The text message from #2 came in at 8:08 a.m. just as I was heading out the door. “Incident report!”
#2 is in her third year of a 4 year nursing degree programme. A scholarship recipient and placed in the top 10% of her class, she has a part-time job at a major teaching and research hospital. She’s a patient observer – a sitter for patients who need 24-hour observation and more care than the harried nursing staff can consistently provide.
She had been working a string of 12-hour night shifts, usually providing basic care and observing challenging, often mentally agitated patients.
The words “incident report” can evoke a feeling of anxiety in the most seasoned nurse. No one likes to be associated with them. We have to fill them in if we make a mistake, witness a mistake, become injured or abused or if one of our patients is abused, has a fall or is hurt.
Oh my gosh! What happened? What did you do? Are you OK? Questions raced through my mind in the split second after reading her text.
#2’s patient was a very elderly, confused lady who had been agitated off and on throughout the night. In the early morning, she needed to go to the bathroom. Like the good patient observer she is, my daughter assisted her to the bathroom. Returning her to bed proved challenging since the patient kept insisting on wandering into the beds of the other three patients in the room. When my daughter explained repeatedly where her bed was, the elderly lady slapped her in the face and raised her cane as if to strike her.
Some people would be horrified with what happened to my daughter. For nurses and student nurses, it’s an occupational hazard, another day on the job.
My daughter was fine. She took it in stride. She didn’t blame her confused patient.
I’m actually glad this happened. While #2 is a student, she’s experiencing many of the things she’ll have to deal with as a staff RN: fatigue, stress, shift work, difficult situations, challenging patients, staff issues.
Being a nurse is rewarding but can often be frustrating. It’s not easy dealing with illness, death, frightened, angry, vulnerable patients and their families. Add to that the stress of other colleagues. It’s not for everybody. At some point in our career, even those of us who love the profession become discouraged and consider leaving. For some of us, we really should leave.
I’m very proud of my daughter. She handled the incident report with maturity. I can see she’s developing that distinctive nursing sense of humour – the ability to laugh at situations that would make other people gasp. It’s not insensitivity; it’s a defense mechanism against an incredibly stressful job.
Consider that incident report a rite of passage, #2. Hopefully, your career will be long and rewarding without too many of those reports in your bright future.
St. Camillus de Lellis, patron saint of nurses, look after my baby.