One Weekend

When I called in sick last Tuesday, I had great hopes that I would be completely recovered by the weekend. Alas, no such luck. I dragged myself into work – and soon wished I hadn’t.

My patient coded. My first code. Completely unexpected.

He had just had a relatively minor surgery – a couple days in the hospital and then he would be going home. I met him and his son and family friend; they were all very pleasant. I had helped him use the urinal, then left the aide in there to do vitals while I went to go give another patient a medication.

While I was giving this other fellow his vicodin, the voice came over the loudspeaker. “Code Blue, Joseph 2G Room 48.”

Did I hear that right? Joseph 2G? They must mean Joseph 3G. Still, I gently excused myself and went to check. I was sure he would be sitting up and watching TV and laughing…

But sure enough, a crowd of people was gathered around the room. and a red light was blinking. Alarms were going off. While the aide was taking his blood pressure, he had gone pulseless and unresponsive. Other nurses had started CPR, set up the AED and called the code team. Doctors, nurses, a house supervisor, the chaplain and the charge nurse all swarmed the scene.

The code team worked hard on him for nearly an hour – intubating, drawing labs, doing CPR (of course), pushing fluids, pushing epinephrine. I did little things like turning on the computer, silencing alarms, handing in alligator clips, and providing information.  Tragically, he didn’t make it. They tried everything but he was gone. Heart attack? Embolism? We will never know. I felt so bad for his family; there was no way to see this coming. 

The rest of the shift went by in a blur and when I got home I found it hard to sleep. For the next few days it ran over and over in my head like a broken tape. I looked online for other stories of first codes and found them strangely comforting. I was glad I wasn’t the only one who felt lost during my first code.

I then worked Saturday and Sunday nights. Saturday night went fairly well, but Sunday night was a little too busy. Things always get really crazy right around 6-7 am especially if you have 6 and 7 am meds to give in 4 rooms and 2 blood sugars… not to mention all the other things that happen.

But this weekend had a few upsides. One was seeing my husband. Yes for once we both worked the same shift in the same building!! We went down to the cafeteria together on my break. Did I mention he’s really cute in scrubs?

Secondly, another nurse floating to my floor on Sunday night invited all of us to breakfast at Brothers Bar & Grill after the shift. So I drove over and had a delicious Monte Cristo sandwich (french toast, ham, and cheese with raspberry sauce mmm) and socialized with some fun nurses. It was great to hang out and debrief before going to bed.

And last but not least… I got a new job! Yes, back on St. Patrick’s Day, I interviewed for a position at Employee Community Health… and on Monday I found out that I had received the spot! I am really excited to try something new and different. I have LOVED working as a float nurse, and I know I am going to LOVE working in the clinic setting at ECH. I can already tell that they have a terrific team and I am so excited to learn a different kind of nursing. So, no more night shifts with the husband… but a lot more homecooked dinners!

Note: All identifying details of the code patient and floor have been changed. It is pretty much a work of fiction. Except that it happened.

C Shift

I worked C shifts this weekend for the first and possibly last time in my career. A C-shift is 11am-11pm and it has many advantages and disadvantages. Let me say this; it’s an interesting experience!!

There are many different shifts in nursing-land, some of which I’ve talked about before. When we get our schedule (still on paper in 2013), we have our name and then under each day a blank or a letter or symbol. There are about 60 letters and symbols signifying different amounts of time worked, excuses for time not worked, orientation etc etc. 

I have worked D or day shift (7am-3pm), E  or evening (3pm-11pm), A or “all day” (7am-7pm), and M or as I like to think of it “midnight” (7 pm-7am). I’ve never heard of anyone working a B (9am-9pm) but that’s on the list too.

Advantages to a C shift are:

1) Waking up late! None of that 5 in the morning business.

2) Working during “normal awake” hours (for a nurse) and thus being able to return to a normal schedule during the week.

3) Normally on a weekend shift you take 1 45minute -hour long break, but with a C shift most units are very accommodating and will give you 2 30 minute breaks so you can keep up your energy level (mealtimes were something I was worried about but it turns out it’s not an issue!)

4) For me, C shifts apparently meant Cardiac as I went to two different cardiac units this weekend. I can’t read strips but I do enjoy cardiac units. Hearts are cool!


1) At 11 am you’re usually taking a patient from someone who has only been there for 4 hours, and then often you’re only there for 4 hours… it can be a little confusing for the patient!

2) You have to wait on that assessment. We normally assess first thing in the morning and sometime in the afternoon/ evening, so with a C shift you’re usually waiting at least 5 hours before doing an official assessment (sometimes more like 10 hours)

3) No one else is working a C shift so at 7 you lose your “crew” and have to make new alliances.

Finally, like all other 12 hour shifts, a C shift is draining and takes up the entire day. But it’s a fun experience and I would do it again! Is it better than an A? Not in my opinion, because after an A shift you can go hang out with your friends until bedtime. With a C shift, you sleep, work, sleep.

So that’s the skinny on C shift! Now back to normal – E’s, A’s, and M’s!