Tuesday, February 5, 2013

More of the same? Not quite....

   I'm starting to get the hang of this nursing thing....well sort of. Doing this long-term care thing can be pretty monotonous, but at the same time there's always some little tidbit of information that manages to sneak in and make the day awesome.

   Today was more of the usual stuff. Getting people out of bed, cleaning them up and taking them to breakfast. We focused a lot on getting the overall health appearance of our patients. My instructor told us to just look at people and observe their overall countenance, skin color and mood. Last week in lab, I passed my BP and pulse practical test, so I wanted to really get in there and try out my skills. The facility however only uses the mechanical vital sign machines, so the only things we could do manually were pulse and respirations. I was excited though when I did pulse and respiration on a patient and then did it with the machine and it matched perfectly, lol. :)

   One crazy thing that we did have to deal with today was a patient who had C. Diff. I noticed that one of the patients had an isolation cart outside their room. Isolation carts have things like face masks, isolation gowns and gloves in them, and it is meant to obviously provide a better barrier between you and your patient in cases of high risk virus or infection. In this case, C. Diff is short for Clostridium difficile (had to Google that one, haha). C. Diff is a bacteria that causes severe diarrhea when the patient has taken too much antibiotics. Taking too much antibiotics can kill all the good "gut bacteria" in your intestines, causing weird digestive issues. If you've ever been on a cruise ship, you probably heard about Norwalk or Norovirus, as they are very common when people live in close quarters and when people don't wash their hand thoroughly. C. Diff is kinda the "Norwalk" of hospitals and nursing homes. Anyway, so one of the patients I worked with today has it. We had to "suit up" and put on isolation gowns, face masks, and of course, gloves. The patients room had a uniquely strong odor which I could smell from down the hall. The patient should recover soon, however my clinical instructor wondered if perhaps next week we will have more cases of it. I guess it spreads really fast.

   So to conclude today's clinical, it was interesting, awesome and still fun (even with the diarrhea). I've noticed that my social life has pretty much come to a standstill. I work and study, and then I go to school. It's tough, but I don't really mind. One of my classmates got some fortune cookie saying which actually was appropriate for what we are going through right now, "The cost of something is what you give up to get it." Yup, it's worth it. :)

This just cracked me up!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Week 3: More Realities

   My hands are a wreck! Part of nursing (and medical care in general) is having proper hand hygiene. You are supposed to wash them for 15 seconds between every patient. Sometimes you can get away with just using hand sanitizer if your hands aren't visibly soiled, but it depends on the situation. And of course, you often wear gloves. Well after my first couple clinical days (today was the second hands-on clinical), my hands are so dry! This is my first job where I'm pretty sure manicures should be part of the on-job benefits. ;-) I honestly can't recall how many times I washed my hands today....but it was a lot!

   Today was a little more hectic than last time. My floor has three hallways, with patients evenly split amongst the three. There are usually 6 CNAs (2 per hallway), but today only 4 showed up. I don't know what happened to the other 2 and they didn't get anyone to replace them. I guess it was lucky the student nurses were there today, because CNAs now had 12 patients to take care of instead of 8. We rushed around trying to get everyone to breakfast on time, did the usual stuff. The last patient I dealt with is quite a colorful lady. Mrs. M is the one I mentioned before who hates men. Last week, I was with a male CNA and as soon as we entered the room she started yelling at us to get out and get her a woman. This seemed to put her into a bad mood the rest of the day because she just continued to yell at everyone to get out of her room, even when there wasn't anyone in the room. Today, I was a little frightened going in there, but this time I was with a female CNA and Mrs. M couldn't have been sweeter. She ate breakfast like a champ, and cooperated while we cleaned her up. Even though it was a little more crazy and busy today, it actually went pretty smoothly. Just goes to show that we have good days and days where we "wake up on the wrong side of the bed".

