A year at U of R

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pain Meds

My patients was is terrible pain. She was writhing in discomfort when I woke her up to take her vital signs. She tossed and turned, and her IV kept on getting kinked. Her eyes were pinched shut, and her she was in too much pain to talk much. When I asked her, she rated her pain a 10 out of 10.

Most people assume that nurses just follow the doctors orders, and give the meds that they prescribe. In fact, it is much more of a team effort. I get the impression that the doctors value the nurses' input for their intimate knowledge of a patient's condition. Today I made my first medication decision, that affected the care of a patient.

Part of the nursing assessment is that you have to actually DO something if your patient reports a problem, and then follow-up afterwards to see how the pain-control measures worked. All of this has to be recorded on the record.

I suggested all sorts of measures to her... hot packs, cold packs, changing position ... but none of them would satisfy my patient. Finally, I remembered seeing some medications prescribed for just as-needed pain medications on the back of her med sheet. I suggested this to her, and she seemed to agree that taking a pill might help.

I ran out to find her nurse, and ask if I could give the pain meds. The nurse gave me a blank look ... I don't know if she even knew which as-needed meds were on the prescription. She didn't see a problem with it. I ran to the med room, retrieved the pain medication, and went to my instructor. I told her my patient's status, and that I wanted to give her the extra medication. Great, my instructor said.

I dashed back to the room with the pain meds and a glass of water. I went through the full protocol of checking the patient's name band before watching her take the pills. I couldn't believe that the nurses and instructor had trusted me fully to give as-needed medications like that. I was a little nervous. What if I somehow accidentally gave the wrong thing? What if it was a medication that was contraindicated? What if I gave the wrong dose?

I had to calm my self down and remind myself that I prescribed this medicine for myself all the time. It was Tylenol.