My First Code.

I am still processing my first full code experience. I had previously been involved in a “chemical” code in which the family chose no intubation and no compressions. The patient did not survive, but he was in his 90’s and probably ready to go. I had another code called during seizures, but the patient’s heart never stopped. This was my first full on ER code blue experience. There are some potentially gross details in this story. Read at your own risk. Portions of this story (i.e. room numbers, times, names, etc.) are adjusted and no private information is given in this scenario.

All Emergency Departments have that phone. Some are red, some are white, all of them are loud enough to pierce through the chaos of a busy shift. There’s a phrase that makes everyone stop what they’re doing and prepare for the worst–“CPR in progress, ETA 10 minutes.

Room 1? Room 1. Let’s go.

In our city, ETA 10 minutes via EMS usually turns into 15-20 minutes. Our preparation was like clockwork. The intubation box was set up and opened. Crash cart plastic ripped off. Body bag placed under the sheets. We didn’t want to use it, but EMS reported asystole and 4 rounds of epi at the scene. I grabbed a handful of gloves, pocketed my stethoscope and badge, tightened the drawstring on my scrubs, and set up the stool. I was set to begin compressions upon arrival.

Upon arrival EMS is vigorously performing CPR on Mr. X. He is easily twice my size and no more than 10 years older than me. “Who else is rotating compressions?” I ask. I have help. We transfer the patient and I immediately begin compressions. It’s a whirlwind. Something came over me. I’m pushing as hard and as fast as I can. I’m exhausted after a minute. But I kept going and had excellent quality compressions.

My team is organized. Methodical. Everyone has a job and knows their job. Hands and arms are working around me, placing stickers and pads, getting lines and blood. The patient’s torso is wet from whatever he vomited before arresting.

Two minutes! Time for a pulse check!” Our recorder says assertively.

I stop compressions and check a carotid pulse while other team members check for radial and femoral pulses. Nothing. The code leader calls for another round of epi. My colleague knows I need to switch out. Five seconds later, compressions are resumed and I snap out of “compression mode.”

This guy is laying here and we don’t know anything about him. We have little to no history. We don’t even know his name.

I look at each person in the room. Everyone is hyperfocused on their task at hand. One nurse is documenting. Another nurse is keeping track of time with that person and giving medications. Another nurse is at the crash cart drawing up everything imaginable. Respiratory is bagging the patient. Another tech is standing near the door. The doctor is setting up the ultrasound and attempting to get a gown on. Two minutes goes by faster when you’re not the one doing compressions. It’s already time for another pulse check. Nothing.

I’m resuming compressions and I notice that the second time around is much harder. My upper body is already exhausted from the first round. I readjusted my position so that I was nearly on the bed. I need as much leverage as I can get. The doctor says that at the next pulse check he will check for movement with the ultrasound. This requires that three of us move our position, one person takes the front pad off, and another person squirts the ultrasound jelly on the patient’s chest. We only have 15 seconds to coordinate.

Two minutes! Time for another pulse check!

To me our movements seem choreographed. To an onlooker it probably looks chaotic. But the job gets done. No heart movement. More medications are pushed. My colleague is resuming compressions and the team gets ready for rapid sequence intubation. “This should have been done at the scene,” I thought.

Two minutes. Time for a pulse check and more epi.

Mr. X is having PEA. It’s not really a rhythm. It’s not shockable. It’s my turn for compressions again.

By the third round, I feel like my whole body is going to give out. My hands are slipping around everywhere because of the vomit and ultrasound jelly.

I can’t continue compressions!” I yell.

Do you need to switch?

No, I need friction!

I lift my hands up for half a second and someone geniously throws a towel over the patient’s chest. Perfect. This is perfect. My compressions are now high quality again. Everyone is ready for intubation. A mask. I need a mask. This guy probably aspirated and I don’t want whatever that was all over my face, too.

Can someone please put a mask and shield on me?

I continue my compressions as my colleague places a mask on me. He did a great job considering I was half on the stool, half on the bed, hair astray, and using all of my body strength to try to bring this guy back. I’m exhausted. I’m thinking to myself, “How much longer can I do this?” It isn’t about me. Everyone in this room is busting their ass for this patient. I’m not going to be the one to give out.

