Swiss Army Knife

“You’re like the Swiss Army knife of nursing.”

My friend once compared critical care nursing to swiss army  knives: the critical care nurse is trained to do basically, everything. The critical care nurse is trained in telemetry, may be required to make life and death decisions until a physician appears, acts as a PACU nurse, and knows how to manipulate minute details that can change a patient’s condition. The nurse acts a patient advocate as most patients are vented, sedated, and unable to speak up for themselves, is there with the family when the patient does not make it.  The ICU nurse is expected to be able to float to other areas of the hospital- the ER, med-surg floors, same day surgery, and have atleast some idea of what to do. She pushes medications during resuscitation when a patient is coding, may be needed to make life/death decisions if no physicians are available.

The ICU nurse is able to juggle a post-op patient whose condition is deteriorating faster than you can count to twenty, another patient who has both an ALine and CVP monitoring and on drips to keep their blood pressure from plummeting, and deal with the psychiatric patient arousing after being given Narcan, trying to escape from the floor, and  starting fights with the biggest male nurses on staff. The ICU nurse is on her feet for 13, or 14 hours, helping his or her fellow colleagues when they need a hand, and chugs a mug full of stale coffee at 1800, thinking it tastes “fabulous and fresh” becasuse she or he has not had an hydration since coming on in the morning. The ICU nurse is rarely heard complaining, is not afraid to ask for help or speak up, and is a vital member of the team. What do you need? Alcohol pads? Tape? Scissors? Flushes? Gauze? Flashlight? Stopcocks? Ask me–I have my pockets stocked with supplies.

He was right. A critical care nurse is the Swiss Army knife of nurses.

…And that’s what I am.

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August 2010
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