Have you ever cared for one of those patients who is ‘borderline’ unstable? You know --- kind of stable, but not well enough for you to feel too optimistic that they won’t crash? In the Medical Intensive Care Unit where I worked, I can recall many times where we had this one habit to help us get through the shift and keep a patient stable. Sounds silly, almost superstitious, but sometimes it worked…and I’m wondering if any of you have similar quirks or traditions that you use in your own practice.
What is it? Here are some examples:
A patient is admitted and we settle him in his room – ECG monitor on, vital signs taken, alarms set, I.V. access established, history taken, and physical assessment completed. He seems fairly stable but when you walk out of the room, his alarm sounds for a systolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg. His initial blood pressure had been 116/78. Your colleague asks, “Do you want some I.V. fluids?” to which you reply “Yes, let me just keep it in the room.”
Another patient, who had been on the unit for a few weeks and had resolving ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) was extubated 2 days ago and had been doing well breathing on her own. Throughout the shift, however, her oxygen requirements are increasing and her breathing is becoming more labored. The respiratory therapist asks “Do you think she’ll be reintubated?” and you reply “Please bring a ventilator to her room, just in case.”
I can think of many patient scenarios similar to these, where we’d bring I.V. catheters, vasopressors or other medications, even urinary catheters, into the room but then didn’t need to use them. I know part of this is being prepared and having a treatment or intervention ‘ready to go’ is something that, as nurses, we do all the time. However, sometimes it seemed that the act of bringing something into the patient’s room was enough to keep him or her stable. Just coincidence? Probably. But if it works…