Thursday, 12 February 2015

Night shift

Night-time noises fill this space.  The consistent hum of the air-conditioning, the rustle of people in their beds, the ticking clock, all punctuated by random alarms going off on another deck, infants crying out in the middle of the night for their next feed, and the rustle of paper as we flip quietly through charts.  At the moment the noisiest thing in the room is my fingers tapping on the keyboard (though the snore of my 7 year old patient may be good competition). 
This ward is made up of two side-by-side spaces about 20x24ft each (very rough guess) that are joined by a small space filled with a nursing desk and countertop with cupboards and a sink.  Myself, another nurse and the translator working with us bring the total population of the ward tonight to 40 people.  Most of our patients have a caregiver (or two, if there is a baby sibling) who sleeps under their bed, and so our ward with 19 patients means double the number of people filling the space. 
Soon I will be checking on my one-year-old post-operative patient who had his fingers separated a couple of days ago.  He was born with his fingers stuck together, and this surgery should allow him to use his fingers separately, giving him more dexterity.  For babies and small children, I try to avoid waking them in the middle of the night unless they need medications, so my personal challenge will be to check his fingers, watch his breathing and check pulse and saturations without waking him. 
...
Alas, I failed, and he's still crying in the background.  Ten minutes of crying when you have your milk supply warm and sleeping in the bed beside you, attempting to comfort you, results in a nice big dose of pain medication from your nurse.  I'm confident that he'll settle soon. In the brief time that I left the computer, 3 of my patients received pain medications (amazing how many people wake up to a crying baby!), I checked on 4 sets of fingers and toes and one wound vac, I did two sets of vitals, and I only used the translator once. 
It is truly amazing how much you can get across with pantomime and gestures mixed with a handful of useful words.  My current favorite two: Marare = Pain, Vita = Finished/All done/End.  The first word helps because I know when the children are moaning it, or the adults come and just say that and I GET it!  Then I pull out the pain scale pictograph with faces and they show me how much pain they have.  The second word helps mostly with small children, so they know I'm done bugging them.
Ahhh, silence reigns again.  My little one has fallen asleep!
The ward is once again at peace.  People are settling back into their beds and re-entering healing sleep.  There are no surgeries happening in the morning, so we'll let them sleep a little longer before turning on the lights. 
As they sleep, would you pray for the ones here with infections that need to heal?  And for the ones that have been here for 3 or 4 weeks, some are getting a bit of cabin fever and becoming more and more frustrated with the long days in here.  Pray for calm hearts and respectful interactions.
Thanks.

3 comments:

NursingStudent said...

I have been "qualified" for the upcoming year on the Mercy Ship. I noticed on the previous posts that you did photograph pictures of the patients. Is this fair game? I'm just curious so when I do it.

I cannot wait to do this. On my application I put for 3 months but depending on my experience, I would be open to longer. The downside would be to be able to be sponsored to do it (approx. $1200/month).

Heather said...

Photos are only taken by official photographers from the ship. Nurses cannot take photos of the patients. IF you are around when a photographer is available, you can have your photo taken with a patient. Any information you post online should take into account patient confidentiality.
Working as a nurse on the ship is an amazing experience. Hope to meet you next year!

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.