August 2000 –
As David’s residency would take up just about every moment of his time, I needed to find a job. However, with my health status, I really wanted a position with more desk work. I really loved the idea of being a nurse educator, but with my degree and work experience, that just wasn’t going to happen. So, I interviewed several places & prayed about each opportunity before choosing to work night shift for a small, local community ICU.
I remember being paired with my preceptor for the first night. Immediately as we were introduced, she was busy preparing medications for her patient that was not doing well. We mixed the medication into the IV bag and she told me to hang it. I told her that I had never worked that particular brand of IV pump before and she turned and said in a snappy voice, “I thought you were an ICU nurse!” Baylor had an extensive ICU class and knowing I was well trained for the position, I argued back that I understood the medication, but I had never seen that particular IV pump and didn’t know how to quickly get to the titration menus. I didn’t know at the time that outsiders were not easily accepted into this particular unit’s nursing staff. My orientation was miserable! She was never any nicer and I’m really glad I had the ICU knowledge I did from my previous employer because I would have never survived that orientation if it wasn’t for that.
Once off of orientation, things didn’t get much better. I was a loner, an odd person stuck in a swamp of alligators waiting to get eaten alive. The other nurses watched my every move. One of the nurses wore a necklace daily with a witchcraft symbol that was a constant reminder that I wasn’t in the Texas Bible belt any longer. Spiritual warfare was raging.
I had an unconscious elderly patient that was dying and had no family. She had the doctor’s order for no cpr and on my shift, she was going downhill. Knowing that she was passing away alone in an empty room, I pulled a chair up beside her bed and began my charting for the night. I was the talk of the evening. As the other nurses sat around, they kept asking why I was in there. They kept telling me that she was unconscious and wouldn’t know I was there. Regardless, I felt a strong conviction that I should stay with the lady – that I would never want to die alone, in a foreign hospital bed with nurses sitting across the hall giggling, snacking, and chatting away. It just didn’t seem right. Instead, she spent her last few heartbeats with me reassuring her and holding her hand.
Another evening, I came to work & took report on a lady who had leukemia and was feverish all day. They had tried many things to bring her temperature down, but with little luck. Ah… My expertise with oncology!!! I assessed my patient and I agreed that she looked slightly septic. I looked over the antibiotic list and called the doctor. I told him something like that the patient had good fungal and Gram negative coverage, but was not well covered for Gram positive bacteria. He sat on the phone quiet for a bit as I don’t think he had ever had a nurse notice something like that before. However, in the BMTU at Baylor, it was common knowledge. He ordered the appropriate antibiotic and by the next morning, her fever had broken.
Another time, a patient was admitted needing to have a blood transfusion. The patient was nervous and extremely concerned that he was to be admitted to another local hospital for a bone marrow transplant within the month and he didn’t want anything to get in the way of his bone marrow typing that he had already undergone. With my extensive experience in bone marrow transplantation, I was the only one on the unit to be able to answer his questions regarding this and calm his worries.
I would have thought that some of these experiences would have earned me at least a tiny bit of credibility with my coworkers, but no such luck. I frequently went home in tears both from the cramping in my legs as well as the emotional daggers stabbing the ventricles within my heart. I was spiritually perishing as I cried out to my God who did not seem to be there for me at the time. “Why? Why would I have felt so strongly that I was to take that particular job? Why would my Jesus lead me into such torture?” Still on the medications for the transverse myelitis, David & I were also fighting more than we ever had then or have since in our marriage. Life was looking really bleak!
I rarely conversed with the other nurses, but one night, one of them suddenly grabbed a trash can and vomited into it. I got up, put on gloves, gave her a wet washcloth, and emptied the trash can. I was a nurse and taking care of that situation just came naturally – especially after years in oncology where that was a common scene with the patients. She told me not to do it, but I did it anyway. I know how crummy it feels to be throwing up. I can’t remember now if she went home or just went to the break room & laid down, but I do remember that she was at least nicer to me after that. Perhaps I made at least a tiny nick into the impenatrable clique of the ICU staff.
Suddenly, my patient’s heart rhythm changed from normal. As I looked at the rhythm, I noticed the intervals getting longer, longer, longer, and then dropping. I recognized the rhythm from my training as a 2nd degree heart block. I immediately called the doctor as this can progress quickly. Standing over my shoulder while I’m on the phone to the doctor is the nurse who was my preceptor. Each time I would say that it was 2nd degree heart block, she would correct me and say it was just sinus pause and I didn’t need to call the doctor. She took the strip out of my hand and ran it over to the cardiac intensive care unit. She convinced the nurses there that I was crazy and calling the doctor in the middle of the night for a small sinus pause. I was absolutly positive it was a 2nd degree heart block rhythm, but her persistance made me nervous and question if I was losing my mind.
Once home, I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t go on. I had to do something. Shaking and crying, I called my supervisor and told her I couldn’t work nights anymore. I told her I didn’t know if I was going crazy, if the staff hated me, or what, but I could not continue the way things were going. I was humiliated and embarrassed, but she assured me that she would work something out and to come meet with her that afternoon.
I remember sitting there, reviewing everything I had been through with the supervisor and the ICU nurse educators. They looked at the rhythm from my patient and agreed it was 2nd degree heart block. The ICU nurse educator was shocked that none of the ICU or Cardiac ICU staff could recognize the rhythm. She took a deep breath and said she had her work cut out for her. I poured my heart out and told them everything I had been through with my health and I begged to be put onto day shift. They looked up, sadness and concern on their faces, and informed me that they did not have any ICU dayshift positions available. However, if I wanted to transfer to another area of the hospital, perhaps they could accomodate me. The ICU educator asked me how I felt about a desk job, that the med-surg unit was looking for a nurse educator. I about fell out of my seat! What??? They prefer to get someone from the hospital to take a position like that over an outsider. I would be a transfer, and it might fit? What???
So, yes, God allowed me to go through 3 months of a nightmare position at work to get my foot in the door and open the nursing education position that I had prayed so fervantly for. God is faithful to anwer prayers even if it means 3 months of humbling trials!