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....