fan when you get extubated and fly.


  1. Having two sister in laws whom are RN's in the ICU I understand...kind of! I hear all of their stories! I can't imagine the job you guys do on a daily basis! Thank you for the work you do!

  2. I love this. I'm a nurse ( not ICU, ped. hem/onc) and I can relate to many of the points you bring up ,especially respecting the patients wishes and the having to have a sense of humor. Great post.

  3. From one nurse to this!
    I totally laughed out loud about rock, paper, scissoring for who gets the patient who is a nurse! If you are a nurse or ex-nurse that shit is never missed in shift to shift reporting! I actually just spent a week taking care of a patient who had the family from hell (multiple daughters/ grandchildren who were nurses, nurse practitioners, and some fancy internal medicine people). They gave me a run for my money!

    Also they idea of letting a child play on the floor of a hospital is just disgusting! I don't even like to kneel on the floor myself! Makes me feel gross.

  4. Ahhhh...not an ICU RN (peds heme/onc), but we get the sickest of sick and often run "mini-ICU's" because our attending a won't transfer to the PICU...rant spared! Agree with caring for RN families, doctors, etc...they can be overwhelming. I also despise RN and MD Google. Ugh! Please do not Google your symptoms, diagnosis and the like. It only makes for heightened nerves and tension in the room!
    You should see the amount of parents who bring their other kids to visit our unit. They let them crawl all over the floor, put toys in their mouths and touch EVERYTHING!!! Ick!

  5. As a fellow ICU nurse I can relate, love these!!

  6. LOVE LOVE this!!! Fellow ICU nurse, from AZ here!!! Was giggling and nodding the entire post!!


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