The following is an excerp from a short story I was working on. I had to cut this part because it was too much about the nurse's opinions and didn't help to move the story along, but I thought it would be something you might find interesting. It describes the end of a typical busy shift as an L&D nurse. Don't be too judgemental...it was a first draft. Although the story was fictional, this description is accurrate to reality....
Finally, it was almost 6:00 in the morning. I collapsed into the stiff office chair at the nurse’s station and rubbed my dry, tired eyes to attempt to focus so I could do my charting. The night had been difficult. Our maternity unit had ten labor and delivery rooms. I and 3 other nurses managed to keep them filled all night. As soon as one patient would deliver her baby, and we could transfer her out of the Labor and Delivery department, another patient would come in. It was not for trivial needs, either. They were all women in full, active, dramatic labor.
A cold front had come over the mountains from the west bringing rain. Wet, cold fronts always make women go into labor. They say that there is no evidence to prove this myth, but I know without a doubt that it’s true. I saw the weather report last night and knew that I’d better eat before I came because I would likely not get much of a break tonight. A 12-hour shift can certainly be painful, especially with no break. There’s a joke that goes around about nurses: that if we ever died and went through an autopsy, we would easily be recognized by our empty stomach, full bladder, and something about our backside being chewed.
I tried to concentrate on my task at hand but distractions made it difficult. It got to be somewhat loud on the ward with the cries of the women in the labor rooms. We had an anesthesiologist working fervently, trying to keep up with the requests for epidurals, but with so many patients in need all at once, his services were spread too thin.
Other people would probably consider us disturbed—to be able to sit at the nurse’s station casually going about our tasks and having our friendly conversations with each other—all the while surrounded by cries of agony. We are deaf to them out of callousness. It is a necessity to have such an attitude.
Only one hour left until the day shift would be here. Usually, we could get our paperwork done during the course of the shift but on nights such as these, when our patient care had been so demanding and intense, it wasn’t until we relinquish the care of our patients to our relief nurse that we could finally focus on documenting everything. So, before me sat all my notes for the night: medication dosages and vital sign figures scrawled out on a paper towel; physician orders written on the leg of my scrubs; anything else that I could scribble down in a hurry on anything I could find on a moment’s notice. Of course any good nurse masters the art of conducting her care and keeping her charting caught up throughout the shift. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to keep up tonight.
I wish so much that all I had to be responsible for is just taking care of my patients. What a novel idea! A nurse just taking care of a patient! Regrettably that is only in a perfect world. Our documentation is essential, especially now that litigation against healthcare workers is almost standard. We have to do it just to protect ourselves, let alone for information gathering and the purposes it had once had. How ironic that those who sue nurses and doctors with the purpose of forcing us to improve our care, actually cause us to spend less time at the bedside and more time having to go through tasks that take us away from our patients.
Nevertheless, I had to get everything done and clock out on time—too much overtime was prohibited and I had accrued a lot lately. I would face disciplinary action if I let myself accrue too much. My only hope this morning would be if my patients could just hold off on needing anything so that I could work uninterrupted. I was ashamed of my thoughts, but realistically, that’s what I needed.