Tales from the Third Shift of the Psych Ward
I had just finished a short CNA program in a local NC Technical college. So now I was having to rebuild. After a female friend had told me about the need for nurses I had jumped at the chance to start over. Walking into the Olsten Healthservice’s office I was asked to fill out a couple of forms you know basic stuff. Then the receptionist looked them over and said “Well besides the CNA ticket what do you have?”
“Well, I do have an undergraduate degree in Psychology.”
“Wonderful, hey Jane you gotta meet this new guy.”
Then a nice older lady came out of a back office and introduced herself as the office manager (aka my boss): “So what restrictions do you have?”
“Well none, look I need work badly and I can work any shift.” I hadn’t worked hardly at all while I was taking my classes and my bank account was close to zero.
“OK, do you have some white pants, the black belt and shoes are fine. Say you have a degree in Psych that’s wonderful you’re our new psychiatric CNA. Go grab some painter’s pants we’re close to a full moon so go catch a nap you’ll probably be working tonight.”
The next thing I knew I was working seven counties in Western North Carolina. At first I worked any shift, major disaster, when I got into trouble my friend who happened to be an RN told me the skinny on shifts. “Ya gotta go with only two shifts, either first and second, or second and third. I don’t know why but third and first doesn’t work. Your body will go zombie on you if you try it!”
I laughed, “Well second and third it is then. I’ve always been a night owl.”
“But you know that you will get the worst of the psych assignments at night”
A few nights later I was dealing with a bad assignment, I was helping with a bad drug withdrawal case. The guy was huge, 6’4” at least and not an ounce of fat on him. He looked like he hit the gym every day or at least weights every day. When I walked into the room he was rolling around in the bed. The charge nurse told me to just toss my stuff in the corner and have a seat because he had just been dosed. The drug dose was one milligram from lethal. “We don’t know all of the drugs he was using but there was some cocaine in the blood and traces of other things. He was found passed out in an alley and he’s never been conscious.” She started to leave, “Call us when he needs some more.”
“Wait” I asked, “If he’s like this now when will I know that he needs more, he’s like a fish out of water now?”
She thought about it a minute or two. “Well you see that orthopedic bar above the bed.” She pointed to the steel support bar for traction set ups, “When the bar starts to oscillate about this much,” and held her hands about two feet apart, “call me and I’ll get the security guards to help give the shot.”
To say it was a hard night was a big understatement, it took me the two guards and all of the nurses on that floor to hold the guy to give a shot. When it was close to time for the shot I would be praying that the restraints didn’t break. They were brand-new two inch wide leathers that were almost a quarter of an inch thick and I was sweating their making it through the night.
I went home the next morning draggin’, I was so tired, it was as bad as loading a boxcar with forty pound boxes of blankets.
Over the next three years I would take on a number of assignments. Some still haunt me to this day. When one of the fundamentalist would stop me on the street and say, ”Do you want to go to Hell?” I would smile and say, “Yeah, that’s where I work!”
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons