ICU Nurse: Importance & Compassion at your Bedside
By: Nurse Layla (@laylathenurse)
It took a pandemic for people to acknowledge what nurses do and why it’s so important. Regardless, there will always be those who just don’t understand and say things like, “I don’t know how you wipe butts all day.” This post is for you guys.
Can you make sense of this photo? This patient is on ECMO, i.e. Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation. Basically, when your heart and/or lungs are too sick to function, this machine serves as your heart or lungs outside of your body.
Courtesy of @laylathenurse's Instagram feed
At minimum, a patient on ECMO typically requires intensive, hourly interventions. They need continuous monitoring for blood clots, bleeding, infection, and loss of blood to the limbs. They warrant an ECMO specialist and 1:1 nursing care. They require frequent checking of labs, electrolyte replacements, and blood product administration. Their vital signs and arterial blood gases must be diligently monitored in case any changes need to be made. This, on top of the normal workload of an ICU patient— titrating pressors and inotropes, ensuring adequate sedation, monitoring I/Os, Q2 turns, medication administration, and all of the unplanned madness that occurs during any given shift.
My number one priority is and always will be the human being on the other end of this circuit. I make sure they’re comfortable and clean. I treat them like my own family. I update their loved ones and I advocate for them like my life depends on it.
So yes, I wipe butts. I also give baths, wash hair, brush teeth, change sheets, clean rooms, restock supplies, and take out the trash. These things do not make my importance at the bedside any less. I’m so thankful that I have never thought that these tasks were beneath me or that being a nurse wasn’t worth it.
I’ve learned to make my peace with what others may think my profession is and it took A LOT of time to get here. The blood in my body used to boil at the ignorance. A little part of me is still annoyed and wishes that I could make people understand, but I choose to shrug it off and thank God that they don’t understand what it truly means to need a nurse’s bedside care.
Edited for clarity by the FOTFL team.