ICU Nurse: Playing GOD

The routine assessments and activities of an ICU Nurse may come to be so technical and may look so easy to some if not most of the others. Taking hourly vital signs. Measuring patient input and output. Tube feeding. Positioning patient here and there. Daily baths in bed. Bedmaking. Just to name a few.

But more than that, it is the critical eye of an ICU nurse that spells the difference. You get to be with your patient everyday. It’s not just the caring part that we ICU nurses are responsible for. We also take care of the signs that lead to our patient’s worsening or improving symptoms. Not that ICU Nurses are cynical, but in time and with proper guidance and a broad experience, we get to enhance our evaluation skills on our patient’s conditions.

I admire how my Head Nurse can precisely predict outcomes. At a glance she can say how the condition of the patient is. I have not mastered that. My short-lived rich ICU experience is wanting of more years to gain such wisdom. But somehow, I’ve learned significant techniques from the “masters”. Such that sometime in my tour of duty where a NSTEMI (Non ST Elevated MI) patient almost arrested thrice over on different days on my night shifts, I was the lucky charge nurse who got to resuscitate our dear patient. He remained conscious and responsive for the rest of the days. He showed a strong will to live. So along with coaching and motivating our patient to hang on and keep up the good fight, I held on on to my luck that no patient dies on my care.

After several days, his progress was stagnant and his clinical prognosis showed little signs of improvement. The dreaded fourth time came when I was not the charge nurse. His vital signs dropped. We administered routine CPR. Paged for code blue. And before you know it, he was already turning blue all over. Along with the clinical advice of the residents, my senior nurse whispered to me: “Let’s let him go.” With a heavy heart, I stopped pumping and moved aside.

I felt ambiguous. For the first time, I had to let a dear patient go. Did I miss objectivity knowing that his clinical signs were actually regressing? Was I too subjective to have relied on the patient’s will to live having been responsive and conscious even though he had been suffering too much clinically? Or did I miss that look on my patient’s eyes that must have said: “Thank you for your care but I had fought a good fight so now I must go.”?

Up to this day, I carry the memory of the heavy heart over that patient who was no more special than those other patients who came under my care. But I live everyday now with the momentous experience along with the lesson that we ICU Nurses must learn the techniques of the critical eye and the generosity of giving away our patient to their graceful and peaceful death. xxx

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A pupil of life. A mentor of tongues. A scribe of belles lettres. A governess of health. A mother to a couple of angels. A Muslim by heart.