Your first ‘code’

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Lately I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it was like being a new nurse. Everybody remember their first code? Here’s a blog post I wrote a few years ago.

Your First ‘Code’ as a New Nurse

Can be referred to as a Condition A or the more popular Code Blue.

The most serious of situations any nurse will ever have to endure. The infamous ‘Code’. A place where life and death are literally hanging in the balance. The team that is called when a patient ‘Codes’ is responsible for performing an act just short of a miracle. Being a part of this effort can be the most stressful experience for any nurse, especially a new nurse.

Your first time experiencing a code is always the worst. As a student nurse you may or may not have been exposed to this type of situation. It’s not like you can show up at school and ask for a patient to ‘code’. So when you finally are on your own, having your own assignments, and have officially earned your title, your first code is always the worst.

It’s quite an intense environment. I mean let’s be honest. The patient is grasping and gasping for life.

As a nurse we are all trained in Basic Life Support (BLS) techniques. The last time I checked ALL nurses who are employed to provide direct bedside patient care are required to have these basic skills. So when your patient or a patient on your unit ‘codes’ you at least have the basic life saving skills to contribute to the overall resuscitation effort.

(Yes there is far more advanced training involved, but that’s not the focus here)

At least that’s the plan. You’re trained. You’re educated. You’re ready to save lives! Then it happens.

You enter that patients room during your first code and POOF!

For some strange reason your mind goes completely blank. You’re looking at this entire scenario as if it’s not really happening and your dreaming. You know you know what to do. You know there are tasks you can perform to aid and assist, but your frozen.

All you want to do is hide in the corner or at least hide behind someone else so that no one sees you!

You hear people screaming out orders. Asking questions. Performing tasks. All in a coordinated effort.

It happens to all of us. (OK, maybe it just happened to me)

That first ‘code’ is quite the experience. You expect a certain type of ‘scene’ and what you see is so very different. I think we are all tainted a tad bit by ‘Hollywood Medicine’. No matter what anyone says, what you see on TV is NOT what really happens.

Having been a part of many ‘codes’ and serving many different roles, I can offer new nurses some advice on how to survive your first ‘code’. There are two things you can do to lessen your fear and become an integral part of this entire process.

  1. Stay as far away from the walls of the room as possible. Be at the bedside. It’s where you will learn the most. Even if you don’t understand fully what is going on, you will at least become familiar with the pace of the overall effort and see first hand how each person plays an important, but very different role.
  2. Know your role. Master it. Each role of the team serves a specific purpose, and the team’s success is dependent upon each role knowing their part and eventually knowing everyone else’s part.

Like anything else you encounter as a new nurse, the more times you are exposed to this the better you become.

Remember, at one time, we all were in your shoes.

Stay strong for you and your patients

Your First ‘Code’ as a New Nurse « My Strong Medicine

Anyone care to add any useful tips?

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4 Responses to Your first ‘code’

  1. Nikki

    I remember my first code. I was working at a SNF that had 2 floors. When a code is called all nurses respond that’s anywhere from 6-7. The code was called on the 2nd fl and I was on the 1st fl. We all ran to the room and there was nothing for me to do at that time. Eventually I had to take over compressions, but while I was standing back I had never look at the clients face. When I stepped up I saw he was already deceased and couldn’t lay completely flat for the compressions. I hesitated for a second but then snapped into action. I think there should always be a code team to eliminate confusion so everyone knows what their duty is. The next code wasn’t as scary but everything moves so fast.

    • Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

      @Nikki You are absolutely right – everything does move very fast. Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. Tessa

    My advice to new nurses I train: If you want to be involved, but don’t feel ready to be hands on, start with writing. By recording everything that is going on in the code you are productive and you seen when X happened everyone did Y. It makes an impression, you learn quickly and you will remember what to do next time.