Nine weeks in – a newbie ICU nurse’s story

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A new nurse tells her story of beginning work in intensive care.

It’s been nine weeks since I first landed at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Nepean Hospital.

I remember feeling very scared in the beginning. I felt I had been taken out of my comfort zone. I have been an EEN for three years but have mainly worked in the wards.

I spent my first 4 months as a new graduate in Endoscopy, so ICU is definitely a whole new unknown world for me. The orientation helped a lot, plus the one week I am supernumerary – I worked with a nurse buddy for the whole shift. My buddy showed me the basic stuff and the routine.

Now, after nine weeks working in ICU, I am ready to give you an idea of what a day in the life of an ICU nurse is like…

At the start of each shift we get the complete handover at the nurses station, then a bedside handover of the patient (ventilated)/patients (non-ventilated/cleared for ward) we are allocated for the day.

I start by doing a complete physical assessment on my patient. I also check my equipment and set my alarms.  I check what drips are running and label each line, especially if the patient has central line with chooks foot extension.

Then I update my ICU flowchart, follow doctors’ orders for the day, administer medications due.

When it’s quieter, I focus on patient care. I give them a wash or shower, whichever is applicable. Oral, eye and pressure area care is very important, especially with patients on ventilator support.

We always put them on special mattresses and sequentials to assist with circulation. We encourage relatives to visit as this assists the patient’s recovery.

Most ICU patients feel isolated and helpless, they lose their confidence and interests. Lack of sleep is also a big problem due to the noise of alarms and the bright lights and constant prodding by nurses, doctors and physios.

I can relate to this so whenever I can, I give my patients time to rest and sleep by reducing the background noise and turning down the lights. The last thing I do before leaving the patients is make sure that they have enough pain relief if they need it.

The last part of my shift is spent documenting everything I did for the day. Then I know I’m ready to hand over my patient to next nurse.

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