The mentor that changed everything

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This post does not by any means suggest that my other mentors haven’t been amazing, because they have. I have been extremely lucky that every mentor I have worked with up to now have taught me so much and have always been fantastic to work with. There is just one mentor who changed everything for me.

Rewind back to the end of year 1, to me receiving my first placement allocation for year 2 and seeing HDU/ITU. I hadn’t been on an acute ward in my training yet and I was starting my acute experiences in one of the scariest places, A&E being another one that fills me with dread.

I spent weeks panicking (a common occurrence with me as you will know if you’ve read my other blogs 😂) and worrying that I really did not know enough to be trusted with this kind of placement. I was going from year 1, in a placement that I was actually quite confident in due to previous experience to my first acute ward. I did not have chance to visit the unit before starting placement so I walked in ‘blind’. The first thing I saw was all the machines and I must have looked terrified because one of the NQNs said ‘It’s not that scary once you get started, don’t look so terrified you will be fine!’. I met my mentor and she took me into handover. From the first moment she was welcoming and kind, I instantly warmed to her and felt a little less nervous. I picked up the handover sheet and was convinced it was in another language, I didn’t understand half of the actual handover and worried that this would happen every morning.

I started my placement with 2 weeks on HDU, so the ratio of patients is 2:1. My mentor started by showing me the crash trolley and the airway trolley. We then moved onto the bedside checks and the observation charts. By lunchtime, I was feeling confident enough to record the observations myself and my mentor was happy for me to do so. The next week passed so quickly and my mentor knew so much, the knowledge she had blew me away and I remember thinking to myself that I would never know all the things that she knew. At the end of my second week, I had 2 weeks annual leave for Easter. When I returned, I was on ITU.

I asked over and over if I was doing ok, if I was where I should be and was doing everything I should be. I was doubting myself as I always do and thought I didn’t know anything. My mentor encouraged me all the time to complete skills that she knew I could do, she had faith in me and taught me things that have since come in very handy on my other placements. The day she told me I was having my own level 2 patient in ITU, I remember thinking no, no way I’m not good enough. This is not happening I will mess this up big time. And guess what? I didn’t! I felt confident in the bedside checks and the observations, she provided me with support and encouragement and actually made me believe that I can do this. The next few days passed and I became more confident with everything, using my own initiative to complete tasks that I could do. Then my mentor said I was taking care of a level 3 patient. WHAT?! No, no thank you I do not know what to do and the ventilator scares me to death 😂 Of course I wasn’t on my own I had her supervision but I was allowed to complete tasks by myself, keep track of medication times and assess changes to care based on ABGs. She pushed me to make decisions based on my own knowledge without ever making me feel ‘belittled’ if I didn’t know anything or needed to check something.

Before this placement, I had absolutely no faith in myself at all and thought I wouldn’t make it as a nurse. This mentor completely changed my way of thinking. She showed me so much support and encouragement that it was impossible to continue doubting myself. She taught me so much and I genuinely think that if I become even half the nurse she is, I will be very lucky. She constantly made sure that I was feeling comfortable and gave me every learning opportunity, involving me in ward rounds and procedures such as intubations and tracheostomy procedures. I felt welcomed from day 1 and completely fell in love with the place, which is partly due to my mentor and the faith she had in me. The feedback she gave me made me cry and I always look back on it if I’m doubting myself and feeling low. To reiterate, I can say that I’m very lucky and all my mentors have been fantastic and I’ve learnt so much from them all, but there was something different about this woman. In 6 weeks, she took me from a nervous second year student believing she would never be a nurse – to a semi-confident (only because I’ll never be fully confident!) second year knowing that she could do this and that there was a good chance that she would qualify! I now feel slightly jealous of anyone who receives that placement in the time we have left on the course 😂

Let me know any stories you have of mentors like this!

Love,

T x

Common medications used in critical care

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I often see posts from students who have received placement allocations in critical care and are wondering what to read up on. Here are a list of the most common medications used in critical care that I hope others may find useful.

Sodium Chloride 0.9% (also known as normal saline) – every patient will usually have this on ITU, it is a source of water and electrolytes. Used for replenishing fluid and restoring/maintaining the concentrations of sodium and chloride ions.

Hartmanns fluid – used to replace body fluid and mineral salts. A mixture of sodium chloride, sodium lactate, potassium chloride and calcium chloride in water.

