By Marcy Phipps, RN, a regular contributor to this blog. Her essay, “The Love Song of Frank,” was published in the May issue of AJN.

Image courtesy of Wikemedia Commons

Earlier this week I took care of a man who nearly coded, rather unexpectedly. I was standing next to his bed when his heart rate slowed suddenly and significantly, with one extraordinarily long pause between beats.

A pause doesn’t have to be extraordinarily long to feel like it is, especially when you’re standing next to someone, palpating their pulse while watching the monitor. In this case, in this five-second pause that felt like minutes, I’d dropped the bed rail, shouted out to my team, and was ready to start chest compressions when his heart beat again. His symptomatic bradycardia was treated accordingly; there were no chest compressions, and it was no code.

I had lunch with a good nurse-friend of mine who works in a nearby hospital. I was telling her how “bradycardia with a five-second pause” feels a lot like asystole, when you’re standing next to your patient, and she was telling me that her hospital had sort of cancelled Nurses Week this year. Instead of the traditional week of silly games, superlative awards, and physician-sponsored lunches, and then a later “Hospital Week,” her facility was having a combined “Team Member Week.”

“It feels like we’ve lost recognition,” my friend said. “We don’t feel appreciated, and we’re angry.”

I definitely see her point. Although Nurses Week festivities can seem campy sometimes, it’s the sentiment behind them that matters, and merging Nurses Week into an “everybody” celebration seems like a poor administrative move. I’m not sure I’d want to work for a hospital that didn’t specifically honor and recognize its nurses.

My friend and I agreed—whether in the case of marked bradycardia with a long pause, or in the exchange of Nurses Week for “Team Member Week,” the rhetoric doesn’t mitigate the reality, nor does it soften the reaction.

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