Lucky lucky LUCKY me. I showed up to work a shift on my usual medical ward last week.
But the surgical ward downstairs was short staffed. And we had 3 RN's. They had one. And it was my turn to "float". So I was ordered by the bed manager to work on the surgical ward. He didn't have to order me to go there. I ran away from my ward and ran down there skipping and laughing, so full of glee and joy was I.
It was I thought it would be. Bloody fantastic.
Surgical wards are fantastic compared to medical wards. Less patients, less drugs, virtually no confused and total care patients.....all in all it means that the Nurse is more in control of her workload on a surgical ward and can do the job better. Surgical ward Nurses are not as destroyed emotionally, physically and mentally as Medical ward nurses.
We recently discussed this over on a fantastic blog called Diary of Benefit Scrounger. The author of that blog is a woman named Sue. She had recently had experience of an incompent medical ward. Not long after she was admitted to a surgical ward and was shocked at the difference in care. She felt secure and happy on the surgical ward.
I weighed in on Sue's comment section with my opinion on why the surgical ward Nurses have it together so much more than medical nurses:
Again this doesn't surprise me in the least.
We have talked a lot on militant medical nurse about medical wards vs surgical wards.
I once worked on a surgical ward. Never was I so happy. I was one RN to 6 young, sensible, reasonably healthy stable patients having minor to moderate surgery and we had all the equipment and to resources we needed. We had a charge nurse without an assignment to back us up and we always had clerical support.
Then that unit was shut and my colleagues and I were moved to medical wards. That is when I began blogging.
On surgical wards not only do the nurses have less patients but their patients are less confused, less ill and less demanding. If the surgical ward nurse with only 5 easy patients gets an admission of a demented elderly patient pulling out his lines and tubes and spreading shit everywhere she sends him to a medical ward where the Nurse already has 20 such patients.
Medical ward nurses are NOT allowed to dump a patient somewhere else because they cannot handle him.
If a patient becomes medically unwell on a surgical ward he immediately gets sent over to the overwhelmed already medical nurse who already has more patients and more difficult patients than the surgical nurse has.
There is a lot that surgical nurses don't have to deal with.
A drug round on a surg ward is simple since most of the patients are not as acute or chronically ill as medical patients. It took me 15 minutes to get through the 8AM drugs on my 6 patients in the surgical ward. It takes me over an hour to get through the 8AM meds for 6 patients on a medical ward. And I have about 16 of them.
Surgical patients bring money into the hospital. Medical patients cause the hospital to lose money. It was explained to me that this is the reason for the discrepencies. This is why medical wards are so underesourced causing medical nurses to struggle.
Surgical ward nurses also think that they are superior to medical nurses since they get better patient feedback and make less mistakes.
I thought this too when I was a surgical nurse. My eyes were really opened when I went to work on a medical ward.
Once another surgical ward at my hospital was shut and their nurses were sent to my ward to work. They were making wisecracks about "now we are on a medical ward we will do nothing but babysit and hand out commodes" and "It will be like a nursing home".
I came in for a night shift the next day and two surgical nurses had been on for the entire medical ward alone during the afternoon and evening. They were in tears. They couldn't manage the demented, the high patient load. One of the patients deteriorated with a severe medical condition and they didn't know what to do. They couldn't figure out a lot of what needed to be done and patients really suffered.
The wisecracks soon stopped after they got a taste of general medicine.
Care assistants on a surgical ward have a smaller easier work load and get paid at band 3. Care assistants on a medical ward break their backs and get paid at a lower rate on band 2.
There are no geriatric wards anymore. Geriatric patients go to general medical where they are mixed up with critically ill patients, psych patients, hospice patients,surgical patients who had a medical emergency on the surgical ward and social admissions for lack of coping at home etc etc. The staffing levels of Nurses on these wards would shame a third world country. The real Nurses are few. The untrained care assistants are many.
In short there is less chaos in surgery and what chaos that exists is easy to control. The surgeons round twice a day on the surgical wards. The medical consultants twice a week.
So you perceptions are very accurate.
and I should add to this that surgical wards deal with the same thing and over again with little variation. They refuse to accept patients that dont fit into a criteria that they don't want or do not feel like they can handle. Medical nurses are unable to do this and have to take anything and everything no matter how overwhelmed they all ready are.
Surgical ward nursing was fun but general medicine has made me burn out and lose my mind.
Then DinoNurse, an ITU Sister who often comments on Militant Medical Nurse, gave her tuppence worth. As usual, Dino was right on the money and did a better job of explaining it all than I ever could:
Medicine is the blackhole of well, medicine lol.
