Monday, June 30, 2008

What we see, not everyone does.

We are currently very low in our census of respiratory patients but we still have some interesting ones come in and out of my place here. Tonight I had a patient come into my ER who was very tachycardic to the tune of 170's and higher along with a respiratory rate of 40's and sweating very profusely.

What does that sound like? If you said a pulmonary embolism you would be correct. Now this really is nothing very new to most RT's but what really struck me about this one is the mortality of this person that was brought up to me. I had previously done a EKG on this patient when he first came into the ER and was called back to do another one about a half hour later. What I noticed was his rate had increased along with his heart rate and the patient just being very anxious, but he was very alert and awake.

When I finished I went out and talked with the doctor, I asked him if this patient had some sort of bad infection also because of a high fever according the the nurse. The doc said no, he has a bad PE and he was pretty sure this person was going to die.

Right there is was struck me, "pretty sure this person was going to die". Does this patient know that, are we looking at a dead man walking type of issue, somehow he can tell that this person who is alert and awake has a clock that is ready to stop. Well the doc was right, he got to the point that he needed intubated and not more than 2 minutes after the intubation his HR went from 170's to the 30's and a code was started.

After all was said and done this patient didn't make it, but between when I talked to the doctor until the code was stopped, I couldn't help but think that I was this alert person that we knew that his time was up and it was just a matter of time. I was talking to this person knowing that the doctor could be right and I could be the last person he talks to. We watched this person just fade away, did all we could to save him but in some sense we all knew there was not much hope at all.

This all started me thinking about what we see as RT's compared to other people in the world. If you think about it how many people actually get the chance to actually watch someone take their last breath? How many people get to see a person who is injured beyond recognition from a car accident? Really I don't think many people get the chance to experience the things we sometimes do and a daily basis. Yes most people will probably see a dead body after the fact at a funeral but really how many are able to see life just slip away from a person or see us as caregivers struggle to resuscitate a person and get their heart started again?

Honestly do people in our lives, friends and family really understand what we see and deal with at our job? Do you think they have a good idea of what our job involves? Unless you are around our job you can never really know what we see or do. In my 12 years as a RT I couldn't even guess how many people I have seen die, and really I feel I have been desensitized to the reality of death and dying. I often wonder that if, God forbide, one of my parents would pass away that I wouldn't be able to show much emotion but I do know I would be sad. It is possible that I am so used to seeing people die that I might not even be able to cry for my loved ones.

All in all as a RT I really think that we see more death that a lot of RN's in the hospital. Think about it, as the RT we are required to respond to all codes, not all RN's are. There is the possibility of a code happening in the floor that the RN works at, but we as RT's are responsible to respond to ALL codes in the hospital. So are we around it more, I think so. This fact I can see in the eyes of some RN's who I see in codes, it's in their eyes they just seem a little out of sorts. We on the other hand usually have been though many of codes and are a rock in the sea of turmoil called a code. Don't get me wrong there are a lot of RN's in the position to see a lot of this also, namely ER nurses, they probably see a bit more than us. They are also a special breed.

There are many jobs out there that see things that most people would not want to but that's what separates the people who are able to do these types of jobs. It's not for everyone, you have to have a certain toughness and mindset to do this type of work. We have that mindset, and it is needed to not only do you job but to be a calm face in a stressful situation.

Friends and family might know what a RT is, but will never understand really what we see and deal with as a RT. Sometimes it can get to you when you think about it.

Drive on RT's.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

I'd have to agree that RTs see more death than most. There was a point in time where all I did was termanially extubate. They called me the angel of death...which I hated. Every person who I touch that ends up dying affects me.

I'd also like to say that because we see so much death and trying to die, we are much better assessors than others in healthcare.

I once was paged for a breath treatment by a new grad RN for a patient who was in the middle of an MI, he was clutching his chest, stateing couldn't breath (her clue that he was only SOB), and was having ST elevation changes on the monitor. I walked into the room and called a code immediately. I was horrified by her inability to recognize the signs....I truly believe because we are thrown into the ICU's so quickly it makes us better at assessing....all new grad RN's should do at least 6 months in the ICU.