Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Extracurricular Surgery, then Finals.

Well, finals are over and I'm still alive. I managed four B's and three A's this semester... though 3 of those B's were 90 or 91% (remember, 92% is the lowest A). Not complaining though, I'm just glad to be on vacation!

The faculty was really nice during the last week. They brought us breakfast every day; sometimes donuts, sometimes catered stuff. My instructor made her delicious "chess cake"... which is basically tiny little cheesecake squares dusted in powdered sugar. Heavenly.

Last Saturday I had the most awesome experience.

A nurse anesthetist from my church asked me if I'd like to come shadow him at his job. I accepted and got up at 0600 to meet him at the hospital, and then stood next to him for four hours while two surgeons performed a hysterectomy. This nurse anesthetist showed me everything he was doing and explained all the equipment. He told me the names of the drugs he injected, what they acted on, what he was watching for to be sure all aspects were balanced. I gained a really detailed overview of his work. And on top of the learning, it was a very interesting surgery. I got to see this lady's uterus and intestines and stuff, it was so awesome!

I don't believe I mentioned the surgical observation experience that I had through the nursing school. Throughout the semester, students are rotated out for a single day in the OR. When I arrived for my assignment, all my classmates had already picked the most interesting cases. So I ended up observing 3 cataract surgeries, and was actually made queasy by the needle they used to inject the local anesthetic into the eye. I spent most of that morning sitting off to the side while the staff ignored me. A very boring day.
(I have no idea why the needle bothered me and the open abdomen didn't. I'm not squeamish, but they say at good third of students feel unexpectedly ill the first time they set foot in an OR. A large percentage faint, but thankfully I wasn't one of those.)

How awesome to get another chance to learn! And from someone with an advanced license! I know I want to go to grad school eventually, and while the lack of patient interaction in the OR seems a bit boring to me, I was really excited to see something new.

I gotta remember to write a thankyou note.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Really Useful Page + The Last Patient

I run a website to help out my clinical level at NSU.

Basically, I scan all the paperwork forms into the computer so that they can be printed from the website. The copy machine is 10 cents a page, but computer lab printouts are free. My clinical level has found it invaluable, so I plan to expand the project next year. I'm thinking of requesting some official school webspace to set this up permanently. It would be a student-run thing that would fill in the gaps left by teachers who can't figure out how to use Blackboard.

Those of you at other colleges... you should look into doing this for your own school. Its a great community-support thing. (I'd link my page as an example so you could see it for yourself, but there are copyright issues involved.)

It is important for nurses to help eachother.


Today was my last day in the hospital as a first level clinical student. I can hardly believe the semester has flown by so quickly! I had an exciting ending to the semester. My patient had wildly fluctuating glucose levels and uncontrolled diabetes. Thankfully they'd gotten her down from 400 to about 200, and holding steady. Then, when we were talking about brushing her teeth, she told me she wasn't feeling right. A quick glucose check showed her level to be down in the 40's. Freak out! I was running around with orange juice and sugar packets and sticking her finger every fifteen minutes. She started to get drowsy before I got the juice in her. Thankfully she didn't pass out on me! As I left I watched her grimace as they kept re-sticking her for some blood to take down to the lab. The longer I work in the hospital, the more thankful I am that I am an "easy stick".

She was an interesting patient in more ways than one. She told me about her move into the nursing home after her daughter could no longer care for her. It was disheartening to hear; she was obviously intelligent and fully cognizant. She didn't want to bother her daughter with her depression. I found myself unable to speak. What words could I offer in the face of such suffering?

I feel this society needs a major paradigm shift when it comes to nursing homes. People think these homes are where people go to die, but that isn't the case at all. Nursing homes are places where people keep on living.

True, quality of life is often diminished from what a person once knew. Especially for a woman such as this; she is only there so health professionals can monitor her blood sugar and her tendency for falls. When I listened to her speaking in such soft, deliberate tones, she conveyed to me such profound sadness. Yet even with the sadness, her voice also held a resolve to live in spite of it. To live.

When I am old, I hope to bear myself with such dignity. When I am depressed, I hope I can find such strength of will.

Report Card

*does a dance* Who made A's on their last two tests? That's right, it was me. And it's something to be proud of; the third Pathophysiology test had a class average of 71%. (As you know, 80% is the lowest passing grade.)