   Later, while we were doing a post-clinical conference with our instructor, she mentioned that there were 3 patients from last week that had died since we were last there. According to the nurses there, that's a lot in one week. I realize that in a place like this, there will be deaths. Even though I didn't know the patients that well, it's still sad. I was especially saddened to find out one of the patients that died was "Bob", who I mentioned last week. It was a little surprising because he seemed to be doing great last week, and then suddenly he was gone. My instructor told us that while it's sad, you have to protect yourself when it comes to large amounts of loss in these places. How ever you protect your mental state is up to each individual, whether it be in a humorous way ("bit the dust", "sold the farm", "took the train to celestial bliss", etc.) or if you just want to reflect for a moment. In some situations, you might lose 3 or 4 patients in one day, and it is hard to be numb to it while still having sympathy. I think this is where having some sort of religious conviction is extremely helpful. Regardless of what you believe, I have to believe something about happens after death whether it's heaven, hell or nothing, cause otherwise I don't think I'd last that long in this field.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

No More Rose-Colored Glasses

   I hate to use my blog as a "here's what I did in nursing school today" chronicle, but my clinical instructor told us to do a "reflection journal" and since it's my blog I guess I can do whatever I want with it. Plus, I'd like to remember how young, inexperienced and stupid I was at the beginning so I can look back and see how far I have gone/will go. And there are some hilarious nuggets that have happened which I'd also like to remember.

   So, today was my second clinical day. I like to refer to it as the first "official" day, because the real first clinical was just a light orientation of the facility we are in this semester. Today we actually got to work with patients and boy, was it eye-opening! The facility, Greenspring Village, is basically a community for seniors of all health statuses. There are folks who live independently in little apartments, people who have somehow been injured are in "rehab" (to get back to independent living, the closest to a hospital scenario) and there are the long term care people (those who cannot live alone and require 24 hour care). 

   For the first 8 weeks of this semester, my group will be on the long term care floor. Basically all of these patients are living here because they need round-the-clock supervision. It seems like a decent place to live. Being in a place like this opens up a whole Pandoras-box of discussion, like how or why families put a loved one in a place like this. According to my instructor, Greenspring is actually one of the nicest senior care places in the area, and your wallet definitely takes an impact by being a resident. Supposedly, they don't accept Medicare and your net worth has to be at least $500,000. The residents are well educated, and many had government careers (Senator, House Rep, military). In some cases, I'd rather just live at home with a home-care nurse, but it just boils down to having money to pay. The residents seem happy enough to do group aerobics, bingo and watch movies. There's kinda a "pecking order" with the residents as well. The folks who are the most mobile or vocal tend to be highest on the chain, while those who don't talk much or bed ridden are lowest. In fact, one of my patients "Bob" (not his real name) is one of those on the "low" end of the chain. He likes to ambulate (move around) in his wheelchair and tends to bump into others accidentally, and I think he's pretty adorable. Those "noisy birds" don't like that and kinda pick on him a little. Ah, social order at the age of 80. I was pretty stoked to be working with seniors. Being with them reminds me of the years I lived in Alaska and the people that I got to drive around. After age 65, people tend to lose their inner monologue and it's the older people who tell the dirtiest jokes and politically incorrect or racist stories. Entertainment at it's finest. :)

   Since we student nurses have no idea what we are doing, we were paired up with a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant). CNAs are below the LPNs, and do most of the grunt work at Greenspring. We went around with them and helped get the patients out of bed, washed their faces and upper body, dressed them and got them to breakfast. Once out of bed, we changed linens and tidied up. Most of the patients were cooperative and friendly, maybe a little too friendly. The CNA warned me of this one male patient who apparently really likes the ladies. I didn't think anything of it, until as I was putting on his shirt, he reached around and grabbed my butt! "You're getting fresh with me!" I exclaimed and pretended to be offended. He just laughed, haha. Some don't like the routine at all. One of the male patients actually punched a CNA! There's a female patient who hates men and will only allow females in her room. So it can be quite dramatic!

   The rest of the day went as smooth as can be expected. Nothing else super exciting happened. It was definitely hard work though! CNAs are usually assigned to 6-8 patients, and in the span of only about 2 hours they have to get 8 people out of bed, cleaned, dressed and make the beds. It is important to learn the basics and working with CNAs gave me an appreciation of all the hard work they do. And even though the work is laborious, at the end of the shift I just felt this overwhelming satisfaction about what I had done to help others. I just knew that this place was exactly where I needed to be and that my life is on the right track. Even when I'm changing the adult briefs or cleaning up stool.....when it comes down to it, it's all about helping people and I LOVE THAT.



Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Day of Birth....

