A Good Shift (Niki introduces two coworkers)

Chapter 2

One good thing about working twelve-hour night shifts in a Southern California hospital is driving against traffic for the commute. Californians don’t measure commutes in miles, but by how long it takes them to get there. Everyone knows to stay off the freeways, and take surface streets.

I pull into the hospital staff parking lot ten minutes before starting time, unwrap my stethoscope from around the rear-view mirror, and grab my sack lunch from the passenger seat. Then I sprint to the PICU for change of shift report.

Unconsciously, my nose wrinkles when I see on the assignment board I’m taking report from Kris. She’s nearing fifty, and thinks this gives her the right to treat me like I’m still a student, but I see through her. Her aging makes my youth threatening. Blonde hair, overly tanned skin; she’s so thin I’m sure she has an eating disorder. Last year she had a boob job, and when she returned from medical leave she pulled every one of us into an empty patient room for show and tell.  She’s currently dating the bass player of a struggling rock band that practices in her garage. Kris doesn’t have relationships with men, or girlfriends for that matter, only superficial encounters of varying lengths; it’s a frequent source of gossip among the nurses in our unit. However, she’s been a nurse almost thirty years. She’s worked ER, OR, and adult ICU. Even I have to admit she’s nursing muscle.

I brighten when I see I’m working with Liz tonight, and she’s charge nurse. Every bit as skilled a nurse as Kris, she’s a completely different type of person. She doesn’t hold my inexperience against me. Instead, she sees me as an opportunity to develop a coworker she can depend on. She understands I’m looking for the chance to sharpen my skills. Liz doesn’t wear any make up, and laughs too loud, but she is the rock star nurse in this pediatric intensive care unit. The doctors ask her opinion of their patients’ progress before they write their orders.

It’s going to be a good shift. I start every shift thinking it will be good. That’s how new I am to nursing.

Make Sure You Spell It Right (Introduction)

Chapter 1

 He was practically screaming at me over the phone at the nurses’ desk. I wondered how anyone could summon so much energy at 2 am on short notice.

“I want you to give that digoxin now, young lady!”

“If I give the digoxin, the kid’s heart is going to stop. He’s bradycardic; his heart rate’s 45,” I shot back, meeting his energy, but shaking.

“Then get another nurse to give it,” he barked.

“Doctor Rathmore, there’s no nurse here who will give the digoxin. If you want it given, you’re going to have to come in and do it yourself.”

I’ll have you fired! I’m reporting you in the morning! What is your name?”

“My name is Niki Rossetti, R-O-S-S-E-T-T-I. Make sure you spell it right on that report.”

Simultaneously, we slammed down our receivers.

My name is actually Maria Nicola Rossetti. Ever since I was a kid, I felt the name was too long, bigger than me. My parents had this thing about using nicknames, so all through elementary school I was Maria Nicola. “What a pretty name,” everybody said. I wished I had a short, American sounding name, like Kim or Jill. Then in junior high, Miss Crewe, the girls PE coach said my name was too long, and started calling me Niki. It stuck, at least when I was at school. At home, Maria Nicola was written in my mother’s beautiful script on every gift for me under our Christmas tree, and decorates the envelopes of the birthday cards she sends to me each year as if it were lace.

Back to Dr. Rathmore and his patient with the low heart rate: After we hung up on each other, I drew a STAT level from a small vein in the ten month-old’s arm. The result revealed a toxic level of digoxin, the medication I held. It’s what caused the slow heart rate. I copied the result onto a bright yellow sticky note and posted it on the patient’s chart for cardiology to find in the morning.

No report was filed. The digoxin was discontinued. Later, the patient was discharged home on a much smaller dose.

I am Niki Rossetti, RN, and these are my adventures.