Thursday, February 17, 2011

I'm Surprised Her Head Fit Through Her Shirt

No, this is not about a patient, but rather a nursing student whose ego flared like the sun.

Yesterday was the day we all got to practice our vital sign skills on...drumroll please...the nursing students who are a year ahead of us!

My partner and I kinda looked at each other, and I knew we were both thinking the same thing: "Please don't let us get the egocentric snobby girl."

I don't need to tell you, I'm sure, about how all of our wishes did not come true. As soon as she sat down, we could immediately see she wanted nothing to do with us. Perhaps we were lowly scum, and having her precious arm in our dirty blood pressure cuff was sickening her. (By the way, our cuffs are not dirty. Just thought I'd clarify:) We introduced ourselves like civilized ladies and thanked her for her time.

My partner put the cuff on her, and began the procedure as we were taught, as it is in the book, and the first thing out of her mouth was, "Um, what are you doing?"

"I'm taking your blood pressure," my partner replied as steam began to rise from her ears.

Then she laughed at my partner. "Ok. Why are you doing it that way?"

"Because this is how we were taught. This is what's in the book."

"Yeah, well, you can't take blood pressure that way because..." (and here she explained why we should not take blood pressure this way. And I wanted to chuckle privately as I thought about saying to her My God. It's utter rediculousness that someone with intelligence of your obvious magnitude is still in school, and not writing text books like the veteran RN-MSN-PHN who wrote ours.)

Instead, I said, "I understand that. But we were told to go by the book. This was what our instructor wanted us to do, and if he caught us in clinicals doing it otherwise, we would get marked for that. So, you understand why we do it this way?"

She continued to chuckle, belittle, and have attitude. So, I thought maybe it was a kind of test to see how we handled that, but as I looked around and listened, every other student in her class was smiling and helping.

Then she got up, and the "good-cop" sat down, and she was the sweetest woman. She smiled, encouraged, spoke to us like the adults we are (and by the way, I am almost 30. Miss attitude had to be younger than me...just a side note :). And it was like night and day!

The point of this story is not only what makes a good nurse, but what makes a good person?

When you work your way through the boot camp that is nursing school, you have every reason to be proud of yourself. But pride should never be substituted for humbleness.

Your patient's are not going to care how many tests you aced, nor will they care how many big medical words you know when their collar bone is sticking out of their neck and they just want it back where it belongs and some serious pain meds. And the uniform or scrubs you wear with authority wont mean anything to the woman whose mother is dying. What they should say is "I'm here, and I care, and I will do what I can."

Looking back on yesterday, I realized I was not completely innocent. My thoughts about that nursing student were not ones of humbleness and humility (maybe that test she just took was draining; maybe her pet turtle just retreated into his shell for the last time) or whatever. Point is, you never know what's going on in someone's life.

It's a fine line between pride and humbleness that a nurse must walk. The good ones are the ones who find the balance.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Meeting the New Instructor

Yesterday, we got to officially meet our new instructor. Our current instructor is really only filling in - he's already teaching the full-time day students. But we really like him, which made knowing he was leaving scary, because what would our new teacher be like?

We met her last week, but only for a few minutes, and didn't know anything about her at all.

We were all so skeptical and nervous. But, I had a feeling I was going to like her, and so far, I do.

She's been nursing for 28 years, and she's still so passionate about it! She's worked on every floor in every situation. When we asked her why she chose to teach (this is her first teaching job), she had this smile on her face and said "it's just a new adventure in nursing!"

I mean, we could not ask for a better quality in a teacher! We really are lucky, and maybe her passion for nursing will translate over to teaching, and it will become contagious. Hopefully, she'll keep that enthusiasm.

Some of my classmates are still a little iffy about her, but I say you gotta give people a fair chance. Don't pass judgement until you're certain they possess qualities that you loathe.

I think she'll be great, simple as that. I just pray we won't scare her away.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Rollercoaster of Emotions that was my First Clinicals

So, I  know I said I would let you know first thing Monday about my first two clinicals, but honestly, I was putting it off.

