As a student nurse I got used to being thrown in at the deep end and to starting a ward placement on nights with just an agency staff nurse or ending up in charge of wards at weekends. We were a pair of hands, counted in the numbers and were expected to hit the ground running.
This was true in every placement, even those that were less familiar, like theatres.
I was usually good at looking like I knew what I was doing, but when I arrived in a cardiothoracic theatre at the beginning of my placement, I completely lost my nerve. Everything looked different, there was new equipment and new terminology to get used it.
“I tried to explain that I was new but I felt tears welling up”
Sadly on my first day the surgery was not going well and no one had time to explain what was going on. Within minutes of arriving one of the surgeons caught my eye and asked at me to find a piece of equipment but I had no idea what he was talking about. I tried to explain that I was new but I felt tears welling up when he shouted “For God’s sake sister, get someone who knows that they are doing”.
The theatre sister was old school and told me I needed to toughen up if I was to make a theatre nurse and I was confined to a stool to watch what was going on for the rest of the day. I just needed someone to show me around and give me time to familiarise myself with the equipment.
“When resuscitation is required you need to be able to respond quickly”
But I survived.
One piece of equipment that every nurse should feel comfortable using is the resuscitation trolley and its contents. While the aim of patient monitoring is to identify a problem before an arrest occurs, when resuscitation is required you need to be able to respond quickly and anticipate what equipment will be needed quickly. This means knowing how to put equipment together and prepare drugs so they can be administered in a timely fashion.
I wonder how often nurses take time out to remind themselves of the contents of the resuscitation trolley and run through what they may be required to do during an arrest?
“Nurses must know the contents of cradiac arrest trolleys”
This week our archive issue features a two part series that looks at the equipment used during resuscitation to maintain the patient’s airway and circulation. The authors note that “Each hospital should have standardised cardiac arrest trolleys equipped with all the instruments and medication needed to deal with an adult cardiac arrest”. They emphasise that nurses must know the contents of these trolleys and how to use them to fulfil their role as first responder.
In 2016 we reported on a National Confidential Enquiry Patient Outcomes and Deaths report which suggested that the identification and management of sepsis could be improved if health professionals had greater knowledge of signs and symptoms of sepsis. I was reminded of this report a few weeks ago when I met an expert in sepsis who spoke passionately about the vital role nurses have in identifying the condition and ensuring patients are assessed and treated.
The third article in our archive issue looks at the latest developments and guidance around sepsis recognition and explore the actions nurses should take if they suspect a patient is deteriorating.