Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Day in the life of a nursing student

Nursing school is killing me and wrecking my family. I suspect it's also killing my classmates and wrecking their families too. That's just the way it is.

Still, sometimes the whole situation seems comically absurd. For example, my patient last week. I nagged him all day Wednesday about washing his hair and he refused. Friday, he decided that this was the day, and the moment he chose was when orders had just been put in for transportation to pick him up and take him to a test. "Let's git 'er done," he said. Transportation is notoriously slow, and how long does it take to stick your head under the tap and give your hair a quick wash? I felt we could manage.

It takes forever for the water to heat up but it is finally a temperature that pleases the patient and he sticks his head under the tap, I put some shampoo on him and start rubbing, only he's not happy with the stingy amount of shampoo, and keeps asking for more, and I keep adding nickel sized amounts to his hand, and he's never satisfied, and finally he growls, "Come on, honey, dump it out," and I end up putting half a bottle of Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo on his head.

Now the sink is stopped up, as are all the sinks in all the rooms at this particular hospital. The patient looks like a hypoxic Santa Claus, standing there with his head a monster of frothy white lather, waiting for the sink to drain. Which it does, ever so slowly and all the while I am remembering that transportation is on the way. Then I notice blood in the sink because now he's having a freaking nosebleed, which he assures me happens all the time, because of his anticoagulants. The sink finally drains, I stick his head under and rinse him, get him back to the bed, and we manage the nosebleed with tissues, and like a miracle, transportation shows up just as I've got him presentable.

Off we go, only my patient is on isolation, so it's fresh yellow gowns for all, and I have to wear gloves as well, and as we leave the room, I grab a box of tissues in case my patient's nose starts bleeding again.

The test will take place in the Old Hospital--approximately thirty miles from my patient's room. The nursing students' afternoon conference is starting in an hour and lateness is frowned on. My plan is to stay with my patient for a little while and leave in time to get back to the unit, but now I see that this is hopeless because the route to the test is so circuitous that the only way I'd be able to find my way back would be to blaze a trail or sprinkle bread crumbs in my wake, and I left my white paint at home today.

So anyway, there I am, walking through the hospital, carrying a box of tissues, my yellow gown screaming "CONTAMINATED" to all who see me. I feel silly and superfluous, carrying the box of tissues and trotting after the transportation person who is pushing the wheelchair, and I imagine myself telling the lab people that I am the bearer of the tissues and wondering if they will think that is funny, and then I decide that they probably have no sense of humor down in the testing lab, and it turns out I have no chance to say it anyway, because when we get to the lab, everybody is freaked out because of our yellow gowns and they act like the patient's isolation status is a Big Surprise.

They leave us alone in a corridor, for quite a long time, and my patient tells me about that time he was incarcerated, and about how oxycontin is synthetic heroin. Finally, a room is ready for us, and the test proceeds.

My patient dubiously eyes the plastic booth he has to sit in. "It looks like a gas chamber for one," he says, and it does look suspiciously airtight. The technician doesn't think that's funny and she says, "No, we're not Nazis heeere,” in the booming, fake-jolly tone that some health care professionals use for patients they think might be unpredictable. The patient says. “Do I have to sit in that uncomfortable chair?” And he says to me, “Git in there and switch that chair out,” and I hasten forward for a second and then realize that he is kidding. The shampoo seems to have made him a little frisky. The technician lady sticks with her booming jolly-voice strategy.

I have now been standing for ages, but can't sit down or touch anything because I have been in contact with an isolation patient, and I realize I can't even put the box of tissues down because I took it out of an isolation room. The technician, however, does not wear a gown, and she touches the patient's nasal canula with her bare hands, but I'm sure she doesn't want a nursing student telling her how to do her job, so I keep my mouth shut and study the box of tissues, which were made in Wisconsin and are of abysmal quality.

At last, at last, the test is over, and for the trip back we get the new hottie transportation guy that my work friends and I have been ogling. Hottie transportation guy turns out to be friendly, and expects me to walk next to him rather than trotting behind and the trip back to the unit seems shorter. I am still carrying the box of tissues, which we didn't need after all and I realize that I have been holding it for nearly an hour and a half. I am very, very late for my conference.

1 comment:

  1. Reading this is like watching an episode of "Scrubs." :-)