The Day Shift - The Sequel

It is 7.30am when I leave for work. As I walk towards the hospital the sun is shining, there is a cold nip in the air, but I can already tell it is going to be another warm day. I walk past a bright yellow sign that says thank you to the NHS. I end up walking past a few pinned to lamp posts. The lift to the fifth floor is full again. I have learnt from last time. I take the escalator to the first floor so I have only four sets of stairs to climb, compared to five.

The scrub vending machine is broken. I find some raspberry pink scrubs coming up from the laundry. I do not worry as at handover there is often an array of different colours. Half the rainbow. Outside of our intensive care unit (ICU) there are more and more members of staff at handover everyday. There are nurses and healthcare assistances (HCAs) from the wards, theatres, paediatrics, and the community. We have allied health professionals working with us too. It is amazing to see!

With around twenty-five patients we are divided into teams, with one ICU nurse overseeing three to four non-ICU nurses. I am called forward. I am to look after beds one to three, and I need to choose my team. Another ICU nurse, who is one of my best friends, is sent to join me. There is a patient who requires dialysis, therefore needs a trained ICU to look after them. I choose a sexual health nurse who is a good friend from our newly qualified days on the ward. Then a very experienced physiotherapist volunteers to join our team. I signal the dream team to follow me. However I think everyone is starting to clock on as I always call my team the dream team no matter who is in it. I feel today will be a good day.

I am fed up with the term donning and doffing. I much prefer dazzling and dedazzling. So my team and I dazzle up. We then enter into "The Red Zone". During handover we acquire three more members to the dream team. Two paediatric nurses and one community nurse practitioner. I split them between the three patients. There are now two nurses to a patient, and me overseeing.

There is lots to do. There are all ventilated. They all require medication to help their blood pressures. So I am running between the three of them most of the day. I need to make sure my team feel supported and able to ask for help. They all do an amazing job. I try and convince them to become ICU nurses. I always try and do some subtle recruiting. Sadly ICU is not for everyone. I tried at least.

We decide that now is a good time to try and wake up one of the patients. They are a new mum. Their baby had to be delivered prematurely (at less than 30 weeks) as they were starting to deteriorate due to coronavirus. The baby was now on the neonatal intensive care (NICU). Thankfully baby was doing okay. There are pictures of baby posted around the room. The patient wakes up quite quickly after we turn off the sedation. Initially they are calm however they soon become very anxious and agitated. There is a risk they will pull their breathing tube out. We decide to sedate them again, however only very slightly, so they remain calm and comfortable, but awake. It works.

Throughout the morning they required less and less support from the ventilator. A huge step in the right direction. We show them the pictures of baby. I see their eyes light up. We tell them baby is safe. I do not think they believe us, but would you? You would want to hold your new baby. But they cannot. They have to hold a picture instead.

When I know the patient is settled, I dedazzle to go have lunch. When I return to dazzle up again, the gloves are now green, instead of white, I find this exciting (it is the little things). I ask the HCA helping to stock up the PPE where they normally work. They say in sexual health, so very different. I say thank you for helping us. He then asks where I normally work. I tell him here, I am an ICU nurse. He jokes, so you are the expert. I laugh, then I realise I am. Although, sometimes I do not feel like it, especially when I am often overseeing nurses with years more experience than me. The roles have reversed. It feels strange.

I go to check on our new mother again. They appear so much calmer. One of the nurses is talking to them, holding their hand. I can see the patient trying to look out the window. I look and can see clear blue skies and the sun brightly shining over the Shard, the London Eye, and St Paul's Cathedral. I feel so lucky to work where I work.

The day draws quickly to a close. Before handover I chat with my friends about when they are next in. I am the last to leave at 8.45pm, but my fellow ICU nurse who was working with me today is waiting outside. We record a quick message for her three year old niece, saying thank you for her clapping on Thursdays. Just as we change out of our scrubs, a large order of Nandos arrives. I take a chicken wrap and eat it while I Skype my parents. It tastes so good.

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