And so is soap and water.
We have been brutally busy at work. I work in a small 12 bed ICU that has been full to overflowing in the past 5 months or so. It isn't unusual to come in to find 12 occupied beds with a couple of scheduled O.R. patients needing ICU beds and 1 or 2 ICU patients occupying gurneys in the E.R. Oh, and a less than full complement of nurses to manage the mayhem.
This week, despite the approach of the full moon, the ICU suddenly emptied. When this happens, we have too many nurses to care for too few patients and the fight for low census begins. This is where you pray your phone will ring sometime after 5 am but prior to 6 am (already awake and showered-may as well work) and allow you to smile in secret triumph and pull the covers back over your head. This week, I've hit that jackpot twice.
Today is my second low census day in a week and it couldn't come at a better time since I'm feeling a bit viral today. Do you think it means anything that my throat is raw and scratchy and my head feels full, achy and heavy? How about that sneezing, stuffy feeling? Does that mean anything? I'm irritated since this is my second bout of viral misery in 2 months. I haven't really been in close contact with people who are sick with colds (to my knowledge) and it just annoys me that I was (I'm leaving on vacation Friday and don't want to be sick.) I'm angry because I don't think it's too much to ask of people to wash their hands and stay the hell away from others when ill. It's also a waste of a precious low census day. Must be the full moon.
While I'm talking about what is on my mind, if you are a patient and happen to notice your health care provider is not washing his or her hands when they come in your room, SAY SOMETHING! Ask your provider to please wash their hands before they touch you. It's OK to ask and it is NEVER, ever OK for them not to provide this life saving service. There are resources out there that believe it is criminal to fail to wash one's hands in this business.
Since I'm unburdening my soul here, I am admitting that I live a double life as a secret agent. A spy. An agent of espionage for my infectious disease (ID) department at work. I am a secret sudser. I carry a piece of paper around with me at work which I unfortunately fill up every month. I will observe a colleague's hand-washing behavior while entering and leaving a patient room. If I find his (usually a he-I'm sorry to say) technique to be lacking, I will confront him on the spot AND I will rat his ass out. I will put his name and failed technique on my little piece of paper and forward it to the ID nurses I work with. If truly appalled, I'll email the ID physician to discuss my concerns. In return, I get the satisfaction of knowing I'm keeping my patients safer and a few pieces of chocolate as a reward. The chocolate is a nice benefit but getting someone to change unsafe practices is a better one.
It boggles my mind that a room can have an isolation cart, isolation signs, nurses gowned as if part of a hazmat team and still, someone will enter the room completely oblivious and violate all rules of isolation. Your friendly criminal will likely have initials following his or her name that indicate much higher levels of education than mine. You'd think they'd know better. Don't get the false assumption that this behavior is unique to my place of work, it isn't. Beware the health care provider vector of misery who seems to believe hand-washing signs don't pertain to him.