Never, ever think your shift is easy and you may go home early. It’s the quickest way to sabotage it.
The shift started well enough. I did vitals and passed meds for the two post-open heart patients first. They each have private rooms, and I chatted a bit with their respective parents. Transferring their children from the PICU to the general floor makes some parents uneasy, even though they understand it means their child is getting well. In the PICU, they become used to their child receiving one-on-one nursing care. They become accustomed to the vigilance of a nurse dedicated to the care of only their child. On the pediatric unit, the nurses are assigned three or four patients plus their child. The parents are now required to practice vigilance for their previously critically ill child’s care. Understandably, some are more comfortable than others. My patients’ parents recognize me from the PICU. A familiar face eases their minds. Our rapport encourages my belief it will be an easy shift.
My third patient shares his room with another.
During report the night shift nurse said, “Niki, your patient, Travis, is a delight, you’ll love him. Unfortunately, his roommate is a bit of a handful, so we assigned him to another nurse. He saw Travis’ seeing eye dog, Reege, and insisted his parents bring his dog to stay with him. They brought him in last night, claiming it’s a service dog too. Fortunately, Travis’ dog is a professional, and ignores the little dog’s aggressive behavior towards him.”
“Well, if Travis and Reege can ignore the other dog, I guess I can too.”
“Hi Travis, my name’s Niki. Is this beautiful dog is your partner, Reege?”
“Hi Niki, I need to go to the bathroom. Can you put the IV pole where I can reach it please?”
“Sure. Do you need help?”
I watch Travis handle the IV pole, and grip Reege’s harness with his other hand. Reege, a golden retriever, pads along silently, leading Travis the to the bathroom. Travis seems steady enough, but his fall risk makes me nervous, so I wait for them in the room.
On the return trip I try again, “Is it okay if I take the IV pole for you?”
After Travis is back in bed and Reege settled at his bedside, I take his vitals.
“Travis, are you hungry or is your stomach still bothering you? The breakfast trays should arrive soon.”
“I’m hungry. Do you guys have bacon?”
“Of course, but if there’s no bacon on your tray, I’ll call down to the kitchen and get you some.”
As if on cue, the meal cart arrives, and I find Travis’ tray. Lucky me! There’s bacon.
I place the tray on his table, adjusting the bed and utensils so they’re within reach. Travis tells me he’s right-handed.
“You’ve done this before, I see.”
“Yeah, a few times,” he grins. Would you tell me what’s on the plate, and its place on the face of a clock?”
“Sure. Anything else? Do you want me to butter the toast or cut anything for you?”
“Nope, I got it. Thanks.”
“Hey Nurse. Hey!” It’s the kid in the other bed. He’s got his dog, a nondescript terrier mix, in his lap.
“Hi. Do you need something?’
“Yeah, can you get some bacon for Rocket?”
“Sure. I’ll make a call to the kitchen.”
When I near his bed, Rocket growls at me.
“Do you want to pet him?”
“Does he bite? I thought strangers shouldn’t pet service dogs.”
“People just say that because they think their dog is more special than Rocket.” The kid glares at Travis, who flips him off. I try not to laugh.
“He only bites if he doesn’t like you. If you give him some bacon, I’m pretty sure he won’t bite.”
“Um, okay. I’ll order the bacon and let your nurse know.”
I leave their call lights within reach, bed rails up, and take breakfast trays to my other two patients. After they’re done, I help their mothers with bathing and dressing them.
One of the perks of day shift is the café is open. There’s time to go downstairs and bring a latte back to the unit. I get in line. There are two police officers ahead of me.
One of them is Officer Mike.
“Hey, Nurse Niki. What are you doing, getting a latte before heading home? I thought night shift prefers beer for breakfast.”
How the hell does he know that?
“Well Officer Mike, how nice to run into you again. No more nights for this nurse. I’ve transferred to day shift.”
“Congratulations. Welcome to the land of the living Niki. See you around.”
Mike and his partner take their coffees from the counter.
Did he just look my way again before walking away?