Tales from the Unit: City Trauma Nurse

Tales from the Unit-PART 1: You go HIRED! Now what?
Pros of being in a city trauma 1 center on a neuro spine/ ENT / ortho trauma unit.

By: Amanda Kammes, MSN, BSN, RN

Working in a trauma unit at a large city hospital has its pros and cons. Wow, do you learn a lot as a new nurse, but wow wow WOW is it a lot to handle as a new grad. When I graduated from nursing school, I had aspirations of taking my freshly minted nursing licensure to the birth and delivery unit. Unfortunately, my connections, yes my connections, led me elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for the opportunities that were laid in front of me, but neuro and trauma were two of my least favorite topics in school. Regardless, I jumped in head first. 

Pro #1 : Freshly Minted

First, it is worth noting that our Nurse Education team on my unit was second to none. I mean I am talking about power women here, who not only taught you all the hands on–REAL NURSING–stuff you needed to know, but also nurtured you and helped you know you actually were supported on the fast paced unit that we called home. From GCS scales, to full neuro assessments to cardiac strips to a myriad of drains and tubes to manage, to med admin and IVs- you learned it all. Don’t forget about our friends CPR and ACLS . . . You better be comfortable with those too as there was typically at least one to three codes on our unit a month. So in summary: new grads out there, make sure you ask questions about your nursing orientation. Who runs it, what does it involve, is it self led learning or group led or on the floor hands on stuff? Do they give you study guides? Do you have a mentor of sorts whom you can ask questions or voice concerns? Never underestimate the value or power of your Nurse ed team! 

Pro #2: Teamwork makes the dreamwork 

Second would have to be my fellow nurses on my unit–shout out to my Nurse manager who single handedly put together the worlds best nursing starting line up a unit could have. Honestly, she was the manager of all managers; think of the Charlie Manuel of the Unit for all you Phillies fans out there. Cream of the crop, legend status. I mean we were all different boys and girls, but with one common thread. We were all athletes in our former life and if you weren’t an athlete, you had a very team first mentality to you. Our floor was sink or swim, you needed to have your shit together to survive. That ‘shit together’ meant that you were not only smart and could critically think with the best of them, but that you also could manage your own patient load and also help another nurse in a time of need. What would a time of need be, you ask? That’s for another post, but let’s just say IV poles are being swung and drains being ripped out type of need. What else . . . Well, we were FUNNY. I mean how can you be a trauma nurse without having a sense of humor? You can’t. We were a funny, work hard, play hard type of group. We generally thrived in environments that pushed us out of our comfort zone and our backs up against the wall. My nurse work family kept me sane and kept me coming back for more.

Pro #3: BATH TIME.

In terms of fulfilling nurse work, where you applied your hard learned nursing knowledge to real life practice, this was not it. BUT, bath time was arguably the most uplifting hour or so of my night shift life. Music on, nice smelly soaps on deck (#mountainspring) at the lovely hour of 4am or so, in a patient’s room who was either sedated, unconscious or just on day 3/4 of a hospital stay and consented or asked. You bathed them with another nurse, head to toe in the bed with lots of towels and washcloths. A well executed sheet change was also in order after the bath which was also particularly satisfying. Who would get the good sheets? And by good sheets I mean the ones that actually fit on the mattress properly or the flat sheets that were not pressed in some janky way that made it impossible to fold it properly to make an under sheet. Getting good sheets and enough pillows for your patients was KEY.

Part II on Tales from the Unit Coming Up Next Week.

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