Clinical placements

Obstetric emergency showed me the importance of supporting families

Dominic Simpson's placement in anaesthetics has made him more aware of realtives' needs during emergencies
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As a third-year nursing student I had my final placement with an anaesthetic team. At 4am the emergency telephones rang, with the message: Obstetric airway emergency. This is a call that no nurse, midwife or anaesthetist wants to receive.

Just two months into my placement I found myself sprinting across the hospital to the maternity theatre. I had experienced critical incidents several times throughout my nurse training, however this time it felt different. I was conscious that two lives were completely dependent on our actions.

On arrival the patients oxygen saturation was dangerously low and the anaesthetist was unable to secure a safe airway. I knew what was needed next, so I prepared the equipment for an emergency surgical airway while my mentor gained

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As a third-year nursing student I had my final placement with an anaesthetic team. At 4am the emergency telephones rang, with the message: ‘Obstetric airway emergency.’ This is a call that no nurse, midwife or anaesthetist wants to receive.


Be conscious of family members during emergency situations and make
efforts to keep them informed and reassured. Picture: Getty Images

Just two months into my placement I found myself sprinting across the hospital to the maternity theatre. I had experienced critical incidents several times throughout my nurse training, however this time it felt different. I was conscious that two lives were completely dependent on our actions.

On arrival the patient’s oxygen saturation was dangerously low and the anaesthetist was unable to secure a safe airway. I knew what was needed next, so I prepared the equipment for an emergency surgical airway while my mentor gained intravenous access. Our actions as a team saved the mother’s and the baby’s lives.

Interaction 

The skills and knowledge I had acquired during my critical care placement enabled me to act as a member of the team, responding as required to an emergency situation. The element that resonates so profoundly for me was the interaction I had with family members after the initial event.

The baby’s father sat in the maternity ward waiting area and had seen the urgency as we arrived. Just an hour before he had been with his wife, now she was being cared for by a team of nurses and doctors as they prepared her to be transferred to the critical care unit.

I spent some time with the family in the critical care waiting room, getting to know them and having a discussion about what had happened.

Shoulder to cry on

What they wanted me to say was that ‘everything was going to be okay’. It was not my place to say that. Instead, as a student and a fellow human, I shared a cup of tea with them and offered a shoulder to cry on. I could only hold their hands and comfort them as highly-skilled teams worked to stabilise mother and baby.

This husband and wife had gone into hospital to have a baby, a natural process associated with great joy. Unfortunately, the mother required an emergency section under general anaesthetic and this procedure was complicated by a difficult airway.

No one could have predicted this, least of all the patient or her family. Since this incident I am always conscious of family members during emergency situations and make efforts to keep them informed and reassured that every action is being made by the clinical team to work in the best interests of their loved one.

NHS at its finest 

Ultimately this situation had a positive outcome, with mother and baby going home with no lasting physical affects. This was unquestionably down to the highly-skilled team ready to jump into action. In my opinion this is the NHS operating at its finest — a team of specialist practitioners assembled to provide high-quality care, free at the point of service, day or night.

Some time after this incident the family wrote to me expressing how much I had helped them through a difficult night. I have recently qualified and am now working in a critical care unit in a major trauma centre. Reflecting on this incident I will ensure that I continue to deliver compassionate care to patients and, crucially, to their families as well.

No one wakes up in the morning thinking they will become a patient in critical care that day. I feel so privileged to be able to support people using my knowledge, experience, care, compassion and commitment to nursing.

Delivering life-saving interventions as a critical care team is an essential part of my role but the aspect of nursing I personally find most rewarding is to care compassionately for people and their families in a time of absolute need.


About the author 

Dominic Simpson has recently qualified as a staff nurse, critical care

 

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