The nurse’s station on the sixth floor at Roper Hospital is crowded with doctors on morning rounds, technicians scurrying about, nurses zooming in and out, and patient care coordinators on every phone.
In the middle of this organized chaos is a Katy Guinn, a 25-year-old charge nurse whose job is to make sure it all benefits the 15 patients in her care for the next 12 hours.
A native of Seneca, Guinn finished nursing school at Clemson University three years ago. Her first job landed her here, on the General Medicine floor, where she arrives at 7 a.m. and hopefully leaves before 8 p.m., which is rare.
“I really like bedside nursing,” she says as she checks on each patient down the hall. “You learn a lot because we get a little bit of everything here.”
Indeed, there’s one patient with diabetes, kidney failure and a wound that won’t heal. Another has a broken arm, among other things. A woman was brought in with alcohol seizures. One man they know well has too many ailments to list.
On a recent Friday, along with three other Registered Nurses, Guinn has the aid of two medical technicians and a host of support personnel who help coordinate the flow of patients in and out of Six East. Nine people are scheduled for discharge, but rumor has it more are on the way.
“Allison, this is Katy on Six East,” she says, holding the phone on her shoulder as she flips through patient charts. “We have patients coming over from renal, they need some help on Buxton, and Sami is leaving at three. I need you to come in.”
Staffing is an unpredictable and constant challenge, more art than science. “You don’t want to overstaff,” she said. “But you don’t know what’s coming, so you don’t want to be understaffed either.”
Dressed in a blue scrubs with a stethoscope around her neck, Guinn is a model nurse – well educated, dedicated, and completely motivated.
“Some days you have a patient that dies or has to go to Intensive Care,” Guinn said of the emotional rollercoaster nurses ride every day.
“Sometime you just have to go home and cry for 15 minutes to get it out and then come back the next day.”
But there’s nothing easy about nursing. The hours are long and the stress levels can be high. There are about 1,350 nurses in the Roper St. Francis Healthcare system. Some work 8-hour shifts, five days a week. Others, like Katy, work three 12-hour shifts on weekends.
By Ken Burger, an author and columnist. Ken can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org