Sunday, August 18, 2013
Extreme Naivete :)
I hope this post isn't offensive to anyone. I am not at all making light of the patient's situation, but my naivete. It's an ER nurse's favorite story about me and even though it happened so long ago, she STILL cracks up whenever she recalls it. She was my very first friend I made at the hospital. She was the first one to invite me into the back with the ER staff, during my first solo shift on the job. She now lives several states away, and months and sometimes years can go by before we talk ...but we always pick up like we never parted ...just like good friends always do. And we still laugh at this story, that thankfully had a good outcome.
Some years ago ...well 26 years and 4 months ago ...I was still fairly new at working in Emergency Registration. When this incident happened ...I wasn't exactly a newbie ...but it certainly was a situation I had never encountered during my previous 9 months of working in that position. And that position required us to closely interact with the patients and emergency department staff when we were in the emergency department. Meaning, that because we needed to get patient information for the patient's chart, along with signatures ...and/or explain certain things - we were often right at the patient's bedside if they were brought directly into the ER via ambulance. Also, if they were called in before we could get said information from the patient or whomever could assist with providing what we needed. So ...there were different reasons the registration staff would have to be in the patient areas. And as a hospital employee, of course anything we would see or hear was to be kept confidential. We also might be called on to assist with something simple if it was a particularly hellacious shift in which they needed an extra pair of hands in the moment.
My point is that registration staff saw a lot of things that a typical office receptionist would not see. My other point to make is that because I was not a licensed medical person ...I saw a lot of things that I knew nothing about - but learned over time through on the job experience. Among the many patient illnesses and injuries I observed over time ....I learned what a kidney stone patient looks like, or what patients compromised with COPD or asthma look and sound like, what a compound fracture looks like, or nasty lacerations with muscle and fat exposed and lots of blood pouring out of the gaping wounds, swollen head traumas, multi-traumas and even what death looks like.
Admittedly ...what I am about to describe did not require a medical license to ascertain ...but perhaps life experience ...ahem ...of another kind. Well ...okay ...perhaps if I had understood what happens with electrocution ...I might not have jumped to the conclusion that I did.
And so now I will explain.
It was a warm, cloudy spring evening ..just after dinner was over. The ER was empty. I was hanging out with the staff when they got the call that a man had been electrocuted on the job at a local company. The staff went through their usual preparations - setting up in the cardiac room and then waited for his arrival. He was brought in via ambulance in short order.
I rushed the chart right back to the doctor ..which also gave me a clear view of the completely naked male patient on the cardiac stretcher. I immediately averted my eyes, left the chart with the doctor and exited the area as fast as I could ...feeling sorry for the patient that I had seen him totally exposed.
I was also perplexed as to why the staff weren't all hovering over him frantically doing all that they do in these emergent situations. Where were the nurses? Why was he so still on the stretcher ...on his back with his eyes closed? Oh NO! He's dead! Did he die? That poor man. Electrocuted so badly like that. Like he was CHARRED!?
I don't recall if I had any more patients between when I left and when I went back in to see how he was. Actually - I don't remember anything else about that shift ..either before or after that patient. The visual has stayed with me though ...that and the head ER nurse's busting out in extreme laughter after I expressed my sincere concern for the man. I should clarify that ...she was laughing at my ..um naivete regarding the patient's status.
A bit later, feeling very concerned, I walked in to the break room and asked, How is the electrocuted man?
I feel SO SORRY for him!
Well he was ELECTROCUTED!
"He's going to be alright."
Oh GOOD! I thought it was really bad and that maybe he was even DEAD because he's burned so badly.
"NO he's not."
But he looks DARK all over and even his PENIS looks CHARRED!
My friend erupted into extreme laughter and then when she could finally contain herself ...she said ..."He's NOT BURNED ...he's HISPANIC!"
OH? THANK GOD! I thought he was a WHITE man and the electrocution CHARRED his entire body and he was DEAD!.
More extreme laughter at my naivete. :)
I was soooo RELIEVED for him.
And I learned some new things too. :)