   Today was my 26th birthday. In anticipation of this event, I was a little depressed because I'm now closer to 30 than I am to 20. I know, I know, some people are like "Oh, 26 isn't OLD! I'm actually in my 40's...that's OLD!" or my Dad telling me that I'm halfway to 52. (thanks Dad) I suppose I am young still. Don't they say you're only as old as you feel? I thought about that saying, and it's definitely true. I see a lot of people around me who are the same age but have such different lives. A lot of the girls I grew up with are married and have at least 1 or 2 kids. I see people who are living the nomadic lifestyle and have no intention of ever stopping. As I look back at my 26 years I see a lot of accomplishments and things I'm really proud of, such as:
  1. Living in Alaska for 4 years and seeing a fair amount of that great state! I've been to Denali          National Park, traveled the entire Alaska Highway, seen glaciers calve and some amazing wildlife. Oh, and I've seen Chicken, Alaska, and I've driven on one of the scariest highways in Alaska, the Taylor Highway.
  2. I have been to 48 states. I just have Vermont and Hawaii left. I've heard that's really good for someone so young (said my bus passengers).
  3. I've been to 5 countries: Canada, England, Spain (layover but it still counts), France, and Scotland. Well, maybe 6 if you count the Yukon, which might as well be it's own country.
  4. I probably have at least 120,000 miles worth of driving under my belt, between cars and buses.
  5. In the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: US and Canada, I estimate I've done 100 or so, which doesn't seem like a lot, but that's 10%. It includes swimming with manatees, White Sands National Monument in NM, and Durango & Silverton Railroad to name a few.
   So I'll quit bragging for now, haha. I guess my whole point in this post is that age really is just a number. I feel younger than 26, but I've already got the experiences of an 80 year old. So maybe it's not that bad turning 26. I have a blessed life. I have great friends. And I will be the most hilarious, awesome, crotchety 80 year old when the time comes....in 54 years.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


   I am shamefully coming back to the blogging world with my head down, almost hoping no one will notice it's been 3 years since my last post. And one so depressing to read about my grandmother dying, I hope to make this comeback with some funny and uplifting stories about my new adventures.

   So where have I been all this time? Well I was in Alaska working still. I got 4 summer seasons under my belt. Love that place. Then I did another job called "Moose Mobile" in conjunction with the Alaska thing. Basically I drove one of Holland America's bear buses around the country and promoted travel to Alaska. Because of that job I became a Platinum Marriott hotels member, the highest level you can get. It was awesome, because any time I checked-in to my room I would get a free upgrade to a suite. Awww yeah! Anyway, after doing Moose Mobile for 2 years, I suddenly got this feeling that it was time to settle down and maybe be stationary for awhile. So I decided that I would go back to school and finally get a degree.

Me and my bear bus, Corpus Christi, TX

   Basically, when I was a kid I always had this fascination with medicine. Yes, there was that one time I was caught trying to drink Dime-tap (that delicious grape cough syrup) straight out of the bottle, but that's not the kind of medicine I'm talking about. I was enthralled by the human body. I wanted to be a surgeon, specifically a plastic surgeon. I used to joke that I would give my sister a boob job where one boob would be like a cantaloupe and the other a cherry (hey, it was funny when I was 10). But the medical profession was kinda scary, and intimidating. Over the years, my mind flitted around to various college majors. First it was Marine Biology. Then it was Photography. Then for awhile I thought History would be fun. All the while, a voice in the back of my head kept saying "Ball$, go for nursing!". I never listened. I even toured a new out-patient wing of a hospital with my LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) grandmother, and just had this urge to get in some scrubs and get hands-on! I told myself, "Nurses have to clean bedpans, clean-up poop, and jab people with needles. Why would I ever want to do that?". Then one day I said (after the urging from a friend), "You know what? It's time to man up!" and so I applied to Nursing school. You all know the rest....



Saturday, February 20, 2010

Life Goes On...

Big G with the fam

...after tragedy strikes. As you may know, my grandmother, Big G, died February 6th after battling uterine cancer and a brain tumor. She was my last grandparent. Back in 1998, my grandfather (her husband) died of a brain tumor. Then in 1999, only 10 months later, my mom's mom died of ovarian cancer. I was only 12 at the time and while I understood the sadness and importance of what happened, I feel that my memory wasn't quite as cognoscente as it is now. I was sad, but it didn't really affect me as much as Big G's passing has. I suppose it's helped having 11 years to cultivate a deeper relationship with Big G. Especially as I'm now an adult, interpretations of life are different.

