Nursing turf divisions affect patients in the hospital

While on my way back to the unit after transferring a patient to a medical/surgical floor, I was stopped in the hallway by another patient’s wife. I could hear an IV pump beeping from her husband’s room. “Are you a doctor?” she asked. “No, ma’am,” I replied, “I’m a nurse. Can I help you?” She asked me to come see why the IV pump was beeping.

This wasn’t my floor. I didn’t want to delay getting back to the unit, but I also didn’t want this lady or her husband to have to listen to that awful pump alarm for ten minutes, especially if it only needed simple fix. There were other nurses around, but they were already tied up in other patient’s rooms. The alarm was not of a critical nature. It sounded like an “Infusion Complete” message. I knew the alarm wasn’t critical, but it was clear that this lady did not.

I followed her into the room and found what I suspected. The bag of normal saline was low and the pump was awaiting new instructions. I found the patient’s nurse in the next room. She was focused on starting a new peripheral IV line. I told her that the pump in the other room needed a new bag of saline and that I would take care of it for her. “Are you from night shift?” the nurse asked, wondering why she didn’t recognize me. “No, I was just dropping off a patient,” I replied, “and your other patient asked me for help.” Her face looked a little shocked. I could tell she was wondering why a nurse from another unit would take the time to hang a new bag of saline for her.

I think it’s sad that we’re prone to assume that turf divisions between different nursing units are immutable facts of life. They’re arbitrary, and we can ignore them if we want. Your patient is my patient, too. Why wouldn’t I want to help?

Jared Sinclair is an ICU nurse who blogs at jaredsinclair + com.

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