Patho is going to keep a lot of people from going on to second level. One guy in my group has already calculated that he can't raise his average to 80 even with the final grade, so he's out before the semester's even over. Poor guy. Some say Patho was easier over the summer last year. I don't regret waiting to take it, and I'll be more than happy to pass with the B this year.

We're in the midst of registering for second level classes. Everyone is telling horror stories to their underclassmen. "Walker knows her stuff. If you get Landry, she'll only put you on the spot about drug cards and send you home with an F if you don't know what all your meds are". Others say "Downy is really easy, but Landry is better because she doesn't assign much paperwork". Conflicting rumors. I wonder which are true? Its so hard to judge, with everything being so subjective.

Honestly, I could care less who I end up with. If it's someone really hard... well... I know I'll be that much better a nurse for it. I may be a grade-obsessor, but I'd rather make a hard-earned C than an easy A, since I'll know for sure that I passed by sheer force of will rather than from people handing me things. Easy teachers don't make for high NCLEX scores.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Paper and a Picture

I am writing the most inane paper.

My "Nursing as a Profession" course is exactly what it sounds: a class that studies why the career is a profession rather than simply a job. We read long chapters about the history and legalities of nursing, and compose over-researched essays on pretentious topics. Right now I have to write a two page, APA-perfect paper about a professional organization. I've chosen to do mine on the National Student Nurses' Association (NSNA) because I'm already a member. Usually when writing people complain about having to spread a little information out over several pages, right? Oh no; this one is a burden because I don't know how I'll ever fit all the criteria into so little space. I loathe this assignment far more than my "Definition of Nursing" paper from a few weeks ago. Despite having many resources, I feel like I haven't made any progress all day.

Hence this blog entry. I love to take a break.

I find my mind drifting to other things NSNA related. For example: I've finally finished my shirt designs for the school's SNA chapter. I think these designs are much more interesting than the huge school seal they've had on their backs for the last couple years. Apparently our SNA has gotten itself in trouble in the past for having questionable phrases on previous shirts. Things like "Not Tonight, I Have Clinicals". I think its hilarious personally, and not nearly so bad as some of the things we've seen at the national conventions (One group had shirts saying "Palpate THIS". If only someone walked by our Dean in one of those, hoooo boy.)

I think they turned out quite well, don't you? Sorry about the watermarks.

After I'm done with the paper, I have to study for a test on Monday. It's in Health Assessment, one of my B classes. Being the grade-obsessor I am, I'm certain I'll end up barricading myself in the room with my books until midnight. (Emerging perhaps only for Starbucks?) I can't wait until Monday as over, since after that I'll have nothing major left to do before Thanksgiving break. There IS a Thursday test in Foundations, but that class is always a breeze. Then, I can't wait to climb in the car and head up to Memphis for family, food, and fun. Thanksgiving is wonderful.

I love to take a break.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Foley Catheterization, Genitals, and Social Rules

Before we can dress, administer, or insert anything in the hospital, we must pass a clinical checkoff. Today I had a practical examination in Foley catheterization. (For those of you who don't know what that is, it's where you insert a tube into the bladder. Through the urethra. Yowza.)

The labs are filled with these pathetic looking dummies students can use to practice everything on. I say pathetic because they look worse than many of the vegetative patients I've seen in the hospitals; their plastic bodies have interchangeable parts for just about every ailment possible. You can even swap out genitals, which amuses me to no end, so today I inserted a Foley tube into a somewhat disturbing labia mold. Disturbing because the urethra was very exaggerated for easy learning, which is NOT the case in the real world. (Where the hell is the hole?)

I'm not someone who balks at nudity. (As a 96 year old woman once said to me, "If you have something I've never seen before I WANNA SEE IT.")
But I'm also not someone who thinks you can totally objectify something like this. For example: sometimes when inserting Foleys in males you can first inject this numbing gel inside the urethra. Only problem is this: you have to hold it there for five minutes. My instructor said "I've never done the gel thing, probably because I'm not one for small talk". Honestly, what do you say to someone while you hold on and wait for the stuff to kick in?

It always amazes me how willing people are to get naked for you once you wear a hospital uniform. I've had a good number of patients sofar this semester, and not a one objected to me lifting their shirts to listen to their chest, or helping them put on clean undies and a gown. Of course, they have no reason to worry about me seeing them naked; I am a professional. I'm going to see a million before I'm done. But what is it that makes them trust me with their body more than they would any other stranger? Surely it isn't the purple uniform... though I'm certain they'd be more uneasy if I was there wearing jeans and a tee-shirt.

