Connecting Emotional Intelligence, Team Communication, and Patient Safety

An Early-Career Nursing Memory

Photo by Barry Diomede/Albany Stock Photo.

Many years ago, fresh out of nursing school, I was in charge one night, with no other RNs on the unit. We had an “active GI bleeder” who needed hourly boluses of either ice water or iced milk through an NG tube. (Yes, the standard treatment at that time was gruesomely uncomfortable for the patient, and in later years determined to be counterproductive.) I had more than a dozen other patients to care for, but everyone got their meds and, miraculously, the bleeding man made it through the night.

When my supervisor made rounds at the end of the shift, I reported that all was well and that my critical patient had survived. Her only response: “Mrs. Todd! There is blood on your shoes!”

This senior nurse, standing there in her starched whites and impeccable shoes, didn’t recognize that I had feared I would be inadequate to the task, or even acknowledge my pride as a brand-new nurse in actually saving someone’s life. In retrospect, I can’t help wondering if her choice to focus on a superficial fact, irrelevant to the crisis, could be interpreted as an indication that she lacked a certain acuteness of emotional […]

2017-07-17T16:49:20+00:00 July 17th, 2017|Nursing, patient safety|1 Comment

Viewpoint: A Limitation of Preprocedure Checklists

I once worked at a hospital where some of the surgeons regarded safety checklists as an inconvenience. They saw them as bothersome intrusions by the nursing staff into the surgical suite. One OR nurse was even “counselled” by her supervisor (in the presence of the complaining surgeon) to avoid upsetting the doctors by using the preprocedure time-out.

How important are these tools? Are we using them well, or do we speed through them as rote exercises? Might we even expect too much of them? In AJN’s July Viewpoint, nurse Elizabeth Anne Crooks relates a frightening episode (she was the patient) that led her to think about time-outs in a different way.

Crooks was about to undergo a colonoscopy. The clinical team seemed relatively unconcerned about her bradycardia, which was a significant change from her normal heart rate. After completing the usual time-out protocol, sedation was initiated and the physician began the procedure. Suddenly, Crooks’ heart rate and blood pressure dropped precipitously.

I remember waking in distress and hearing the monitor alarming. The team was working rapidly to stabilize me with fluids and medications.

A routine procedure had suddenly become an emergency.

In reflecting upon her experience, Crooks wonders whether the preprocedure time-out may have given her clinical team a false sense of security—one that led them to downplay a clinically significant change. And yet, as we know, these time-outs focus on ensuring that the correct patient is receiving the correct procedure, and not on other safety […]

Exploring Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Illustration by Sara Jarret.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of those conditions that is maddening for patients and clinicians alike. Its pathophysiology is unclear, the symptom picture varies widely from patient to patient, there is no test to confirm the diagnosis, and treatment is directed at managing symptoms because there is no cure.

To make things even more difficult for the person with IBS, there is a recognized psychological component of the disease. Therefore some friends, family members, and clinicians might tell people with IBS that their suffering is “all in their head.” And yet there is demonstrable proof (via neuroimaging studies) of differences in central processing mechanisms related to the “brain–gut axis” between people who have IBS and those who do not.

Kristen Ronn Weaver and colleagues explore these and other aspects of IBS in a clinical feature article in AJN’s June issue. The authors review the latest findings related to IBS etiology and pathophysiology, the relationship between IBS symptoms and stress, and the updated Rome IV criteria that help guide diagnosis. Of particular interest is the authors’ presentation of research confirming the value of several nonpharmacologic interventions, including dietary modifications, probiotics, moderately increased physical activity, yoga, and traditional Chinese medicine.

See “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” in the June issue to learn more, and to find out how nurse-led initiatives can lead to long-term health benefits for people with IBS.

 

2017-06-26T09:07:44+00:00 June 26th, 2017|Nursing, patient experience|0 Comments

Those Who Comfort Us

There was only a tiny drop of blood. I was worried, of course, but I went to my OB-GYN for reassurance more than anything else. Maybe she would tell me I was doing too much and needed to rest. Maybe it was just normal. But as soon as she looked at the ultrasound screen, I knew.

Usually when I went for a scan, she immediately turned the screen toward me. Until now, every scan had been great. I had just entered my second trimester. The barrage of tests given to women of “advanced maternal age” had all come back normal. The baby’s heartbeat was strong at every visit, and I was riddled with nausea, something I’d been told was a “good sign.”

This time she stared at the screen for what seemed like forever. Then, quietly, she told me that my baby of 16 weeks’ gestation no longer had a heartbeat. Moments later, the high-risk doctor came in to confirm this. I turned away as he talked to my doctor about the “degradation” he could see, suggesting the death had happened over a week before. Somehow this terrible word—and image—is what stuck with me, even weeks after the event.

Later I entered the ambulatory center where I would have a […]

Night Watch

Editor’s note: In this tightly observed guest post, a nurse visiting a sick family member experiences the hospital as a kind of foreign country.

Eileen McGorry, MSN, RN, worked as a registered nurse in community mental health for over 30 years. She currently lives in Olympia, Washington, with her husband Ron.

The walkway is hard, the concrete cold, and I am immersed in darkness. Then there is the swish of the hospital doors and whispery stillness. The light over the reception desk shines on a lone head, bent over a book. A clipboard is pushed toward me. The paper on it is lined with names, some boldly printed, others scribbled, the letters unrecognizable. The spacious lobby is filled with individual groups of soft stuffed chairs and love seats. All of it quiet and empty. Over the chairs and sofas, the black of the midnight hour is changed into twilight.

I remember the bustle of the area at midday. Families gathered together, eyes searching the crowd for the green scrubs of surgeons. “She will live,” they say to some, and to others, “We will wait and see.” The frenzy of the day over, the empty chairs wait for tomorrow.

I sign my name in script. I use the old Catholic school script. The script preached by my mother, who is upstairs recovering from heart surgery. I walk past the chairs along walls so white they gleam. I […]