Friday, July 18, 2008

week the second

Friday was tough, my hardest day so far at the hospital. And I'm only referring to the first four hours of the day. I was assigned the same "disappearing nurse" as last week, clearly a sign that I'm working out some bad nurse kharma. Hopefully, (not) being with her is clearing up most of it. I tried to stay positive, to use this as a learning experience, but I wasn't very successful. Thanks and apologies to my fellow nursing students who listened to me whine as they traversed their own challenges.

My patient was a very unhappy man who, in his words, "did not want to be used as a guinnea pig" (for a nursing student). Hard not to take that personal. Then I couldn't get the thermometer to work for another patient (a sweet elderly woman), who let me take her temperature four times until I got the machine to work. That and a general feeling of being completely clueless and incompetent had me seriously wondering what the hell I was doing trying to become a nurse. I *really* wanted to leave, get the hell out of there and get a job at a bookstore. Good thing someone else drove today.

Then good happened. I went to ask the disappearing nurse a question and she told me that this was no longer her patient. Huh? A few minutes later I was in the unhappy patient's room and the new nurse came in. She already knew the patient and I could see how comforted he was by her presence. I followed her out of the room and over the next three hours I learned more about nursing skills than in the prior three days. She actually explained things to me! She *wanted* to teach me, and even tried to convince the patient to let me give him his shot. He wouldn't, but it was great to have her be my advocate. While we were doing charts I found out that she's a traveling nurse from New York, and lives just 20 minutes from where I grew up. Then I noticed that she was wearing scrubs from the same hospital my mother worked at for 20 years! Way cool.

Speaking of advocacy, earlier that day, my incredibly caring supervisor came in with me to see my primary patient. The unhappy guy who didn't want to be a guinea pig. I was in awe of how compassionate and caring she was. He slowly softened up to her, and even started saying how hard it was for him. I was half expecting him to cry, (and probably would have joined him) but he just seemed to relax. Watching her in action, I realized that what she was doing was perhaps the most important part of nursing. I like to think of myself as caring and compassionate person, but it's been hard to show up like that as I walk around in self-doubt and confusion. This will be one of next week's goals.

I'm still getting C's on the exams, secured in the 20th percentile of the class. Humbling doesn't begin to describe the experience. I'm trying to really believe that what matters is that I'm working hard, and I only need a C to become a nurse. C == RN. I know I could pull A's in a slower-paced program, and if I could choose again, that's what I would do. But I can't, and here I am, in this perpetually cram-for-the-test-paced program, so I'm gonna make it work for me. I never wanted to go to grad school anyway.

Oh yeah, I had a crush on a patient, an older woman. We're not supposed to do this, so don't tell anyone. She's 92 years old and helped me overcome my fear of caring for an elderly person. When she looked at me it was like she was looking in me. I thought I would be freaked out by the frailty of a very old person, but instead I found myself wanting to go in and spend time with her all afternoon. I was too busy being a klutz with my primary patient to do so, and when I finally went to say goodbye to her at the end of the day, she had been dismissed, off to an assisted living facility.

Often I'm wishing I was somewhere other than adult med-surg, either working in pediatrics or backpacking in Peru. This is mostly when I'm uncomfortable, which is usually when I don't feel competent, which is most of the time. I know this will change as I gain experience, and my job is to stay positive and remember that I'm learning and I'm probably the only one who expects me to know everything.

This week I'm moving to the other wing of the med-surg unit. The patients there are more critical and the nurses are reputed to be more open to having a student.

Hopefully my disappearing nurse won't follow me there....


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