A call for our benevolent rescuer to assist a little old lady who is “groggy/won’t wake up” at the local nursing home. I am also groggy, mainly because I’m working a night shift for some stupid reason.

The nurse hands me some paperwork, and through a spirited attempt at speaking the English language, relays that the patient is more tired than usual, and won’t wake up.

A quick glance at my watch tells me it is, in fact, bed time. Even for little old ladies. Especially for little old ladies.

“What kind of medical problems does this delightfully somnolent female have?” I half-heartedly inquire of the nursing staff.

“I don’t really know. She isn’t my patient. Tonight is my first night with her.” is the reply, as she hands over a stack of paperwork.

“Here, you can have the Power of Attorney papers back. I don’t think we need to call her son in Connecticut at this time of night any way. I’ll take the Med Record, though.”

Her Med Record tells me that she has bladder problems, thyroid problems, and dementia.

And, what is this? Someone gave her a milligram of Melatonin at 9 p.m. A repeated side glance at my watch confirms that it is approaching 10 p.m.

No wonder she is tired.

“Did you give her these medications?”

“Yes, I did. Those are my initials in the little boxes.”

“Well, melatonin is supposed to make you tired and sleepy, especially when you take this much.”

“I just give her what is on the paper.”

“I understand. But she will be fine. She doesn’t need an ambulance, much less a trip to the hospital.”

“The doctor says she has to go.”

Sigh. “Which one?”


  1. Fortunately, we did few nursing home calls. Mostly we went when the private service that was supposed to respond under contract decided it was easier to turf it to 9-1-1 then wake up their own crew.

    Still in the years I worked I never once had a nurse say “Oh, I know Mrs. McGillicuddy very well and she’s definitely not herself.”. No, it’s always “This is my first night with her, I’m just filling in.”

    Fill this in, bitch.

    My greatest pleasure, perverse though it was, was working a cardiac arrest and terminating in the field. Then, we could just fill out our report and leave.

    Which reminds me of another story of malpractice at a nursing home.

    • Spoken like someone who’s never worked for a private. Trust me, they could give a rat’s ass about waking up a crew. They turfed it when they had no available to send.

      Yeah, ok, they could probably afford one or two more crews at night. Maybe not. But just remember that you doing the run means they don’t get paid. No for-profit ambulance company does that because “it’s easier”.

  2. Flash Larry says:

    CCC and TOTW, it appears that the practice of a nurse never knowing what is going on with a patient “because she is not my patient,” is endemic to nursing homes everywhere and even some hospitals. And has been since I started this 34 years ago. It’s always been the same.

    I read the paperwork in front of them and ask questions. If they don’t know or don’t answer, I document. “No report was available from the attending personnel.”

    I remember going to a nursing home back in 1979 not too many months after I started doing this. The patient was reported to be “not herself.” It was about 2 hours after shift change and they had finally gotten around to checking on here. She had obviously had a stroke. The nurses knew nothing. The had no report from the off-going shift. Had no idea when she was last normal – for her – and had no interest in trying to find out. Since it was a day shift, I assume the night shift had never looked in on her.

    I went to the room and was explaining this to my partner. Her roommate spoke up. “You want to know when this happened.”
    “Yes, ma’am.”
    “Between 8:15 and 8:30.”
    “How do you know?”
    “Every morning I go down to get a paper at 8:15. When I came back this morning, this had happened.”

    Now I know who has the best information on a patient. And it ain’t the staff. I use my amateur consultants all the time. And document them, too.

    They just sit there talking about all their ailments and all their medications and the roommates know their normal state better than any of the medical staff do.

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