But I have to write it out and get it out.

I decided Friday night that I would hope for the best and expect the worst (and I'm sure you can guess what the worst thing would be as far as walking in to a nursing home as a nursing student for the first time).

I woke up at 4 a.m. Saturday morning ready to go; had my coffee, did a little reading up on assessing patients etc., and had my "let's do this!" music all set up for the short drive to the facility. I was excited I was working with the person I wanted to work with, and I kept mentally pumping myself up.

The first thing we did was look at a chart the size of a phonebook, and I could only make guesses as to what I was looking at. My partner happened to be a CNA years ago, and she still works in an LTC (long-term care) facility, so she's looking and flipping, looking and flipping, and I did my best to keep up. (I did gently tell her the second day to please slow down and tell me what it was I was looking at, and she did it without question. She's a great partner.)

Then, the 30 minutes of looking over our patient's chart was over, and it was time to go meet and greet her. And what I had expected to happen, happened. I walked into a smell I will never forget. The heat from the room's personal heater mixed with it and just blasted me in the face as soon as I opened the door.

 But I took it like a champ. I made a decision right then that I would not gag, throw up, run away, or faint. I called on my powers of wifedom and motherhood (the things that have been most challenging in my life) to help give me strength. And it worked.

The whole day was overwhelming, and right away I caught the sights, sounds, and smells that I knew I would have to quickly get over. And our patient had everything: Alzheimers, COPD, psoriasis, hypertension, edema, obesity, diabetes, the list of what was wrong and all the meds to try and make it right went on.

I thought I did ok dealing with the emotions that took me that first day. But nothing could have prepared me for the second day.

Our patient had had enough of us (and everyone else for that matter - and why they gave us a patient who is well known for consistently refusing care is beyond me) so we were assigned a new patient. All we had time to do by then was roll her down to the dining area (which is smaller than my livingroom) for lunch, then bring her back to her room for rest.

As we sat there waiting for the lunch cart, I was looking at these ten patients in their wheelchairs, bibs around their neck, some falling asleep and some staring off at nothing or talking to no one...and I lost it.

I didn't make a scene! It was more an emotional "losing it". I smiled at my partner and said, "excuse me a moment. I just need to use the bathroom." And I quietly slipped out to an unbusy hallway.

My eyes were burning fiercely, and my chin was doing that whole "I'm not gonna cry, I'm not gonna cry, pull yourself together" thing. I don't know what happened. Cleaning poo? Fine. Seeing things on a naked body I didn't even know were possible? No problem. Watching what a full life lived ends up as - in a wheelchair with a bib on while someone more than half your age wipes pureed turkey off your face? Not so much.

But I had to be stronger than that, at least for the moment. I dabbed my eyes, took some deep breaths, put a smile on my face, and went to help feed a patient.

I cried the whole way home. I cried while my poor husband consoled me. And I talked to my partner on the phone later that day. I was so happy to know she understands exactly what I'm going through, and she thinks I will be a great nurse. "Don't give up!" And knowing we both want to work in Peds (with babies) or in L&D (labor and delivery) and that geriatrics just isn't for us makes me feel a little more confident. This won't be forever, and from what everyone says, I will get used to it anyway.

Was the first weekend of clinicals what I expected? No way.

Should I give up now and save myself the trouble?

No way.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Clinicals for REAL, with a touch of good news!

The first clinicals are this Saturday and Sunday, for real this time! And, my touch of good news: I'm working with the person I was hoping to work with, and the Long Term Care Facility is about 45 seconds from my house.


That's it for now; the juicy stuff will have to wait until Monday.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Grief in the Briefs

What's the best way to bond with a new friend? Is it:

A. Go out for a cup of coffee and discuss similar interests

B. Have them over for dinner and a board game


C. Let them put you in an adult diaper while you pretend to be helpless

If you answered A or B, congratulations! You are a normal person! If, however, you answered C, then you are either a nursing student, or need serious help.

