Night Nurse: Fear is First

So, as I’ve not been blogging for a while, let me give you a quick rundown of my CV.

-BSc Medical Genetics
-PGDip Children’s Nursing
-MSc Nursing
-4 years Healthcare Assistant (HCA) experience
-2 years Paediatric Nurse in Neurology and Theatre (Recovery)
-Current role: Paediatric Research Nurse.

This looks more impressive than I actually am. I promise I’m not humblebragging though – there’s a point to this.

Last week after I came back from Australia (I promise, more on that later), my boss came up to me and asked a little too innocently “Hey, what’s your background again?

“Uh, neurology and theatres.”

“High dependency?”


“And you worked with adults too?”

“Yeah, as an HCA.”

“Cool. Cool. Well, see ya.”

The next day I came in and my other manager was like “Hey, check your email.”

In my inbox was an email telling me that I, a paeds nurse, had been signed up for an ADULT INTENSIVE CARE COURSE.

I had been volunteered for the frontline. I was going to be deployed. I was going to work with the sickest of the sick in an age group I’ve not been trained with. I was gonna either cry or pee myself.

So this is how liberty dies.

star wars film GIF

At some point we as a society are going to have a talk about why the prequels have the best memes

I can pinpoint a few times in my life when I’ve been really scared, and roughly 75% of them are work related. Being a nurse is scary. I don’t see people talk about that often enough. Being a nurse is rewarding and exhausting and underpaid and overworked and hard work and blah blah blah it is terrifying. Not all the time, mind you. Most days is fine. But every nurse has had at least one ohshhhhugarapples (still a paeds nurse, shouldn’t curse) moment, and that is a terrifying feeling to have.

Sometimes these moments are huge and patient related. I was helping a friend recover a patient post-surgery (I was due to leave, so I was just being a runner for him), and this patient suddenly started having multiple seizures. My friend, a gifted Advanced Theatre Practitioner, had limited experiences with seizing children as most post-operative patients are still sedated. So I (having neuro experience) had to stay there because it would be amoral of me to ditch my friend with a seizing patient. And so I took the lead. Held this child’s head in a jaw thrust, administered 15l oxygen, called for help and started to time the seizures. Got people to draw up rescue meds (he wasn’t prescribed any because idk someone dropped the ball?) as we approached the time where we would have to administer. He would stop seizing and then start again. The nurse in charge was calling all over the place for a bed because it was late and the post-surgical ward was about to close for the night. Eventually the kid stopped seizing, we found him a bed and we discharged him.

han solo salute GIF

Godspeed, kid

I was terrified during that entire thing. But you wanna hear another time I was terrified?

Last week, during the ITU course. I was sitting in the class, half paying attention and flipping through the hand-out. One of the pages was on Arterial Blood Gases. No problemo, I’ve been doing those for a few years now. Easy pease. You just attach the syringe, take your waste, take your sample, flush the line using the butterfly, dassit. So I read their instructions.

-Attach the syringe
-take your waste
-take your sample
-flush the line by pulling on a pigtail.

HOLD UP. A PIGTAIL??!?!!?!?!?

Immediate panic. Deer in the headlights. I don’t know what a pigtail is!!! Have I been doing it wrong? I squinted at the pixelated picture. It looked completely different from every arterial line I’ve seen in my life. I had the smallest, most silent meltdown at the back of that class, I swear. Sweating profusely, I message my friend, A, who is an incredible Recovery nurse (hey friend!) and who was similarly perplexed.

“Loooooool that looks unsafe,” was her reply. PANIC INTENSIFIES.

the last jedi GIF by Star Wars

I went to the ABG practice session (not that I had a choice) and realised it’s fine, but that feeling of panic was indistinguishable from what I felt with the seizing patient. They sound wildly different but to me they do the same thing – they are fears that sow doubt and have the potential to immobilise me. And like we said in the previous post, that’s a one way ticket to the Dark Side, population Sith.

I feel like it’s important to stop the metaphor here and say that I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with fear. I mean, not if you let there be something wrong. Fear can be a great motivator. Why do you think [choose your ethnicity] parents threaten their pickneys with a [choose your weapon]? Fear, my dudes. It’s important to not let fear consume you, though.

Another story.

When I first qualified, I had a patient. Little baby, few months old. He was on the mend and I was feeling good that shift… until he wasn’t so good. He turned grey and his eyes started twitching. I didn’t know what to do. I was frozen in place. I cannot tell you how thankful I am, how truly blessed I feel, to have worked in places with incredible coworkers. One of them came in to check on me and saw what was going on. He called for help, pushed me out of the room and said to me “Get changed. Go to Starbucks. Order the largest frappe they have. And do not come back until you are OK.” I left the ward. All I could think about was how he was OK until the moment he wasn’t. That fear I felt in that moment was paralyzing and it’s something you can never forget. It’s been 3 years and I can still see that child’s face when I close my eyes. They were OK in the end, and last I heard, they are thriving, but good God.

My boss told me the other day that I won’t be going to ITU. This is because we are going to be conducting COVID-19 research. So in my capacity as a research nurse, I must meet these COVID-19 +ve patients and recruit them. I must ensure that they get the medications we are trialling, even if it means giving it myself. I must make sure that this potentially life saving research is done at all costs. Even if that cost is myself. That is fear-inducing.

But I have to be ok with that. Myself, and all the other nurses who went into this profession with the goal of helping people. And all the doctors, all the HCAs, all the therapists and pharmacists and dieticians and cleaners and porters and caterers and so many people… we all scared. But we have to cope with it.

And you, dear reader who is at home for whatever reason. Don’t feel guilty while reading this! It’s ok to be scared! It’s ok to feel crappy about being at home, it’s ok to be scared about the global pandemic, it’s ok to feel fear. It’s scary times right now! Just… don’t let it get to you, mmkay? Try to cope.

I don’t have advice for coping. Sometimes my coping mechanism is to eat. Sometimes my coping mechanism is to exercise. Sometimes I just cry. I think the important thing is to face your fears. Allow yourself to fall apart, else how will you be able to build yourself into a stronger person?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s