Nursing War Stories 1

1. Background

– busy emergency department in a rural city
– when a trauma case comes in, it’s all hands on deck.
– one afternoon one such trauma case comes in (a motor vehicle accident from memory)
– all RN’s and medical staff got involved in the trauma, with a nursing admin person do the bare basics on the other patients (taking obs etc)

2. The incident

– after an hour or so in the trauma room I need to get a piece of equipment from the main patient area.
– I walk past a previously vacant trolley and actually jump when I see someone in the trolley. The reason I jump is that the woman is obviously anorexic.
– I get my piece of equipment and go back into the trauma case.
– About half an hour later it’s back to normal and I attend to the anorexic patient – she’s had one BP taken and is reported to weigh 32 kilograms (70.5 pounds) and is aged 54. I look at her – she’s sitting upright in the trolley and staring into space. My assessment is she’s very depressed and non-communicative (based on nothing more than my psych training). I ask her if she’d like a drink of water and she doesn’t answer. I tell her I’ll be back soon, draw the curtain and go to check up on other patients.
– Another 15 minutes later an the afternoon staff have arrived – we do bed-to-bed handover. The RN I’m handing over to looks behind the curtain then pulls her back out again very quickly, looking shocked. I whispered to her ” yes, she scared me when I first saw her as well”. The RN’s response was “no, she’s dead!”.
– I look behind the curtain and the patient is indeed dead and obviously so now. The other RN, knowing I have offered her a drink whilst dead, is literally falling on the floor laughing.

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