Carol Jeanne Loveridge (Big G) was born September 6th, 1930. She was the youngest child be many years. She was also an "accident" child. Her mother was a good woman, but as far as I understand, Big G was never really wanted. I suppose the fact that she was born during the Depression, made finances tight all around with an extra mouth to feed. She had a lot of hardships in her childhood due to that fact. She lived her entire life in Springville, Utah, and married her high school sweetheart, Clyde LaMar Clark, when they were both just 19 years old. I had the opportunity to come across some old yearbooks from when the two of them were in high school. The "autographs" they wrote to each other were absolutely precious. Those two were the very definition of "soul mates". Together they had 7 children, 18 grand-children and (so far) 16 great-grand children. While her early years were somewhat love-less, she made sure that no one else felt unloved when they were with her. She made everyone feel like she was their best friend. In fact, after her funeral, my mom was at the local floral shop. She was chatting with the florist, when the subject of Big G came up. The florist said that all the customers who came in to buy flowers for Big G had said things like "She was my best friend" or "I could always tell her anything and she never judged me". I really admire the legacy she left behind. I hope that by the time I'm about to kick the bucket, I have the same thing. Even a fraction of what Big G had, and I'll be happy.

When I first heard she was seriously sick, I was so sad. I didn't cry until I got on the phone with her, and she started singing one of her silly songs. She always had this thing to sing some old song which was relevant to the situation. For example, when waking you up in the morning, she'd sing a song about Mary Sunshine who woke up too soon and scared away the moon and stars. After expressing my sadness over her illness, she got firm and told me "no tears" and that she wasn't afraid or sad to be dying, and that was a huge comfort to me. From my religious standpoint, I knew that she would be ok and that she would be reunited with her husband, something I knew she wanted badly. And the fact that she wasn't afraid, helped me make peace. After all, something I realized is that I wasn't saying "goodbye" to her. I was saying "see you later". I was lucky to be able to fly out to see her a week before she died and then again for the funeral. While I know she's gone, there's a part of me that hasn't fully absorbed that she just isn't alive anymore. When I saw her for the first time in her casket, I almost expected her to just wake up. She looked like she was sleeping. It was difficult watching them close the casket. I didn't want her to be alone in there even though I knew her spirit was long gone. It's funny how hard it is to say goodbye to the body of a deceased person. We know they're gone, but since the body is the last thing we have really to hold on to, it becomes the symbol of them.
I feel like I've been dealing ok with her death. I think right now, I'm in a state of irritability. I'm not sure why. I don't resent God for taking her. I'm not angry, I guess I'm just more intensely sad than normal. Life without her is going to take a lot of adjustments. But like I said, life goes on after tragedy. You can't fight the forces and unavoidable occurrences that happen. You must adapt and be flexible to be truly happy....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You Know You're a Bus Driver When...

This is what I drive, except newer....

So as I've mentioned previously, I'm working as a bus driver for Fairfax City CUE Bus. It's just a small public transportation company run by the City of Fairfax. So far it's been a pretty good place to work. The supervisors are all nice. My co-workers are all really nice to work with. Some of the drivers have been working there for 20+ years!! I'm easily the youngest person by probably 20 years. I guess I'm officially done with training now, the last few days have consisted of me driving with an experienced driver riding with me for support. My next day in the driver seat is Monday in which I guess I'll be driving alone for the first time! I'm a little nervous they're cutting the apron strings! I guess I need to get myself to REI and buy a knife to carry with me...you never know what can happen with those crazy passengers, right? It's never been a dull moment at the CUE bus!