Two minutes. Pulse check!

Asystole. No pulses. No sign of life. Intubation is done and there is a significant amount of fluid coming out. CO2 monitor said 7 but now there are just dashes. No movement on the ultrasound. The doctor wants to resume compressions but he says it will probably be our last round. It has been a total of 45 minutes counting EMS time.

My colleague resumes compressions. He and I are both dripping in sweat.

We have given everything we can. H’s and T’s are checked. Bicarb, calcium, D50, fluids, etc. We have exhausted everything. As a team we were thinking massive pulmonary embolism which is very hard to come back from, if not impossible. I don’t think he was really moving any air.

Are there any objections? Does anyone have any other ideas?” The doctor asks the room.

We all look at each other and realize there is nothing else we can do for Mr. X.

Time of death 1148.


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The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Nursing School!

Congratulations for getting into nursing school! I put together a list of supplies you may need. There are also a few tips for surviving that no one else will really tell you until you’ve been through it. Keep in mind that every one’s experience is different. What applies to me may not apply to you.

MUST HAVES:

  • Blood pressure cuff (was provided to me through school via lab fees)
  • Compression stockings/socks
  • Bandage/dressing scissors
  • Drug handbook (pocket size – Lippincott💎 is a great way to go!)
  • Lab coat (ordered through the school)
  • NCLEX-RN Study guide (Saunders💎 or Kaplan💎)
  • Tote bag for clinical/hospital/lab (separate from your lecture backpack!)
  • Nursing shoes
  • Watch – simple, waterproof, inexpensive!
  • Penlight (was provided to me through school via lab fees, but I purchased extra)
  • Scrubs (ordered through the school)
  • Stethoscope
  • Retractable badge holder
  • Nursing care plan book (we were given a specific one to order, this one saved me time and time again!💎)
  • Clipboard and BLACK pens
  • Extra hair clips/bobby pins, hair ties
  • Medical dictionary💎

Lecture Supplies!

  • Binders
  • Looseleaf notebook paper
  • Black pens (or colored if you are the type to color-code notes)
  • Highlighters
  • Drug guide (App available if lecturer allows electronic devices)
  • Textbook (IF you need it)

Tips for Surviving LECTURE:

  • Read the assigned text BEFORE class. I don’t mean skim. Understand it. Make this mandatory in your homework routine.
  • Come to class with questions. Mark down the answers as the lecture goes on. If there are unanswered ones, get them answered before class ends. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask. Chances are that there is someone else with the same question.
  • Star, highlight, underline, circle, etc. any topic that the professor repeats. I usually put a star down for each time it is said. I can’t tell you how many times they put this information on exams.
  • Avoid using electronic devices. I always use pen and paper. I have e-textbooks, but I only pull my tablet out when I absolutely need to. Silence your cellphone and only use it during breaks or emergencies.
  • Keep your energy up. Eat a high-protein breakfast and drink plenty of water. Snack on nuts or other nutrient dense food. I usually eat almonds and/or apples with peanut butter.
  • Be courteous to your neighbors. Avoid opening loud snack packaging, using your phone, talking, or doing another classes’ work during lecture. Anything abnormal that you do during lecture is a distraction to others around you. Don’t be afraid to move seats during break if you can’t concentrate.
  • Wear comfortable clothes. Nursing school is not a fashion show. I wear sweats most days because I am sitting for 6+ hours at a time. I usually have a jacket because I get cold very easily.
  • If you are given a break, USE IT! Go walk around, go outside, walk up and down some stairs, etc. Just get your blood flowing.


