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A False Alarm

Ventricular TachycardiaThere aren’t too many times that the staff gets the giggles when a patient’s monitor shows ventricular tachycardia. Normally, there is a flurry of activity while everyone wheels a code cart into a patient’s room ready to deliver lifesaving shocks.

So when the new nurse was halfway through her second day working in the ED, she couldn’t believe how calm the staff was when the cardiac monitor began alarming in Room 8.

Room 8 was Clarence. He had dementia and was a transfer from the nursing home for mental status change. When Clarence arrived by ambulance, he seemed just like the same old Clarence they’d seen dozens of times in the ED before. Toothless smile. Southern drawl to his speech. Always wanted coffee – cream no sugar. A lot of times staff would try to avoid putting Clarence on a cardiac monitor because the monitor would often give false alarms when they were attached to him. But the paramedics stated that Clarence had some PVCs on the way to the emergency department, so the triage nurse dutifully attached EKG leads to Clarence’s chest.

About 20 minutes later, Clarence’s monitor showed ventricular tachycardia.

“BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEEP” went the alarms. One nurse and the secretary looked at each other, smiled, and shook their heads.

The new nurse looked quizically about the department, obviously wondering why no one was running to bring the crash cart into Clarence’s room.

The charge nurse started to get up from her chair, then sat back down and continued charting. “Mary, can you go and check on Room 8 for me?”
“Um … sure,” said the new nurse as she walked briskly into Clarence’s room.

Thirty seconds later, Mary came back to the nursing station with a stunned look and a red face.

“Everything OK in there?” asked the charge nurse.
“Well … yes,” she said as she regained her composure. “It seems that the only thing going fast in that room was Clarence’s hand under the sheets.”
“Welcome to the team. You’ll get to know these patients as well as we do in no time. As for Clarence, I’ll take care of him. A nice cup of coffee — cream, no sugar — usually breaks his ‘ventricular tachycardia’ fairly quickly.”

“But did he have a pulse?” asked one of the doctors.
Mary smirked. “I’m kind of a … new … nurse. Maybe you could help me check that?”
The doc smirked. “See, you’re going to fit in here just fine.”


This and all posts about patients may be fictional, may be my experiences, may be submitted by readers for publication here, or may be any combination of the above. Factual statements may or may not be accurate. If you would like to have a patient story published on Dr.WhiteCoat.com, please e-mail me.

One comment

  1. THAT needed a spew alert!!! :P
    Up at 0500 cooking for our feast and thanks….Have a great one, WC.

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