Tuesday, April 9, 2013


It seems to be a trend - 2 Code Blues a shift. I'll hear the overhead announcement "Code Blue - ER room 2", "Code Blue - ER room 2". I blow my bangs off of my forehead, sigh, and think, "Jeez, I hope this doesn't take forever."

My husband and I were talking the other night and he was telling me about how some things he says to his friend (female friend) who he has known since high school shocks her. He said she literally gasps and her eyes widens and proclaims, "Oh my God, that's terrible!!"
He said he sits there, stunned for a moment, and has to explain or calm her down. She's a "normal" person meaning non medical and non emergency type of person. He had to explain to her that he sees a lot of horrible things that many people don't get to witness (except, maybe in movies) and has to DO something about it. He said that he is so accustomed to speaking to people that are in the business and they never even blink an eye during conversations like that.
Hubby: "I'm straight forward and direct when I speak and some people are shocked by it."
Me: "Yeah, you are." "I'm that way too."
Hubby: "Yes, but you're calloused."
Me: "What?! No, I'm not."
Hubby: "Honey, you're the most calloused person I know."

I thought about that for a minute. Could it be true? Hmmm.....
I protested some more and he gave me some examples of why he thought the way he did. Well, yes, yes I am. Interesting.

I had another student on shift and when I saw who it was, I told her, "Huh, this is ironic. What the hell am I going to teach you?"

My student is an LVN who is finishing up her RN. She worked in the ER years ago and was "let go" when our non profit hospital was bought by the mega corporation for profit system. She was getting her RN so she could be rehired and work in the ER again. She was my unofficial mentor when I was new to the ER. So she hung around with me for the day.
Later she mentioned, "Wow, it's interesting to see how calloused you all are. I haven't been here for a few years and I'm amazed by actually seeing it."
There was that word again.

Later in the day during a one of the two codes we've been getting, her and another newbie student nurse were in the room. Apparently, we shocked the newbie student.

Obviously, some information has been changed and there were no family members present. We weren't screwing around, we were working this patient, trying to bring him back, but we were also talking while working.

"When was the last Epi?"
"3 minutes ago."
"Give another Epi."
"Do we have a pulse?"
"Okay, continue CPR"

"Anyone eat lunch yet?" asked this one nurse.
"No" everyone exclaimed.
"Hey, *****, did (the charge nurse) say you can make a lunch run?" I asked.
"Umm, yeah", he answered while doing chest compressions.

"Doc, time for another Epi."
"Okay, push some Sodium Bicarb too."
"Okay, both given. Do you want to get in on the lunch run?"
"Yeah, where you going? ....stop CPR, do we have a pulse?"

"Huh, yes. A strong carotid pulse."
"Okay, let's see what we have on the monitor"
"Good. Let's hang some Levo."
"What dose? Hey, what about Chili's? Everyone feel like Chili's?"
"2 mics, Chili's is good."

We discussed starting a central line, what else the doctor wanted done with the patient and then he left to talk to the family.
I thought the code went smoothly and we had a good outcome. It was a good code for a student to see. The student nurse was shocked and upset according to my former mentor. The student thought we should have been somber and crying/sad. She said she smoothed things over with her explaining how working in the ER will change a person's outlook on suffering/sad situations and dealing with stress.
"Did she think we were calloused?"
"Yeah, but I told her that her day will come and she'll be that way too."


  1. I guess you have to become callused to be more efficient, and it doesn't mean you aren't empathetic when the time is right...
    This is very interesting!

  2. My wife (hospital) and I (fire based EMS) have this conversation each time we attend a family gathering and we leave the others stunned with our "insensitive" words or actions.

    We look at it as our coping mechanism. It is a way to maintain equilibrium in an ever changing day/shift. It means everything to have others that share the same outlook and format. To us this IS normal...ah, OK, generally I am far from normal and this is making me uncomfortable. Let's eat.

    Thanks for the interesting read.

    1. I completely understand. Bon appetit!