As Eva pointed out, I am truly a float nurse now: nursing, on a ship... get it?!? :) So here's the obligatory nursing update.
After two shifts of orientation--one day, and one evening--I worked my first shift alone yesterday. I've been working in B ward, which is adult general surgieries and the VVF ladies (see my previous post for a little more about VVF). Most of the adult surgeries so far have been hernia repairs. It's been nice to have some relatively "familiar" patients--ie, adults and fairly routine diagnoses (well, excepting the VVF).
Warning: the following is probably only going to be interesting to my fellow nurses.
Nursing aboard the ship is different as night and day from home. Typical day: care for 6-7 patients, some pre-op and some post-op. Often I will discharge several patients, which involves a lot of teaching (through an interpreter of course)--how to make clean water (boil it, add salt, let it cool); how to care for the incision; no lifting the kids or "mama-papa business" for 6 weeks. Between the nurses and the translators, there's a lot of staff working--there's a translator for every 1-2 patients! Couldn't do a thing without them. For example, when patients are first admitted, the intpreters explain things like how to use the toilet, shower, and sink in the bathroom. Some of the patients who come have never seen stairs before, much less the ocean or a ship. About half the patients speak French, but even with those patients I often use an interpreter because most questions I need to ask are too complicated for my French.
I mostly give vitamins, iron, acetaminophen (called paracetamol here), and ibuprofen, with the occasional codeine thrown in for good measure. I have yet to give an antibiotic, IV medication, or morphine, although those not uncommon here. I think I will be able to get away without learning how to draw blood or "cannulate," which I know as "putting in an IV" or "sticking" someone. My other new favorite phrase used by some of the staff from New Zealand and Australia is "bung your tubing," which of course sounds slightly off-color to us Americans! It just means to cap your tubing.
Our supplies are largely donated, which means there's quite a variety of things, especially in the bandage department. Lots of our IV pain meds come in ampoules. Antibiotics have to be drawn up from a multi-dose vial or reconstituted. If I ever have a patient who needs a mixed IVF, for example D5NS, I will have to mix it myself.
The wards go something like this: A Ward is orthopedics (straightening bowed legs, burn contracture release, etc.); B ward is general surgery and VVF; C ward is currently not in use due to lack of staff; D ward is maxillo-facial surgeries (the thyroidectomies, cleft palate/lip surgeries, and tumor removals). There is an ICU but I think it is only occasionally used. I can be assigned to any of the wards (except the ICU) at any time.
Day shift goes from 0700-1500; evenings from 1400-2200; nights from 2130-0730. Weekends are the familiar 0700-1930 or 1900-0730 shifts. Today has been my only day off for a while, as I work days this weekend then nights Monday through Wednesday (yes, that totals 54 hours in 5 days). I have 4 days off afterwards, but am not sure what I will do. Probably take one day to just sleep in and recuperate (which is what I did today), then hopefully a trip somewhere on one or more of the other days. There are binders where you can sign up for all sorts of things: going to church off the ship, trips to local hotels/beaches, or trips to other cities. This weekend, several friends are going to Abomey, several hours' drive away, to visit the palace and some sort of historical museum. I would like to do that at some point, as well as visiting a village a few hours north of here that is built entirely on stilts over a lake.
My next post--which will happen tonight or soon-- will be about my first excursion into town with a roommate who wanted new shoes for the dinner with the President. Incidentally, the dinner was postponed for unknown reasons... hopefully it will be rescheduled while I am still here!