Now granted, being put in an adult diaper, or "brief" as we are now to call them - is not exactly dignified. But, as a nursing student, it's something that has to get done. How else will we know how to do the hard work unless we practice?

Fortunately for me, I was working with a girl whom I've become friends with, and letting her show me how to do the whole brief-changing-roll-the-patient thing gave us both a good laugh...and the students working next to us had a good chuckle as well.

So, for all you new nursing students out there, when you are faced with the grief in the briefs, just remember: Your instructor is watching so retain as much information in as short a period of time as you can when doing the briefs and get it over with. Laughing is ok, even encouraged to break the ice a little.

Just please don't laugh when you're changing or cleaning a patient. Because they'll have to send you home or to the psyche ward.

Friday, January 21, 2011

To be, or not to be ticked

Well, all my worrying this week has been for naught.

See, clinicals were supposed to be this Saturday, so I got everything all set up, got my list of things I'll need, got all psyched up and ready to go...aaannnnnnd they cancel them. Why on earth they did is beyond me, but they did, and we have to suck it up for two more weeks.

But, I suppose this has its advantages: Two more free weekends, and tonight Thad and I get to spend much needed time with good friends. And it's two more weeks of practice in the labs, reading, studying, worrying. Ok maybe not that last part; two more weeks to build up some confidence and plan an escape route.

I'm kidding!

Though knowing where all the exits are would be dandy.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Dreaded First Day of Clinicals - Story of a Grown Woman Being Ridiculous

It's not upon me just yet, but next Saturday, January 22nd, I will step in to some sort of medical facility wearing my white scrubs, my "LPN Student Nurse" patch displayed proudly on my crisp white left sleeve and...

I don't know!

Now, if you know me at all, you'll understand how much "not knowing" drives me crazy. But here's a vivid vision for you to sink your teeth into of how I've imagined it might go:


The house is cold. Faint thunks are coming from Maddie's room as she bangs her toys against the wall after we've told her a thousand times not to. The soft morning sunlight glows through the window and touches my unopened eyes. I clench my jaw to stifle a morning breath yawn and do one of those full body in-bed stretches.
Ahhh, Saturday morning. Maybe Thad can get up with Maddie today and...
Oh my God.
Oh my God.
My eyes pop open in a sickening rush. (Insert profuse use of very naughty words)
I was supposed to be at clinicals at 6:30! It's...I turn to look at the alarm clock, which is flashing as if laughing at me, ha-ha, ha-ha, ha-ha, you're late, power out, ha-ha.
I spring out of bed, bawling and yelling at myself, at Thad, at Florida Power and Light. I go to the bathroom and cry. I try to put on my make-up, and cry harder.
Maddie run's in the bedroom, wearing her usual morning attire: bright red tights with a hole in the toe, plastic princess shoes, and a Buzz Lightyear pajama top. "Whas wrong, Mommy? You cryin'?"
After I reassure my poor kid that I'm okay, I dress too quickly, forgetting that my scrubs are white and that blue panties probably weren't the best choice, I grab my stuff and fly to clinicals, pulling in the parking lot and almost running over a nurse who will probably be my boss one day, and a nice looking elderly woman in a wheelchair who doesn't even realize she's outside, let alone in the path of a pshyco student.
I make it in and find a very perturbed Instructor who tells me I'm lucky he's not sending me home.
The day proceeds with me making every possible mistake imaginable. Everyone is laughing at me (which is more than likely the blue panties, though I won't find this out until I get home and Thad makes a joke about it).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Walking the path blindly

Sometimes, our paths seems directionless. The way is crowded and we can't see our destination.  My first day of class, I would have these moments when I would think what am I doing here? I'm a writer, not a nurse!

But something inside was telling me it was where I was supposed to be, and it felt right. Do I know if I am going to fail or succeed? No, but if I don't ever try, then I am still no closer to my destination.