We build up the most interesting environmental associations. Being in a certain setting, playing a certain role, and wearing a certain costume makes all the social rules change. Sometimes the roles can be de-humanizing (people expect super-human responses to their problems, especially from doctors). When someone fails while playing their role, we are disillusioned and disappointed with the role (profession!) as a whole, and not just the offending individual.

This is why I try very hard not to laugh at the plastic genitals of the practice dummies when I'm in the lab, less I undermine my professionalism. But another part of me sees that professionalism is a function of context. Objective detachment is a function of one's role. And though nursing is arguably something that becomes ingrained in one's very identity... I AM still a student.

So. Between you and me, I am seriously considering turning all the "parts" upside down one day. Just to see if anyone notices. I have the serious suspicion the instructors would find it hilarious. For all the roleplay, nurses aren't as stuffy as people think. So long as no one is watching. ^_~

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

I thought this was going to be a documentary

..but it is far too sparse to provide any accurate picture of what it is to be a nursing student.

Or perhaps, maybe this is the perfect example of what nursing school is... I am so busy, I am unable to find time for even the smallest tasks like blogging.

Today is a Tuesday, which means I must prepare my preclinical paperwork before going to the hospital at 0630 tomorrow. If I want to give a medicine, I must construct a "drug card" detailing the drug's action, effects, side effects, safe dosage level, half-life, nursing implications, etc. Today I (somewhat masochistically) picked a patient with no less than 17 different medications I am able to give. Quite a cocktail, that bunch. Needless to say, I'm going to be really really busy for the next seven hours.

I was set back in time a little bit by a random drug screen today. Once a semester we have to pay $30 to pee in a cup. Failure means dismissal from the program, but I'm beginning to think that it is more for money than to assure quality service. $30! Yeesh! Life is expensive.

Time to study. Good luck with your own studies, everyone.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Clinicals with a Side of Philosophy

I walked into the room to find a large woman sitting up in a reclining chair. I introduced myself and she immediately told me how she hadn't slept very well that night. It had been difficult for her to become comfortable. She was in the hospital because she had fallen a few days before, and lay on the floor for over seventeen hours before she was found. She was "sore all over". She wanted to go home.

They were keeping her there for observation: making sure she was eating and drinking, watching over her so she wouldn't fall again as her muscles recovered from the strain... you know the drill. (Hospitals like observing people.) That day she was scheduled for a stress test, and she bemoaned the fact that she wasn't allowed to eat anything until it was over. She was more than eager to discuss her many pains.

I did my basic health assessments. It's like a game of twenty questions. Twenty times twenty! During musculoskeletal evaluations I saw she had some limitation to her range of motion. (I think this is just because she was in pain from the fall, mostly. I know I would be if I was stuck for so long.)

After I found her a pillow for her legs, transport arrive to take her to the stress test. The nuclear medicine nurse proceeded to scare the daylights out of my patient by describing the potential side effects of an adenosine injection. I asked my patient what she was thinking about while we waited, and she revealed to me her deep-seated fear of "drugs". She didn't trust medicine... especially the kind she didn't understand. I re-explained the procedure, and she didn't seem nearly as worried. That made me happy.

I mentioned she was a large woman. It wasn't exactly easy to get her onto the scanning table. She moaned when she had to lay flat on her back (remember, the fall), and had a great deal of trouble getting her arms up. You're supposed to lie with them behind your head... but she could hardly bring them past eye-level. With nothing to rest her hands on, she was distraught. So I stood behind her, and held her arms up for her.

I didn't have much success supporting her. The angle was all wrong, and anyone who knows me personally knows my arms are like two noodles. I apologized to her. "Sorry I can't do anything more to support your arms."

And she said "That's okay. You're giving me courage."

When I started nursing school, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I'm someone who was born with too many interests and too many talents: I can't focus on anything! I stumbled into Nursing because it was some kind of mind-body-spirit breakfast blend... something to make me enough money to chase my dreams. Something to fill the time until I figure out what I'm supposed to do with myself.

But I'm thinking that maybe... maybe this IS what I'm supposed to do. All the time I am finding more reasons to believe that this path is the Good Path. My Path.

I've always known that a career doesn't really define who I am. Everyone has things they want to do better and worse, potentials they've not yet achieved, dreams they've not yet realized. But...when I'm standing there in the hospital with my coat and clipboard... I feel like who I am is both amplified and simplified.

I feel like nothing is being wasted.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Practicum #1

Today was my first practicum in health assessment.

