The Worst Float Ever

By Gina, Hospice Nurse

Sometimes when a unit is over-staffed, nurses that are “extra” either get to stay home, or they have to float to another unit to help out there. At a hospital I used to work at, ICU RN’s were allowed to float everywhere but the maternity/OB ward.

Once I was floated to the adult psych ward. That really wasn’t so bad; at worst it was very very boring. I, not being a psych nurse, was not allowed to pass meds or attend psychotherapy sessions. I helped out a little bit with the elderly patients, helping to feed them, etc, but the rest of the time I was playing solitaire on the computer. I kept asking other RN’s if there was anything else I could do, but they said no. I finally asked why I was even there, and someone told me that they needed to have a certain number of RN’s there in case of a riot! HA!! If that occured, I’d be hiding under the nearest table, not jumping into the thick of it!

(Please take a moment here to imagine going to work at 7am only to be told that you are to spend the day helping out in a psych ward. God love all the psych nurses, because I simply could not do it every day!)

But this is supposed to be about my worst float experience. On another slow day in the ICU, I was sent at 7am to work on the ortho floor for 8 of my 12 hour shift. Did that, it went fine. I went back to ICU to find out what I’d be doing for the remainder of my shift and was told that I’d be going up to Child Psych.

Oh please God, no.

That’s what I should have been thinking, but instead I was thinking, “Oh, piece of cake. I can brush up on my solitaire game!”

What a sucker.

I then went to a part of the building that I had never been to before. I buzzed the doorbell to get in, and to my happy surprise I found another float RN from med-surg there that I knew somewhat. That’s nice … sometimes the worst thing about floating is not the type of patients you have, but the lack of comaraderie and comfort with the other RN’s on that floor.

She and I were taken to the charge nurse to find out what the hell we were supposed to be doing there. As in the adult ward, we were not there to pass meds or provide/sit in on psychotherapy sessions. Fine with me. She said that she wanted us to go in the playroom and help supervise the kids. (At this point I’m realizing that I’m there for crowd control again, and that it may be a titch harder this time around. Thank God I have a friend here with me.)

We dutifully go to the playroom and are greeted with what look like fairly normal kids… running around screaming and all that. One of the Psych RN’s pulls us aside to give us a few ground rules. One, we are NOT to touch the kids. Not for any reason. She said that we were not properly trained in how to handle psychotic kids and that we could hurt them or ourselves if we tried. Okee dokee.
(So what the heck am I doing there?) Two, we are to just hang out and help. We would be told what to do as needed.

My first assignment seemed rather innocuous. I was extremely wrong about this. A male doctor had to examine a female child. By law, another female must be in the room when this happens. I was told to accompany this child to the examination room and wait in there until the doc was finished. The kid seemed fine; maybe a little rambunctious, but nothing unusual. I go with the kid into the room – it’s a small room with a bathroom, exam table, and cabinets with medical supplies (gauze, tongue depressors, Qtips, etc), a blood pressure cuff/meter on the wall, and a panic button. I made special note of the panic button.

The second, no the nanosecond that child and I walked into that room, she turned into hell on two feet. She was bouncin’ around, tearing up the paper on the exam table, and generally being more-than-a-handful. The doc finally walked in and tried to get her to sit still long enough to listen to her heart and lungs, but that simply wasn’t going to happen. She took the stethoscope right out of his ears, and when he gently took it back, she yelled into the bell (ouch!). He looked to me for help, but I said I wasn’t allowed to do much and then we both realized that in the time it took to have that very brief conversation, she had opened up one of the cabinets and pulled out glass microscope slides! And was trying to break them with her bare hands. When I tried to get the slides away from her, she dropped them and started stepping on them with her socked (where the hell were her shoes?) feet. (What ON EARTH are glass slides doing in an unlocked cabinet in a child psych ward? OMG!)

I figured at that point, if I didn’t grab her in some way she’d end up bleeding, so I broke Rule Number One and picked her up and set her down away from the glass. I then looked up to find the doctor only to see his ass on the way out the door saying, “I can’t deal with this, she won’t let me do anything.” Door shuts. Okay. I then hear the sound of water and look over into the little bathroom area to see our Little Ball of Fire taking whole spare toilet paper rolls and throwing them into the toilet. Without touching her, I pried the TP rolls away, but by the time I did that she was already trying to pull the BP cuff out of the wall. The room was shaped so that there was a short (4-5′) hallway between the main corridor and the exam room. The door to the corridor opened towards me, inside the room, so it was simply going to be difficult to get her out of there without touching her. To open the door myself and try to find help in the corridor would have involved me not directly supervising her, and I’d already seen the trouble she was capable of while in my direct supervision. The door itself would not stay open; it was heavy and closed on its’ own.

It was at this point that I remembered the panic button and said a small prayer of thanks. I pushed the button and waited for Someone Trained In Dealing With Psychotic Kids to come and rescue us. Thank goodness I didn’t hold my breath waiting for that, because help never came! So they knowingly put a completely inexperienced “psych” nurse into a room with a tornado child and then ignored the big flashing light outside the room! I think I waited about a minute (which felt like 10), trying to position myself between Tornado Child and whatever she was headed for before I thought, “Screw their rules! They aren’t helping me!”

I picked the kid up (she was like 7, but was quite small and thin), walked to the door with her squirming, opened it and walked out into the corridor. Deserted. I marched towards the nurses station with TC still firmly planted on my hip and was met by the charge RN, whose eyes got very menacing when she saw me breaking Rule Number One. I put TC down (who shot off like a racehorse) and not-really-that-politely asked why no one answered the panic button. She said she was on her way to get it and I told her it had been on for quite some time already. I told her that there was glass all over the room, soggy tp rolls in the toilet, and that I didn’t think it was very nice that the MD left me alone. Her face softened a bit when she realized that the MD had come out several minutes before I had.

The remaining 3 hours were spent watching what had seemed like normal children turn into monsters. Dinner time went fairly well…. we helped set out the food, plates, utensils, then helped clean up. Kids seem quite content when eating. After that, parents were supposed to come visit, and that’s when the real fireworks began. Kids that had been only semi-weird turned into full-blown weird and they had to put some in an actual rubber room. I was told to sit at the window of this room and watch the kid to make sure he wasn’t going to hurt himself. When he calmed down, I was told that I could go inside of the room to sit with the kid, but the look on my face and the tone of my “are you kidding?” stopped that right there. I have honestly never been so verbally abused in my life, and that includes the confused adult patients going through alcohol withdrawal. Kids can be very very mean and I was pretty shocked at some of the things coming from their mouths. Med-Surg RN was having a similar night, and I think we finally ended up skipping outta there a 1/2 hour early.

I never had to go back, and I think that if I was told that I had to, I would have gladly taken an unpaid suspension.

Reprinted with permission from Codeblog: Tales of a Nurse

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