I was almost first on scene!
I guess the one thing all nurses dread is being first on scene at a road traffic accident, or similar incident. The reason for this is that, here in the UK anyway, we are legally obligated to stop and help if we are able. The problem with this is that very few nurses actually work in pre-hospital care and are more than a little out of place without all our equipment we are used to having in our hospital setting.
I had a busy day today involving over four hours of driving taking mum to her two hospital appointments which involved driving down to hers which takes an hour, taking her half an hour to the first hospital then to a shop she needed to go to before driving a little over an hour to the next hospital before driving that hour or so back to drop her back off before heading home, again taking around an hour, nearly five hours behind the wheel!
I was almost home, maybe half an hour away when the traffic coming towards me starts flashing their lights at those of us travelling my direction. I was already frustrated due to the driver in front of me doing less than 40 miles an hour the whole way up the sixty mile an hour road and wondered what they were flashing at. I know the road well, it was unlikely to be speed cops, an accident was far more likely and sure as fate when I turned the corner I seen the sight that all nurses dread, an accident with two police cars on scene but NO ambulance.
If there is an ambulance there it's often best to leave them to it, or at least highly unlikely they will need much help but if there is no ambulance on scene then you become the first medic on scene (the fact that you are a nurse and not actually a medic doesn't seem to matter much) and are in charge of the medical side of things until the ambulance does arrive.
Stopped by the police but still behind the slow car in front I was unable to speak to the police officer right away so I surveyed the scene quickly. There didn't look to be anyone in the car, and it looked to be a one car accident. Both airbags deployed and the front of the car looked almost completely caved in, how anyone got out without being cut out was beyond me but I was glad I wasn't going to have to climb into a dangerous enclosed space to immobilise someone's neck. The police officer indicated we could start moving slowly and I rolled down my window ready to speak to him.
I shouted him over, identified myself as a nurse and asked if there were any injured people. Thankfully he replied that the ambulance team had just left the scene, two walking wounded apparently which is a minor miracle given the mess of the car. He thanked me for stopping and told me I could drive past slowly which I did with my wee heart racing the whole time.
I have never actually had to give aid at an accident scene, although this is the third time it has been a close call and I have only been qualified a year! The first time there were traffic lights out at a four way junction, two cars going in different directions both apparently thought the road was clear and hit full speed somewhere in the middle, again police on scene but no ambulance. I had been qualified a matter of weeks at the time but was driving to work in my uniform (naughty me) so couldn't really hide the fact that I was a qualified nurse, all be it only for a very short time. I pulled over and got out, approached the officer who told me one of the people in the accident was fine but the other had a minor head injury. Thoughts racing, trying desperately to remember the week I spent at uni learning about head injuries I approached the man and found him to have what really could be described as an ouchy on his head, it was a teeny cut he had probably gotten from his wedding ring scraping off his head as the air bag deployed or something similar. I was reasonably happy he was ok, he was reasonably happy he was ok and the police simply asked if there was anything I could do. I told them there wasn't, he should attend hospital for monitoring for signs of concussion but that wasn't something that could be done at the roadside so he told me I could leave and I hopped in my car quicker than I thought possible before he changed his mind.
The second time the accident was much more serious but I was struggling to find somewhere to pull my car over, I didn't want to add to the traffic chaos by stopping dead in the only functioning lane on the main road. By the time the traffic crawled to where there was a side street I could take to pull over two ambulances were screeching to a halt at the scene and I decided I couldn't be any more help than they were so I carried on driving, I did feel guilty for not actually asking if they wanted my help but the severity of the accident had me convinced I wouldn't know what to do anyway.
Being a nurse really is a 24/7 job!