Maybe being a nurse will be a part of my real joy. The kind of joy that holds you up from the inside, not the kind that surrounds you.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Similar shades of green

As I was bent double over some unidentifiable sticky substance on my kitchen floor this morning, scrubbing at it with all my heart and saying aloud - though there was no one to hear, "What is this? Really guys? Come on! Why does no one notice this but me?"  I thought of something quite inspiring.

Even though I have no clinical experience, I believe there are a few ways in which mothers and nurses are similar:

  • You will come in contact with unidentifiable sticky substances, and when you do, no one will be around to clean it but you. And I definately have this one wrapped up. I am a pro at spot scrubbing all surfaces.

  • At some point, you will undoubtedly touch poop. Ok I know this one is gross, but let's face reality. What mother or nurse do you know that hasn't had the poopy horror story? Some of us are lucky and strike out at only one or two incidents, but either way, mother or nurse, you're going to have a crappy day at some pun intended.

  • Another person's wellbeing is dependent upon you...but that doesn't stop them from whining. And what do we have to learn? I mean, yes. Sometimes we have breakdowns and need to walk away as mothers (hopefully most of us make sure there is a friend or relative nearby to ensure the safety of our children) but a nurse, I would think, has to master the art of patience, forgiveness, compassion, and understanding to care for someone who is...well...a whiner.

  • Seeing your child/patient accomplish things gives you a sense of pride. As a mom, I know that when my daughter does something wrong, the first thing I want to do is blame myself. But on the other hand, when she accomplishes things (pouring her own water, putting her own dishes in the sink, picking up her toys, etc.) that's when I can relax a little and say to myself, See? You're not so bad. Nurses have a huge job of intervening in a patients life to help them become healthy again, or improve the quality of their life. That means teaching them, whether to be self-reliant, or about proper nutrition etc., and when they see their patients accomplish that, it must be a similar feeling to what a mother feels.

  • A mother/nurse MUST be organized and reliable. If the checkbook is not balanced properly (which I have done) it screws up your family's life for a short time. If a nurse forgets to chart something, or charts wrong, that could be fatal in some cases. And reliability is essential to the feeling of safety your child/patient has with you.

  • Both a mother and a nurse have to be good listeners, be loving, willing to allow the kids/patients to make some decisions, and know when to let go.

It's a short list for now, though I know there are many similarities. And by no means do I intend to say that a patient is like a child. I was simply taking what I do know (parenting) and seeing how it compares to what I don't quite know yet (nursing). Mainly to boost my own confidence, since I've been feeling bad about not having the same experience as the other people in my class.

And while I was writing this, it came to me that the art of nursing can also be compared to the art of marriage.

Perhaps I'll save that for a future post :)

Two rays of sunshine

I passed my first test and  I got the hang of taking BP (blood pressure)! Well, I still need practice, but it was a boost of confidence to know I'm starting off strong.

We had to take a look at the Nurse Practice Act for our state, and Good LORD! It's a statute that seems longer than some of the ridiculously thick books I like to read...and I guess it's a good thing that I do like to read, because it would appear my life will now be overflowing with it.

So, coffee?




Back-up coffee because God forbid I run out of the central coffee stock?


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where the Grasshopper Stands

So, this being my first ever real blog, I think I'll start simple.

I'm enrolled in the PN program at my tech center, and as I write this, it is only my second week of school.  I knew I would need a place to channel the rollercoaster of emotions, knowledge, advice I've picked up, and all the other "stuff and things" - as my husband and daughter would say.

This seemed like perfect place.

I realized really quick that I was the only student out of 14 with no experience at all, either as a CNA or someone who works in a medical office. Made me feel inferior for sure, but they all seem pretty laid back, helpful, encouraging. It's not hopeless :)

Book smarts? No problem. Hands on? That's when my nerves get the best of me, and clinicals start next week already! I had trouble trying to figure out how to use a blood pressure cuff yesterday for crying out loud! Ahhh, well. I laugh it off and try to study as hard as I can.

And I keep reminding myself: One day, I will be a great nurse. But right now, I will be a great student.