Propofol – sedation used in ITU for critically ill patients on ventilators. Propofol is given continuously via IV infusion.

Alfentanil – used as an opioid analgesia. Suppresses respiratory activity in patients receiving invasive ventilation. Acts within 1-2 minutes and has a short duration of action. Often used alongside sedation such as Propofol.

Noradrenaline – a vasoconstrictor used to treat hypotension. Norad is administered continuously via IV infusion into a central line.

Atracurium – a muscle relaxant used to paralyse. Dose is calculated on patients’ ideal body weight, not actual body weight. Able to be used in patients’ with hepatic or renal impairment due to the way it metabolises. Atracurium relaxes the vocal cords to allow intubation.

Vasopressin – often used as support for other vasoconstrictors, such as norad.

Ranitidine – reduces gastric acid output. Ranitidine is mainly used to stop stomach acid coming up from the stomach while the patient is under anaesthetic or sedation. It can also help to clear up infections within the stomach, when taken with antibiotics.

Remifentanil – used for sedation. Has a shorter onset duration than Alfentanil. Remi is often used overnight for patients who are not quite ready for extubation.

Digoxin – is a cardiac glycoside which increases the force of myocardial contraction and reduces conductivity within AV node. Digoxin helps make the heart beat with a more regular rhythm. Digoxin is used to treat atrial fibrillation.

Quetiapine – antipsychotic. Used for the treatment of ‘mania’ episodes.

Haloperidol – antipsychotic. Mainly used to ease agitation or restlessness in elderly patients.

Furosemide – diuretic. Used in critical care to offload a large positive fluid balance or if the patient is not passing an adequate amount of urine per hour.

Aminophylline – used to treat reversible airway obstructions.  Aminophylline is usually given via IV infusion and is used to treat the acute symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and other lung diseases. Will often be given to patients who become ‘wheezy’ if nebulisers do not appear to be helping. Aminophylline belongs to a group of medicines known as bronchodilators.

Clonidine – used as a sedative agent when weaning patients off stronger sedation.

Tinzaparin –  an anticoagulant used to prevent blood clots in patients with reduced mobility. As the patients in critical care are often sedated and bed bound, all patients will be administered tinzaparin or a variant of this.

Antibiotics – The common ones used are Co-Amoxiclav, Tazocin, Meropenum and Clindamycin.

Love,

T x

 

Information was collated through talking to consultants, critical care nurses and further research through the BNF.

 

 

A day on ITU

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The shift pattern on ITU is the same as the shift pattern on HDU (You can read my day on HDU post here) :

Long day: 07:15 – 19:45

Nights – 19:15 – 07:45

Just like on HDU, there is no ‘typical’ day on ITU as every day can be different from the next. Below is one day that I experienced on ITU.

07:15 – 07:45 – During this time, we received a handover from the nurse in charge. We then went onto the ward and received a more detailed handover for the patients we would be looking after that day. This included details about why the patient was admitted and followed the A-E approach with a few extra sections. This handover also included any planned interventions for that day, such as x-rays or planned transfers. On ITU, the staff nurses’ have 1 patient each for the whole day (1:1).

07:45 – 10:00 – The nurse in charge checked the resus trolley and ventilation trolley to ensure all the correct equipment is present, working and within the expiry date. The staff nurses completed bedside equipment checks such as ensuring the equipment alarms are operating, checking the oxygen and suction points were working and checking the infusions to ensure there is enough left to last a couple of hours. In ITU, there are also ventilator settings and alarms that need to be checked to ensure they are working correctly. After all these checks, the patient was assisted with personal hygiene needs and repositioned. Pressure areas are checked and patients on ITU are repositioned 4 hourly, with pressure areas checked on each reposition. Everything is documented on the daily observations chart, an A3 sheet with information on both sides. All observations, fluid input/output and re-positioning is documented on there. The patients have a drink and breakfast if they are able to eat.

10:00 – 12:00 – Usually between this time, the consultants and nurse in charge will do a ward round. They discuss each patient and what the next step of their medical plan should be. Sometimes this will be a new medication or a change in ventilator settings, depending on how the patient is responding to their current treatment plan. Sedation holds may begin around this time to allow the patient to have time to respond, sometimes the patient is not ready to fully break from sedation so the sedation may be restarted and a sedation hold attempted the next day.

