Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Saving lives, for real?

Usually when I talk about saving lives at work, I'm making some sort of joke about the people who come in for STDs and sore throats. I personally think the whole image of nurses saving tons of lives a day is a little silly. The truth is most of the people we see aren't that critical, and I don't feel that I do anything particularly special for the ones that are- I follow orders and make sure they aren't circling the drain. I think the instances in which we do save lives are when we have to look a little further into something and see something others might not.
I finally had one of those moments on Saturday. I was in triage and it was insane. I had a long line of people waiting to get triaged and this young guy checks in for rapid heart rate. We get this complaint a lot in young people and about 99.9% of the time it's total bullshit- rapid heart rates of 83. I'm thinking the same thing with this guy automatically- I put the oximeter on his finger and the heart rate pops up as 60. Something just told me to check a radial pulse- when it did it, it felt... wrong. So I get my stethescope and listen to him. It sounds weird. I hook him up to the EKG machine- holy crap. He's in atrial fibrillation with a heart rate of 180. We got him back to a trauma room and he never converted to a normal rhythm, but they at least got his heart rate down a little bit and got him admitted. I don't think I saved his life necessarily, but I'm glad I didn't settle for the vitals that popped up and send him back to the waiting room!


  1. It's good that you didn't just take the first reading and double checked it. That's a good job right there! That's the kind of person I'd want tending to me.

  2. Good job...way to use your nursing instinct!

  3. What about a heart rate of 280? What would you do then?