what happens in a low census?

The amount of patients in the hospital is always rising and falling. This is a known fact. So what happens to all you travel nurses who have moved away from family and friends to a hospital that now doesn't need you? I'm very familiar with this concept because pediatrics is an even more rollercoastering census than most inpatient hospital floors. Sometimes I think the kids all meet outside and talk to each saying, "Everyone! It's time to go into the hospital. We'll do it together so we all have friends inside that scary place." Two days later..."Ok all, let's go home and play in the snow.  After all, it is a snow day!"

Obviously, that's just a cartoon that plays out in my head. So what does happen to you when the kids decide to play in the snow all at the same time? As a travel nurse, you are usually the first to float (to where you capable and competent). In a bigger hospital setting, they may orient you to a different unit so you can be competent there in the future. Or, you might be given small tasks not requiring a nurse like sitting. Because of the low census these past few weeks, here's what I've been doing.

  • Oriented to Graduate Nursery (Level 2 NICU) on two different nights- What an awesome experience it was. But, knowing myself, that was expected. I just love the littlest ones! 
  • The one night between my two nursery orientation nights I was also oriented to the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit). It was cool being so near the doctors, hearing them think out loud. That night he also grouped together with the RT and us nurses to come up with makeshift nasal bipap mask for a little girl who just didn't fit any of the masks we had. She ended up looking a little like darth vader turned white, but she could finally watch her Little Mermaid instead of being engulfed by plastic. (picture above)
  • And another night I was told to sit over on the adult med surg floor. It was the night before and morning of St. Patrick's day and my psychotic patient came in declaring he had stolen gold and buried it below his house. I think this St. Pattie's is the most unforgettable I've ever had despite it also being my dad's birthday. Sitting required documentation every fifteen minutes on where the patient is and what the patient is doing. Example: patient room / sleeping and breathing. 
Sitting definitely reinforced how much i love pediatrics. Observing an adult man complaining of his gold being stolen, finding him pulling out his iv till where the catheter hub was exposed and blood poured out everywhere, all the way until he urinated on my pants while calling me bad words. Oh yeah, and a paul bunyan code being called because he started verbally assaulting us. Yep, I like kids. Those same experience would have been so much better with a child: strap that iv down, put them in a diaper, and call their parents. It usually does the trick :) But I now know what the other side is like. And I now know....how I can bury gold.