On a more serious note- google "medical ward" and "foundation trust" and the number of closed wards seems to be growing. My own foundation trust lost an entire ward when the former hospitals merged. Last winter we had to open 2 entire wards to cope with the influx- pushed our agency budget through the roof. This year, had the powers that be learned anything? Of course not- yet again medical wards are full to bursting and the backlog is impacting on everything else. Our admissions units are warzones, quite literally.
This is the same UK wide. If you really want to raise awareness Sue, you need to be pointing out that in general surgical patients are younger, fitter and spend on average a week or less in an NHS hospital bed. If you have a chronic condition, by and large you will be treated on a medical ward unless you need surgery. Our ICU emergency admissions are generally medical in origin- chest infections, GI bleeds, DKAs, epilepsy complications- the list is endless.
Most surgical admissions are either elective ( because they have need for 24-48 hours ventilationn) or due to unpredicted bleeding (although obviously life threatening, fluid resus normally sorts this out quite quickly and they come to us for monitoring and inotropes.)Surgical wards do not do inotropes...however medical wards are expected to manage.
Any surgical patient who develops a "medical problem" will be turfed to medicine...the chest infections, UTIs- generally elderly and mostly leading to confusion and agression... Generally speaking, medical patients take longer to recover and require more input from nurses, physios, social services etc...Surgery can make money for a trust and medicine cannot.
Medical wards literally suck the life out of you ( staff and patients). What we need is guaranteed SAFE RN TO PATIENT RATIOS. I cannot stress this enough. 1 RN to 6 patients would be a step in the right direction. Ideally this should be reduced to 4 in an acute setting. A little story happening in an average trust every day- allegedly...28 bedded medical ward has 3 RNs on duty along with 2 HCAs. So each RN gets just over half an HCA and 9 and a bit patients. Ward has 6 bays of 4 beds and the rest are siderooms. So each RN has 2 bays and the siderooms are shared, so to speak.
In one bay we have a confused old man who keeps climbing out of bed, the trust have helpfully provided a buzzing mat that goes off everytime he does this. There is also a very sick young diabetic in DKA in the next bed with multiple drips, sliding scale insulin and he should be on half hourly observations (minimum). Thats just one bay. The RN for this bay will should basically never have to leave the bay. In the other bay she is responsible for we have a GI bleed who is actively bleeding, having transfusions and has just been started on inotropes. He also needs a MINIMUM of half hourly observations. So the RN will bust her tail trying to keep up to date with the GI bleed and the DKA and hope that the old guy doesn't fall out of bed. As for the other 6 or so patients she is responsible for, well....need I go on?
Oh, and halfway through the shift the ward will lose an RN and an HCA to "help out" on a medical ward with even worse ratios. In the "bad" old days we would have created an "obs" bay and put all the medically unstable patients here, next to the nurses station- and we would have had 6 RNs/ENs on duty ( alot more trained staff than we have now). The DKA patient would most likely have been transferred to the ICU. This is the biggest problem today- patients are older, sicker and more complex. Many of those on medical wards would have been in the ICU 20 years ao. Unless we get safe ratios we are heading for the biggest fall imaginable. The NHS will dissolve into "social enterprises" that are still private in nature...and if you were the CEO would you want to waste all your resources on the medical blackhole? Didn't think so....
My day at the surgical ward was fantastic. I had 8 patients. All of whom were stable. I had two post op lap chole patients who were doing great. I was able to spend a lot of time with them talking about post op care and ensuring that they were safe and comfortable. I had several pre op patients and admissions who were healthy and compus mentus. This allowed me to spend time making sure that everything was in order for their procedures and also explaining to them what they could expect. The drug round took 10 minutes.
I couldn't help noticing the wall behind the Nurse's station on the newly redecorated, modern and refurbished surgical ward. They had trust awards for "best at completing careplans" and "best at completing risk assessments" and all that. They even had an award for "least falls". Probably because all of their patients are youngish, not confused and have no mobility problems. Yes, managment actually gave the short stay surgical ward an award for "least falls". No wonder they don't have any falls. They have no fall risk patients and lots more staff.
My medical ward has no awards. Our confused elderly patients outnumber the staff 20 to 1 and there are lots of falls. And we sure do not have time to complete care plans or risk assessments because we have critically ill patients that need 150 IV meds mixed up and given whilst we are trying to stop the confused elderly ones from falling, peeing on the floor and attacking other patients. My ward looks exactly like something out of 1950's Russia except that it is a whole lot dirtier. The cleaners on my ward like to flip off the Nurses and go for tea breaks.
God, I hope that when I am old and confused that I have saved enough money for my family to hire a one to one carer to stay with me when I am in hospital. Lord knows that my poor ward RN, with a 150 IV meds to give and more patients than she can keep track of won't be able to help me. I do have a savings account set up for that you know.
General medical wards: The red haired step child of the NHS.