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?