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Training for Real Life

Written by Hilary Ruffing

 

I, like many of you, have sat through my fair share of boring trainings. Raise your hand if you dread that annual mandated refresher training. Me! I never thought that training would end up saving someone’s life…

Let me back up. I’ve worked as a DSP, House Manager, and QIDP here in Illinois. On that fateful day, most of the shift goes by relatively uneventfully. Around 2 a.m. you start going a little cross-eyed, right? So I took a break from rearranging the med closet and went to do hourly checks.

We had one resident in particular, Mellie*, who would awake periodically throughout the night so it was not uncommon to hear her up in her room singing or laughing at something on TV. She had just been on home visit two days ago with her sister so she had been in a particularly good mood the last few days.

If I didn’t do that refresher training and been aware of what to look for, Mellie may have become septic by morning and this story would be a lot different.

When I stopped by her door though I heard grumbling and decided to knock. Mellie was awake, tossing and turning in her bed, sweating, and appeared feverish. I asked if she was feeling alright and she said “no.” Okay, deep breath, don’t panic, what do I do first? I’m here all alone, it’s the middle of the night, how do I handle this? Call the nurse. Okay, but she’s going to want vitals so I need to get those first.

Back to the med closet. Four vitals, wait, what are they again? Blood pressure, pulse, temp, respiration rate. Thank you, nurse Sherry, for burning those into the back of my head during the refresher. Temp and respirations were both high, and when I went to get her blood pressure and pulse I noticed blue discoloration on her nails. Okay, wait. Fast breathing, fever, bluish discoloration… Pneumonia? A quick call to Sherry and 911 and off to the ER we went followed by a 5-day hospital stay due to aspiration pneumonia.

While on home visit, Mellie had briefly choked on some mashed potatoes. Since she recovered quickly with no reported discomfort or pain, her sister hadn’t thought to mention it. If I didn’t do that refresher training and been aware of what to look for, Mellie may have become septic by morning and this story would be a lot different.

These types of life and death calls are made every single day by frontline staff and are why it’s so critical that you have that second cup of coffee before attending a training and let this story prevent you from nodding off.

*: Mellie is not the person’s real name, it was changed for privacy.