Walk with me- Time to dive in

Editor’s Note: Today’s story continues with the fourth installment with one Mighty Nurse as we walk with her through her nursing adventure. New stories in this series will be published on the second Tuesday of every month. The first part of the series can be found here, Walk with me- it’s just the beginning.

So it is December … and that means we are staring down the barrel of finals week.

Thanksgiving break was a full week, and being away from this city in the hills of Connecticut was paradise.

It was all I could do to not accidentally miss my flight back to Pittsburgh!

But these last few weeks have mainly been clinical days in the hospital, slide presentations of projects, and wrapping up the last bits of lectures.

“Until you physically do it, you do not know what you are doing.”

Everyone is feeling a strange mix of bitter exhaustion and joyful anticipation.

Winter Break means two things: we don’t have to be here for two weeks, and … one third of the program is in the rear-view mirror. (Sigh of relief.)

With that as the proverbial carrot, we start reviewing everything from mid-October until the present.

Study, study, study


Some exams will be cumulative and some will not, but the next two weeks will really be spent synthesizing the rote information from each class into one big jumble from which we can draw for each exam.

Our hospital days have been the most fulfilling and exciting experiences so far. It’s such a relief to be free of the classroom and finally learning with our hands.

Nursing, perhaps more than any other profession, is so hands-on that it almost doesn’t matter how much time you have spent with the books.

Until you physically do it, you do not know what you are doing.

Even something as simple as bathing a patient … until you fill the basin, gather the washcloths, find the no-rinse soap, make sure you have towels and any clean sheets, pillow cases, gowns, briefs, and dressing change materials that you might need.

And then there are the issues of privacy and dignity and exactly how vigorously does one scrub another person’s breast or backside?? How does one wash an armpit? Is the patient able to lift their own arm? Or do you lift it for them? How far do you lift it? What is gentle? What is firm? How delicate is the skin? Are there any wounds or IV’s or painful areas you need to be aware of?

“Just dive right in, and ask for help, even if it’s just to make sure that tube really is the toothpaste..”

You might as well be asking a cat to build the space shuttle.

So the only thing you can do is take a deep breath, slap on some gloves, find that soap, and say, “Hi Mrs. Smith! My name is Betty, and I am the Student Nurse who will be helping to take care of you today. How are you feeling? Do you feel up to having a bath? Would you like to wash your own face? Would you like me to help you with some of the rest?”

And you just simply DO it. Because as any nurse will tell you, the books also do not teach you how to physically manipulate any of the machines, beds, monitors, computers, paperwork, or phone systems.

Hands on learning


Nor do they mention the mental and manual dexterity and strength necessary to cope with a patient who needs to be restrained, ambulated, or transferred from bed to any number of different locations.

Do you disconnect the IV before you go? Or bring the IV pole with you?

Do you need to unplug the IV pump from the wall before you get just far enough that it stops Mrs. Smith cold and she falls backward, hopefully landing on YOU so that you cushion her from any harm as you reach out in a futile attempt to rip the power cord from the wall and your instructor walks in to find a fire hazard, a law suit, and a nursing school dropout in a tangled heap on the floor?

Yes, the textbooks are wonderful for medications and pathophysiology and lab tests, and all the things one cannot see or feel. But everything else is sheer belly flop experience.

Just dive right in, and ask for help, even if it’s just to make sure that tube really is the toothpaste.

Be kind. Be respectful. Help each other. … And smile!

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