This morning, I left home early (for me) to go over to Southside (my original stomping grounds) to run a quick errand. Taking my usual shortcut, I crossed directly in front of UAB Highlands – and just had to cry.
Since the breaking news update of an active shooter at the hospital came to my phone last night and I watched in horror as police were surrounding it, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.
Back in 2003, when I was a brand new baby nurse fresh out of school, UAB Highlands was still Healthsouth Hospital – and they hired a baby nurse who didn’t know anything about anything and was terrified of making some sort of terrible mistake (all baby nurses are) and kept getting lost on the way to the cafeteria.
And they put me through an extensive six-week orientation (like they did for all baby nurses) and surrounded me with the BEST nurses who were willing to go with me and teach me everything (because nursing school SO does not prepare you for floor nursing) and they sent me to even more classes – and they helped me actually learn where the cafeteria was. . .
And, after my six weeks was over, I went to the orthopedic floor – of Healthsouth, with some of those genius ortho docs you hear about on TV – that I was hired for. And it went well. But I hated it.
However, since I was the new kid on the block, I kept getting floated to the “dump floor,” the general medical floor, where EVERYTHING went – MRSA, autoimmune disease, cancer, stage four wounds. . .
It was hard work, the staff was fabulous, there was so much to learn there . . . I loved it. And I put in for a transfer.
And that is where I spent the next year of my nursing career.
On 6 North:
- I danced a full circle around the unit the first time I got an IV that no one else could.
- I got sick as a dog after I changed my first Stage Four dressing – but I survived – and one of my fellow nurses assisted the whole time.
- After I yacked (as a result of the odor related to the Stage Four Dressing), I told my super experienced charge nurse that I couldn’t stand to eat lunch. She – wisely – told me that, if I didn’t learn to eat after gross stuff as a nurse, I would never eat lunch again. Then she drug me downstairs for chicken fingers. And she was right. That is why you now see me saying, “That’s disgusting!” – as I chow down on my pizza. Nurses shake it off.
- Another super experienced nurse helped write my first incident report – and pulled me through dealing with a terrible patient fall that I was just devastated over.
- I had to call pharmacy and explain that I had accidentally wasted a vial of Procrit – back when Procrit cost several thousand dollars per dose. I. Could. Have. Died. Luckily, our pharmacist had a great sense of humor and I eventually breathed again. And the experienced nurses laughed and laughed.
- I lost my first patient and it was so hard. My teammates helped me every step of the way and I don’t know what I would have done without them. School doesn’t prepare you for telling a family that news.
- I learned just how aggressive some patients can be – and how grateful I was for a solid team on those days.
- I dealt with many patients in their twenties, thirties, and forties with autoimmune nightmares – and, honestly, some of them haunt my dreams these days. But I am thankful I know the things I do (most of the time).
In my time there, I learned to be a strong nurse. I learned to manage seven or eight sick, sick patients and keep going. As a nursing team, we laughed a lot and we cried plenty too. I would have never been able to do the agency work I later did had it not been for the things I learned there. It was such a blessing.
It is a special place to me.
So seeing it covered with police presence with a shooter in the building was just unimaginable.
When I got home this morning, I learned that the shooter killed a nursing supervisor and seriously wounded a central supply manager and it is just heartbreaking.
I am heart-sick for them and their families.
I am devastated for the patients and staff who were trapped in the building, terrified, not knowing what was happening.
I am so hurt for the rest of the staff who were at work, once it was clear what had happened, frightened and grieving, and still having to carry on for a twelve-hour shift.
There is so much unnecessary pain, in a place that does so much good.
Please keep the UAB Highlands family in your prayers. This is going to be a hard thing to overcome.
Be well, everybody, and give your people some extra love today.
Grace and blessings.