The Nurse in me!

In my day to day paid employment I’m an Anaesthetic Nurse.  That is (in short) to assist the Anaesthetist in their role of putting the patient to sleep for their surgery, keeping them asleep throughout, and to wake them up on completion of their surgery.

Last week, with a patient asleep on the operating table, I was taking off a blood sample from their arterial line, which is a small plastic tube that sits in the artery (usually at the wrist) giving us a second by second blood pressure reading on our monitor.  However as I pulled back on the syringe, I failed to extract the sample.  Assuming it was a positional issue, I requested assistance in pulling the patient’s wrist back so I could complete my task.  Then my anaesthetist advised me that it wasn’t the position of the patient’s wrist that was the problem, but rather my technique.  Whaaaat ? ! ? !

He was accusing me of rushing!!!  That I was pulling back too hard and fast on the plunger of the syringe, thereby causing the artery to collapse, thus making it impossible to extract the blood sample I needed.  Hmmm . . . . the irony here is that this Anaesthetist (and his constant demands), was the reason for my rushing, in order to keep up with his requests.  He had already expressed I was not moving fast enough  . . .  and here he is now telling me to slow down?

At the time of taking this sample, I had already backed off from my break neck speed (so as not to risk injuring myself after a couple of near misses already), so I now felt I was moving at a pace more in line with ‘reasonable’ expectations.  But seemingly, according to him, I was still rushing . . . and the patient’s artery was demonstrating its agreeance with him.

I did heed his advice though, and on my next attempt, I was somewhat gentler on the pressure I held as I pulled back the plunger of the syringe.  And what do you know!!! The blood flowed back easily, and I was able to take my sample.

Life lessons learned are sometimes not about position, but about technique. 

  • When too much pressure is applied in getting what we want or need, the result can sometimes be that that ‘thing’ collapses.
  • Changing position is not necessarily going to make any difference, as the problem is not with the position, but with the technique.
  • Thus the only solution to the problem is to change the technique, slow down, don’t rush, allow the ‘thing’ (in my case – the artery) to return to normal capacity, and try again at a slower pace.

Like my Anaesthetist, we can all be oblivious to the pressure (by our requests or demands) we are putting on another person, or sometimes even on ourselves.

Like myself, we can all be oblivious to the fact that we’re still rushing, even though we think we’ve backed off or slowed down our pace.  We think we’re moving at a normal pace of a reasonable standard … but apparently not.   Sometimes it takes someone else to tell us that we’re rushing in order for us to see that … and sometimes even then, we still can’t see it.

But as I learnt with my Anaesthetist, as much as he can try to rush me by placing constant requests and demands on me, it’s up to me as to how I respond to that.  So long as my patient is safe and receives the proper care due to them, my priority has to be for myself and my own safety.  I am no good to anyone if I injure myself in the process.

And so it is with life . . . it’s up to each of us to navigate our own response to each situation, not allowing ourselves to be rushed at a pace that feels unsafe.  We can only be the best version of ourselves, when we have prioritised our ‘self’ so as to reach that.

Thus I believe we can all do with taking time to:

  1. identify the signals of applying too much pressure.
  2. recognise the potential for collapse before the actual collapse.
  3. in the event of collapse, know how to back off accordingly so as to get the desired outcome from the situation.

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