12:00 – 18:00 – Again it’s hard to fully describe what happens in the afternoon as every day is different. Obs are usually completed hourly on ITU, they may be 2 hourly if the patient is self ventilating and being transferred to a ward. Obs on ITU include fluid input and output. Fluid input includes any medications given by IV or through a NG tube. Fluid output includes blood taken and NG tube aspirations as well as urine output. Every hour the balance is recorded so we can see if the patient is in negative or positive fluid balance. Equipment checks are carried out once again throughout the afternoon to ensure alarms are still functioning correctly.

Patient observations are monitored closely and medications/oxygen can be adjusted accordingly. If a patient is responding well to ventilation, the ASB rate, PEEP or oxygen % may be adjusted to see how the patient manages. Extubation may occur if the patient is responding well to treatment but this will be planned in advance and discussed in the days leading up to the decision. ABG’s will be taken and the results recorded on the daily observation chart, as well as the patients medical notes.

New patients can be admitted from surgery, A&E, HDU or other wards.

18:00 – 19:15 – Daily notes are completed for the patients we have been looking after. The daily handover sheet is updated ready for the handover to the night shift team.

19:15 – 19:45 – Night shift arrive and the nurse in charge gives a handover covering the whole ward. The night shift team then come onto the ward and receive detailed handovers for their patients.

Love,

T x

A day on HDU

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My first placement of year 2 is 6 weeks on ITU/HDU. At Derby university in second year, we have two hub placements. One is for 6 weeks and the other is for 12 weeks. We also have a spoke placement where we spend 4 weeks.

The shift pattern at my placement is:

Long day: 07:15 – 19:45

Nights – 19:15 – 07:45

There are 1/2 days but I won’t be doing any of these during my placement block.

There is no ‘typical’ day on HDU as every day can be different from the next. Below is one day that I experienced on HDU. Other areas/trusts will vary and I would love to hear about your typical days on placement!

07:15 – 07:45 – During this time, we received a handover from the nurse in charge. We then went onto the ward and received a more detailed handover for the patients we would be looking after that day. This included details about why the patient was admitted and followed the A-E approach with a few extra sections. This handover also included any planned interventions for that day, such as x-rays or planned transfers. On HDU, the staff nurses’ usually have 2 patients each for the whole day (2:1).

07:45 – 10:00 – The nurse in charge checks the resus trolley and ventilation trolley to ensure all the correct equipment is present, working and within the expiry date. The staff nurses also complete bedside equipment checks such as ensuring the equipment alarms are operating, checking the oxygen and suction points are working and checking the infusions to ensure there is enough left to last a couple of hours. After all these checks, the patient is asked if they would like to have a wash and a fresh gown. If the patient declines, they are re-positioned and a skin check completed. Everything is documented on the daily observations chart, an A3 sheet with information on both sides. All observations, fluid input/output and re-positioning is documented on there. The patients have a drink and breakfast if they are able to eat.

10:00 – 12:00 – Usually between this time, the consultants and nurse in charge will do a ward round. They discuss each patient and what the next step of their medical plan should be. Sometimes this will be a new medication or transfer to a ward such as respiratory or stroke wards, depending on the patient.

12:00 – 18:00 – It’s hard to fully describe what happens in the afternoon as every day is different. Obs are done hourly or 2 hourly, depending on the patient. Obs on HDU include fluid input and output. Fluid input includes any medications given. Fluid output includes blood taken as well as urine output. NG tube aspirations are included in the fluid output also. Every hour/2 hours the balance is recorded so we can see if the patient is in negative or positive fluid balance. Equipment checks are carried out once again throughout the afternoon to ensure alarms are still functioning correctly.

Personal care needs are met as needed and re-positioning is carried out regularly if the patient is unable to do so themselves. Patients observations are monitored closely and medications/oxygen can be adjusted accordingly. Equipment may also be changed if needed, such as changing a patient from a nasal cannula to an oxygen face mask. ABG’s may be taken in this time and the results recorded on the daily observation chart, as well as the patients medical notes.

New patients can be admitted from surgery, A&E or other wards.

18:00 – 19:15 – Daily notes are completed for the patients we have been looking after. The daily handover sheet is updated ready for the handover to the night shift team.

19:15 – 19:45 – Night shift arrive and the nurse in charge gives a handover covering the whole ward. The night shift team then come onto the ward and receive detailed handovers for their patients.

Look out for further blog posts in my HDU/ITU series!

Love,

T x