I’ve taken care of my fair share of intubated patients. But over the last 2 nights, I encountered something different. They went from calm to wild in just a few minutes. If the sedation was down, then I increased that. Normally it works pretty fast.
But it wasn’t so in this case. Both patients were ‘bucking the vent.’ One didn’t have a PRN order ready so for one I had my coworker help me get an order and prepare ativan. But in the meantime, I remember reading critical care nursing journals about the experiences of previously intubated patients. They said to always assume that the patient can hear you. They said that when the nurse talked to them about where they were, what’s going on, and what to do, in a strong confident voice, that the patients felt comforted by that. So that’s exactly what I did.
This patient kept biting down on the tube (which is a big no no because we don’t want a punctured tube!!). “You’re in the hospital and you’re very sick. I’m Jessica, your nurse. Right now you’re having trouble breathing so you have a breathing tube. I know it’s uncomfortable but you need this. Try to calm down and take slow breaths. Open your mouth. Your face is very red but calming down will allow you to breathe better.”
Once I said this, the patient did calm down and opened her mouth.
“Good, your face is looking better and you’re oxygenating better. We are going to turn you to the side to clean you because you had a little accident, ok?”
She was able to cooperate much more at this point. And this happened before giving the ativan. My coworker then came in, administered it (“we’re going to give you something to help you relax now”), and she was at peace again.
Even though she couldn’t focus her eyes and couldn’t follow simple commands, it seems as though what I said did make a difference.