It’s not unusual for folks to go about their lives losing sleep over potential car accidents, illnesses and the occasional epidemic. And then there are nurses who not only have to worry about the hazards tossed daily in their own direction, but those looming over the general public as well. And by choice.
Needless to say, nurses are no strangers to fear or anxiety, even if they’re pretty good at keeping all those fickle feelings at bay. Having seen nurse Marina Dedivanovic, one of the stars of ABC’s NY Med, act cool as a cucumber despite all the chaos that takes place in one of New York City’s busiest ERs, we just had to know: Is there anything that can that ruffle her feathers?
The answer? Well, we’ll let you read it for yourself.
So tell us…what is your greatest fear in nursing?
My greatest fear in nursing is to give the wrong medication or the wrong blood type to a patient as a mistake that results in death. I think this is probably every nurse’s fear. It is so easy to make a mistake in nursing—this is why as nurses, we have to follow each and every step before administering everything and anything to a patient.
And how has this fear transformed over the years?
Well, certain adjustments have since been made to reduce the risk of mistakes. For example, now, when we are obtaining medication, the order that’s typed into the computer is directly linked to our dispenser. That way, as soon as we’ve entered a patient’s name, the only bin that will open is the bin containing the medication we’ve ordered.
Also, if in the past, our patient needed a blood transfusion, we performed only one blood draw. Now, in response to fatal mistakes, nurses will draw two tubes and cross the blood to screen the patient’s blood type.
That said, I still experience some degree of fear at least once a week when we are short on staff and there are patients lying in the hallways—I think this is very common when you have high-volume hospitals and a shortage of nurses. When nurses are overwhelmed and caring for more than 10 patients, we almost feel like we have zero control over the situation.
Have these emotional times ever called into question your decision to become a nurse?
There are plenty of moments when nurses are extremely overwhelmed with patient numbers and orders we have to fulfill, and in these moments I do sometimes question my decision to become a nurse.
Thinking about your personal evolution, have any of your work-related fears influenced your career path? Or is there any specialty you simply wouldn’t enter into due to a particular fear or a high number of personal safety hazards?
No, my fears actually haven’t influenced my career path. I’ve been working in an ER since I graduated nursing school and I’ve never changed specialties, though I believe the emergency room is a very high-risk division within our health system. It’s just so very fast paced and such a stressful environment that there’s a lot of room for mistakes to take place.
It’s clear that many of your fears are rooted in the well-being of your patients and the type of care you provide then. Have your many years of experience led to a more heightened awareness of safety concerns or a greater sense of security?
I believe that having more experience as a nurse does not always give you a greater sense of security. In fact, the effect could be quite the opposite.
When you’re very comfortable with your own skills and have practiced these skills for many years, it’s easy to begin to trust yourself a little too much. The danger is that this leads you to believe that you don’t have to double and triple check certain orders—this in comparison to a nurse with only one year of experience in the ER who is almost paranoid, so they’re always double and triple checking their orders.
I’ve actually found that many mistakes in the ER will occur among those who have been nursing for more than 10 years.
In your experience, do you feel that nurses’ fears are fairly grounded in reality or amplified by a high-stress, high-pressure environment?
I believe that every nurse tends to share the same fears, and I do believe they are grounded in reality.
Do nurses ever show fear when on the job? Are your fears something you discuss with each other?
Absolutely. We all work together as a team, so if I’m drowning, then everyone else in the ER is too. It’s all so clear—you just can’t play it cool in those moments when you’re running around the ER like a chicken without a head.
And because things can get to be so crazy, we have to discuss them with each other to get through the day. There are times when we can spend an entire shift talking about how we just want to cry in that moment. It’s pretty heavy, but that’s reality for a nurse—especially a nurse working in one of the busiest hospitals in NYC.
How often are nurses sacrificing their own safety to meet patient needs?
I think our safety and our license to practice as a nurse are always at stake. If you’re a good nurse, you go out of your way to save someone’s life. For example, if there is someone who needs lifesaving interventions and they’re pulseless on the floor, we don’t always have the time to gown and/or glove up. We immediately check for a pulse and begin CPR, often without knowing the patient’s diagnosis at the time.
I’ve also been stuck with needles on several occasions, but I’ve been lucky. It’s unfortunate that these are not uncommon situations, but that’s part of nursing.
Do any of these fears come to mind when you consider growing a relationship or a family?
I am the type of nurse that completely separates my career and my personal life. But I do think that throughout my 10-year career as a nurse, there have been times when I thought, “If I ever made a mistake and lost my license to nurse, I couldn’t raise a family without a job.” I imagine that this is a thought that crosses plenty of nurses’ minds. I mean, how can it not? Our job is very risky.
What’s your hope for the future of nursing in terms of technology or policies put in place to protect nurses and their patients?
My hope is that one day in NYC, there will be a cap placed on the nurse-to-patient ratio like there is in California. In NYC, it doesn’t matter how many patients are in the ER—if several nurses are out and there isn’t enough staff, we simply have to handle the load.
Ultimately, I want to work in an environment where I feel safe and can handle my patient load. Once I feel I can handle my patient load, not only do I feel safer, but I feel that I can better concentrate on caring for my patients, too.
Sometimes, we nurses have so much going on that we feel as though the only time we have is dedicated to making sure we don’t mess up, as opposed to truly caring for a patient. It’s not an ideal situation, but this is how it has been in New York for a very long time…maybe it’s time to move to California.