Saturday, December 06, 2008

phew. that's a relief

I know I am a nurse and nurses are supposed to be kind, caring people, always interested in the well being of humanity, ready in a trice to soothe a fevered brow or offer a helping hand. Perhaps because I am a nurse, I don't subscribe to precisely this point of view. For one, I quite like giving injections. Secondly I have no qualms about pushing a patient out of bed the day after their surgery. Well, not literally pushing them, more firmly advising them that contrary to their protestations, the task for the day is to get out of bed. Ultimately I suppose at my core I might still be kind - injections instil life giving medication, pushing a patient out of bed prevents all sorts of nasty complications sneaking up and killing them off.

There is however, one area of nursing duty I would gladly forego: First Aid. I don't think I am alone in avoiding this task. Nurses joke about their reluctance to get involved at the scene of an accident. I'm not sure if this reluctance stems from anxiety produced by potentially being caught without the tools of our trade (could I care for someone without a sphygmomanometer?!), the 'ew' factor of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, or if we shy away from the added responsibility of being recognised as a registered nurse. More is expected from a trained nurse than the average passer by, and I for one would not like to be sued for failing to save a person's life despite my best efforts.

Fortunately the kindness of my heart and the ethics of my practice have never been tested on this one. The closest I came to thinking I might need to offer medical help was in London. As I walked past the local pharmacy I couldn't help but notice the crowd of people gathered around a man lying on the ground. I tried to pretend I had not seen anything, even made it half way through the arcade before my conscience pricked me into turning around and going back. As my mind ran through the process of basic life support I mentally kicked myself for not stocking my handbag with a resuscitation mask. But even as I braced myself for the possibility of naked mouth-to-mouth I saw the security guard sitting atop a would be robber. This was no helpless unconscious old man, just a hapless thief intent on escape. The relief! Since that time I have continued to carry with me the dread of finding an injured person in need of serious help, although I still haven't obtained a resus mask.

Today my fears were put to rest. I was in Hobart for a nursing training day, one session of which focused on cardiac arrest. You may or may not be aware of the worldwide move to standardise basic life support guidelines. There have been some significant changes to the number of recommended breaths and cardiac compressions, but in view of people's reluctance (and oft times inability) to provide effective breaths, the American Heart Association is now recommending people skip the mouth-to-mouth altogether and focus on pushing hard and fast on the unconscious person's chest. You read that correctly - no more mouth-to-mouth, cut straight to pumping the middle of the chest.

This, people, is the beginning of the end. No more first aid reluctance from me! I am about to hang up my 'I don't do first aid' hat for good. Next time I see a potentially injured person I'll bounce over to them enthusiastically and push hard, push fast and resuscitate them! That's the plan anyway... if first aid ever goes to plan. Because I am a kind nurse. Really, I am.

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At 11:08 pm, December 07, 2008, Blogger Sandy's Notes said...

This is really good news Cecily. I took a first aid class and that's where I learned about needing that mask, yuk! Anyway, I'm going to be taking another class and it will be interesting to see if they teach us the new way!

Thanks for the update, and of course you are a good nurse. I do feel for you though about stopping and helping someone. It's so sad that we can be sued for helping someone and not for walking away.


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