This past week by far, has been the most eventful. I worked Monday through Thursday. Monday was pretty quiet considering it was a holiday, but after that it got all crazy! Tuesday I saw someone rear-end someone else. It wasn't bad, but the guy who was the rear-ended got his car hood all folded up. Then later on in the day, one of the drivers gets on the radio to ask for an ambulance at her location. We come to hear, that she hit someone with the bus!! Apparently, they think this lady who got hit, was trying to catch a bus on the other side of the street. She thought she could cross the street before the bus departed and dashed out in front of this driver. I didn't see it happen and I'm not sure of all the details, but it's definitely sad and scary!! It would be bad enough hitting someone with a car, but can you imagine hitting someone with a bus?! I'm not sure how the woman is doing who got hit. I think they said she's in the hospital (obviously) but I don't know much else. Then on Wednesday, I drove most of the day. During the morning, we got stuck in pretty bad traffic, and so we were running 15 minutes behind schedule. So the lady driver who was with me, took the wheel for a loop around the route to catch up time. Well she's a maniac driver as it is, plus add the fact that she was trying to catch up time, and it was kinda a scary ride. I didn't feel the need to sit and watch her since I knew the route, so since I was really tired I kinda just started snoozing. Awhile later, I open my eyes to see where we were, and she was just about to pull next to a bus stop sign. She swung in way too deep and ended up smacking the side mirror on the bus stop sign!! Glass shattered everywhere, including on the man who was waiting at the stop! He wasn't hurt, but obviously shaken. That definitely woke me up! After that happened, they brought us a new bus and she made me take the wheel again.

That experience with her driving all crazy though made me think...It would be advisable for commercial drivers to go through better training when they get CDLs. I'm not saying that all CDL holders are nuts. But I've experienced some pretty crappy bus driving. There are some drivers who accelerate really quick and then slam on their brakes to stop. There's drivers who just pull into bus stops too deep, and eventually shatter mirrors. It makes me grateful, and I think gives me an advantage, that Holland America gives their Driver Guides such good training. Or maybe it's the fact that one of the most important aspects of being a tour driver is always having the comfort of the passenger in mind. It's stressed to us that you should always Feather Brake, and to take turns slow and to not jar the people on the coach. Plus, you have to keep in mind that even though time is an issue, passenger safety is an even bigger concern. You shouldn't let your rush to keep time, endanger the passengers you're carrying. Even if you're running late, it's better to be late than dead.

Apparently, I'm also famous. I hate to say it but I'm kind of a big deal. People KNOW me. Haha. Seriously though, I guess being a cute, young, girl bus driver from Alaska gets people talking. I had a passenger the other day get off at the Metro (Washington DC's train system, not unlike the subway), turn around and say to me "Oh! You're the one from Alaska!". It was funny because I wondered who she heard it from, but I guess one of the other drivers mentioned something. Similar experience have happened to me before. People are always so impressed or intrigued that such a young girl drives buses. The more I have thought about it, the more appealing it is in some ways, to just drive a bus the rest of my life. The pay is really good (I'm starting at $16/hr, while the veteran drivers I'm sure make way more) and it's a good skill to have incase I need a fallback. The only thing though, is that I don't want to turn into those leathery, old bus drivers. I've seen the women who drive the buses and they all LOOK like bus drivers. Sun damaged skin, wrinkles everywhere, scraggly hair, frumpy oversized clothing, bus driver butt (you know what I'm talking about ;). If I do end up driving buses a lot, I REFUSE to turn into one of those creepy drivers. I will stay as fashionable as I can (for a bus driver) and will make sure I don't get fat or ruin my skin with sun damage and wrinkles.

So I came up with a short list of "You know you're a bus driver when...." things and I thought I would share. So without further ado... (this comes from both my experience in Alaska and here in Fairfax)

You Know You're a Bus Driver/Driver Guide When...

1) While it may not be the most direct way to go, you find yourself driving to places following your bus route when you're off duty.

2) You pass a historical site, and suddenly feel the urge to narrate and tell people about it.

3) As you drive through intersections (while off-duty), the booming "announcer man voice" plays in your head "Now approaching Fairfax Circle" or wherever you happen to be at the time (this happens to me, and makes me sad, lol)

4) After driving in the bus and getting into your car, you watch your mirrors extensively and make sure you don't hit anything with your "tail-swing" (tail swing is virtually non-existant in a car/compact SUV/mini-van)

5) You wish you had or actually have convex mirrors on your personal car

6) You give your car a mini-pre trip before you leave in the morning

So anyway, that's all for now. This bus job is kicking my butt as far as sleep goes and being tired. In Alaska, I never really had a problem getting up in the morning for work. Probably because it never felt like work. I was surviving on an average of 6 hours a night and it didn't bother me. But now, I'm getting up sometimes at 4:15 am! Luckily, next week I'll be working afternoon routes so it won't be as hard. I am NOT a morning person.