Tips for Surviving LAB:

  • Lab is for PRACTICING skills, not learning. Usually you will be assigned a video or reading assignment that explains how to perform the skill. The professor will demonstrate the skill, but you are more than likely expected to already know the steps. Don’t make a fool out of yourself by not preparing. We were given step by step instructions for most skills. If your school doesn’t provide these, then make your own.
  • Come to lab in uniform and with all of your supplies. Make sure you wash your hands before beginning.
  • Try performing the skill on your own before asking too many questions. You will learn more by making mistakes than by avoiding them.
  • Don’t overthink anything. You are practicing skills to perform them on a human being. Put yourself in their shoes. Practice compassion. Talk to your mannequin as if it were a real person. It will feel silly at first, but it will help you in clinical.
  • Explain every step out loud in lab. This will not only help you, but it will help your lab partner and others around you. It is also easier to catch mistakes this way.
  • Take advantage of open lab hours if your school provides it. Get together with a study buddy and spend an extra hour or so each week practicing.

Tips for Surviving CLINICAL:

  • Congrats, you’ve made it to clinical! You will probably be nervous, but that’s okay. I was nervous AND excited. That is normal. Take some deep breaths and go with it!
  • Eat a high-protein breakfast. You will probably have to wake up at an hour you’ve never been awake for. If you’re like me, I can barely eat in the mornings to begin with. Force yourself to eat. Don’t go for a high-carb breakfast. You will crash before 9am. Bring snacks for the commute. I usually eat egg/bacon/potato breakfast burritos and I bring an apple to eat on the way.
  • Be prepared. Your school will have different requirements for pre-clinical. If you are assigned a patient the day before, make sure you know which drugs they are getting and WHY.
  • Stay busy. If there is a lull in the day, ask your nurse if there is anything you can do. If he/she says no, then that’s the perfect time to go talk to your patients.
  • Ask to perform skills you have already learned. Already learned how to put in a Foley? Ask your nurse if you can do the next one. Injections? IV starts? ASK!!! You will never learn if you don’t ask. The worst they can say is no.
  • Talk to your patients. You will learn more about them through conversation than by reading a chart.
  • Don’t think of yourself as a shadow. You are a student nurse who is there to help, not follow. Although you will be “shadowing” a nurse, your confidence will give your nurse more confidence in letting you take the reign!
  • When it’s time for lunch, eat something healthy. You already know how high-carb/high-fat meals make you feel. Plan accordingly. Take the full break. If you get 30 minutes, try to sit and rest for that full amount of time. Make sure you wash your hands before and after, and use the restroom before going back.
  • Enjoy yourself! This is what you’ve been working hard towards, right??
  • We always had a debrief with our instructor after clinical. It was an open “round-table” discussion about our day. Be honest about how your day went. Not every clinical day is unicorns and rainbows. Other students will appreciate your honesty.

Tips for READING your textbooks (BEFORE lecture):

  • Turn off your phone, TV, etc. I have a classical music station that I listen to when I study.
  • Skim the chapter and pay attention to titles/subtitles. Count how many pages you have to read and allow yourself enough time accordingly.
  • Start reading from the beginning. Look up any words that you don’t know. Read slowly and carefully.
  • Take breaks every 30-50 minutes.
  • Write down any questions or unclear topics.

Tips for STUDYING material (after lecture):

  • Review the lecture notes from each class when you get home that day. Make sure everything is organized to make studying easier.
  • Go through the assigned reading again and highlight or underline the main topic/sentence of each section. This will make it easier to find information.
  • If you have a homework assignment for this chapter, do it now.
  • The next day, review your notes and skim through the book again. Look for different sources of information for main topics. I like to find YouTube videos that explain topics.
  • Rewrite important information on notecards or in a notebook.
  • If you can, on a different day, get together with a study buddy or group to discuss the information. Don’t do the homework together unless there’s a question that you couldn’t answer on your own. Study groups are not for learning, they are for discussing and solidifying concepts.
  • Notice that now you have reviewed/heard the material 5 times.

Tips for studying for an EXAM:

  • Although I study every day, I usually start my “exam” studying a week before the test.
  • Practice NCLEX-style questions.💎
  • Answer the questions at the back of the chapter.
  • Get any unclear topic resolved at least 48 hours before an exam.

I hope that this information is useful! Feel free to reblog and add anything I may have missed. Also feel free to message me with any questions!


Brilliant Nurse NCLEX-RN® Test Prep!💎

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This post may contain affiliate links. This means that, at no cost to you, I may make a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Contact me with any questions!