Originally published at http://onlinelpntorn.org/2014/when-the-person-to-call-is-you/
In nursing school, our teachers would give us various scenarios and then ask us, "what would you do?" Invariably, someone would give the knee-jerk response, "I'd tell the nurse."
The chilling answer? "You ARE the nurse."
Back then, I think we were all still thinking about most of these scenarios in the sense of clinicals. In nursing school, the brain is so short-circuited that it's easy to develop temporary amnesia regarding the inescapable fact that indeed, at some point, you WILL BE the nurse.
That responsibility freaked me out. I began to see nurses as sort of superheroes (and they totally are), because most of the time I thought, "I'd ask the nurse." I couldn't see a time when I would be that nurse people would be seeing as the one to ask about much of anything.
My second real gut feeling of scared responsibility occurred during a trauma when I was not a student, but a new practicing RN in the cardiac ICU. I can't recall the details, but I can see the situation in my mind's eye: I walked into a room during overnight rounds and it was covered in arterial spray. In one of those Murphy's law situations that nurses expect to happen, my patient's femoral artery closure device had quietly dislodged and he'd also somehow pulled his central line out. (He looked dead but was amazingly still asleep; I wasn't experienced enough yet to know that spraying blood does not indicate death.)
I stood in the doorway, stunned, and thought, "This looks bad. I should call someone." Then I realized, "I'm the nurse. I'm the one who has to do something." It was the first of many, many times I have had to walk into a horrible situation as a nurse and ACT.
(Because I was new that situation looked awful to me but was not, relatively speaking; I did call for help, and another nurse gloved up and single-handedly, well, double-handedly, put direct pressure on both sites and calmly gave me instructions. Superhero.)
Now I'm a charge nurse, and officially I am SUPPOSED to be the one who knows what to do and knows the answers. To my surprise, most of the time I do. However, I suspect that all of us superheroes (I include physicians, medics, firepeople, and anyone else I'm unintentionally leaving out) are to some extent faking. I don't mean we don't know what we're doing. I mean that we still come up against things for which our reflexive reaction is, "Oh man, this is a mess. I should call someone," and then we still have to remember, "that would be me." Part of superhero-ness is not letting anyone know you feel like that, because people need their leaders to look confident.
So, students and new nurses, take heart! The people you look up to, who look as if bombs could go off and the world could end and they would simply look at their watches and say, "OK, here's the plan"? They are probably just as scared as you are. Part of becoming a nurse is developing the ability to look like you're not scared and learn to "fake it til you make it."