Saturday, September 25, 2010

Penciled Names

My students survived their first day of clinical...

And so did I.

I showed up right at 8am, armed with a dozen HOT glazed doughnuts and a dozen football-shaped creme-filled ones. The students were already sitting around several tables pushed together in the cafeteria, notebooks in front of them and pens in hand. I'm pretty sure I could have given a better first impression, but what they saw was a true portrayal of myself: slightly sweaty on the bridge of my nose, hair quickly turning more towards frizz city than polished bob from the outdoor walk, and arms laden down with insulin's rival: pure sugar.

One of the students said, "So, I guess you are the instructor?", in what I like to think was a slightly hopeful tone. I replied, "Yes! And I'm guessing you are my clinical group?". For some reason, this made everyone laugh. Yep, we're all a little nervous and on edge this morning!

I sat down and made sure we addressed the most important priority: the doughnut distribution. They went smack dab in the middle of the table and helped to calm everyone down a tad. I had the students start by introducing themselves, sharing what personal background they wished, and telling us why they chose nursing. Not a one said their reason was to make alot of money, so at least we have that misconception straight. Almost every one of them had experienced what I call a "life moment" that veered them towards this career. One had a sick child. Another was a hairdresser that loved making others beautiful but wanted to help fix other ailments besides a bad perm. Of course, I had the ones that had immediate family members in the healthcare field, and they wanted to follow in their footsteps. Finally, a few already had degrees but wanted to incorporate that knowledge into hands on patient care. I was encouraged.

I asked them what they were nervous about or not looking forward to. Some said trachs, others vomiting, still others what goes on below the belly button. I alluded to the fact that I wasn't too keen on these things either, but we would get through it together. See, these are just periphereal things. They don't define a patient. They don't make them any less human. Once you look past to actually view the patient, you find someone like you. A mother. Father. Great-Grandmother. World War II veteran. Teacher. School bus driver. Nurse.

We toured the hospital to get grounded, then I let them fly on their own to traverse the hospital again for a scavenger hunt. I used this time to orient myself to the unit. This unit is designed like a wagon wheel. The center of the wheel is the nurses station. The spokes are the hallways. I probably walked around it 15 times, occasionally doing a 180 and going the other direction just trying to find the conference room.

I then assigned the same patient to each student; they looked up multiple pieces of information for their assessment sheets. We discussed this patient and stumbled through the necessary paperwork. Then came the nursing diagnoses. And the care plans. And the realization that I didn't have the reference book. I ended up going to a totally different floor to find an old nursing diagnosis handbook. Flipping through it, I stumbled on a page marker. It was a laminated reference sheet for common problems and possible nursing diagnoses/interventions. At the bottom was a yellow sticker with two words:

Gina Woody.

If you read my previous post, you will remember that name. I flipped to the inside cover and saw a penciled name again "Woody".

I was instantly a first year student again. I remembered feeling unsure of myself and overwhelmed. I also remember feeling excited and anxious to have the pieces come together so the patient's story made sense.

As I walked the book marked by my favorite instructor back to the unit, I realized two things.

1. I was passing on the art of my profession, which had been handed to me by an instructor years ago. I was part of a legacy.

2. I am and always will be a student; I'd like to think one of these students will someday find a book, with my last name penciled in the front, and carry it back to their unit of a nervous first year clinical group.

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