Honest, the Patient Was Dead When I Started My Shift

Yesterday's shift started with something straight out of CSI. I had barely finished taking report when a page came over the PA system "CRT 235". For those non-medicals reading this post, CRT 235 means anyone who is not already working on someone "GET IN HERE NOW!" I happened to have been working on someone at the time.

Nurses, doctors, RT's, LPN's, CNA's, a guy pushing a crash cart and even one of the janitors came racing down the hall past me and into the coding patient's room. I finished working on my patient and then ran to assist with the code. When I reached the room there must have been a dozen people working around the patient. Several nurses were taking turns leaning over the bed doing chest compressions and another was bagging the patient. I looked over and saw a nursing student in the corner with his eyes bugging out like that Guinea Pig, Bugsy, on Bedtime Stories. All I could think was "Welcome to the world of nursing!"

Once my initial adrenaline rush had subsided I looked down at the patient and noticed that she was already blue. The technical term is cyanotic. I also noticed that her arms and hands had already begun to stiffen. A sure sign that rigor mortis was setting in. But if that was the case, then the patient had to have been dead for awhile. Why wait so long to call in the code? duh...duh...duh...dum

The thought crossed my mind "What must that nursing student be thinking?" One week he's sitting in class learning about nursing. The next week he is finding out where he will be doing his clinical rotation. The next he is standing in a room full of people banging on a woman who has probably been dead for at least an hour and thinking "what kind of sick twisted people think this is a good idea for a job?"

When all of the commotion subsided and I was back on my rotation, I overheard the Charge Nurse say the patient had likely been dead for a couple of hours and that the morning shift nurse had called in the code. I also heard her say the night shift nurse had put on the patient's chart that the patient had been visited at the end of her shift. Either that is the fastest rigor mortis in the history of the world, or the night shift nurse is "mistaken" about when the patient was last visited, or the night shift nurse visited the patient and discovered she was dead but didn't bother telling anyone. Either way, tomorrow should be interesting.

Sleep well tonight my student nurse friend. Tomorrow will bring a new trauma all its own.