The exam consisted of walking into a room containing my instructor and lab partner. I then roll-played as if this were a real examination scenario, assessing more than seventy different required points from memory. Each of those items is a single point, and documentation is 25 points, so missing anything can be detrimental to the grade. The instructor held a long checklist and furiously made marks on it as I talked.

Good thing I nailed it. Despite my fever.

The secret was to memorize a script of things to say and do in the evaluation that touched on every required aspect. I knew everything about my partner from our previous practice sessions, so things went smoothly.

Hopefully I'll make a high A on the test... if my instructor can figure out how to use Blackboard. She is awesome, but not so tech-saavy.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A long weekend

Friday's Pathophysiology class convened late and got out early because of the coming hurricane.

The power went out all weekend.

When it came back on, I logged into Blackboard to discover all NSU campuses are closed Monday.

I'm enjoying my unexpected holiday! (...mostly by preparing for practicum exams)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Nursing Fundamentals and Lab

Thursdays focus more on developing hand-on skills. Morning lecture relates various safety risks and complications patients can experience. Afternoon lab applies those ideas. Today the big topic was mobility, so we spent the afternoon hefting people from beds to stretchers and back, and lifting each other into wheelchairs. I actually enjoy Thursdays a little because they're not critical thinking courses. I get a little break from the "assess assess assess" part of nursing and concentrate on the physical activities.

Before lab began I actually took a test on putting on sterile gloves. There's this way you have took hook your hand along the inside and not allow the sterile and non-sterile fields to touch... it was easy. Those are the kinds of tests I want to take every time. The next practical exam I have to take in that class involves reading a chart and drawing up medicine, then injecting it. It's good, since once you understand all the rules, you're pretty much set. Little study involved.

Of course, my break didn't extend into the evening. I still had paperwork left to do from Wednesday. Every part of our clinical experience is painstakingly documented on all kinds of forms. Skin, hair, nails, musculoskeletal system, pain... and every week we add something to keep track of. By the end of the year I'll be carrying "Patho" and "Drug" cards describing everything wrong with the patient, what all their meds do, and all the potential complications, interactions, and interventions I need to be aware of in order to best serve them. Which is as it should be, nurses need to understand disease. But it amounts to a lot of busywork.

Class may or may not be cancelled tomorrow. Hurricane Rita is bearing down on us all, and the slightest bit of wind here seems to knock the power out for a week. So we'll just see what happens. If I lose power, I'll probably not post for a while.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Clinicals, Week 1

Today was my first day on the hospital floor. My lab partner Cris and I were assigned a ninety-eight year old woman from a nursing home down south: one of the Katrina evacuees. (HIPAA forbids me talk about her particular condition, so I can't tell you why she was there or anything. Even though I doubt anyone would sue over it; it's nothing too unusual.)

As a new student I was not responsible for anything like medications or IV fluids; mostly we provided her with AM care. Feeding, bathing, linens, diapers, skin care and assessment.

After feeding my patient, I told her "You ate more than usual today. Good job." She didn't understand me, and her eyes got wide. "You think I'm gonna die?" she blubbered. "No! You're doing just fine!" I said.
Later I told her we were going to check her skin. "We're just going to look at you".
Her eyes widened again. "But I don't wanna go!"
"You're not going anywhere! I'm just going to look at your arm now."

She was confused by the evacuation, I think.

I felt a great deal of sympathy for this woman when I held her hand and spoon fed her processed meat and eggs. Her hands were smooth like my mother's... smooth like my grandmother's were before she died. Its true that old people can be burdensome. Its true that some lack cognition. But underneath that I constantly see these very fragile beings, full of fear and confusion. Just wanting someone to take some time with them.

I wish there was more I could do to comfort her.

Oh, for the record, I did change a diaper today. I thought it was going to be more traumatizing than it actually was. That summer working in the daycare has already acquainted me with poop of all forms, so this little old lady's output was nothing to frighten me.

Good thing I'm an optimist. :P

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Assessment Lab... and Rest

Tuesdays only officially have class until noon, but that is so students will have time to research their clinical assignments for Wednesday. In the future I will be assigned a patient the day before reaching the hospital, and will be expected to know everything pertaining to this person's disease and treatments before setting foot on the floor. For now, I don't have to worry about that, since all I'm allowed to do at the moment is give baths and change linens. Next week, I'll be able to take vitals and do skin assessments, and test range of motion. So the intense study begins next week. Today I can take a breather.

I still have to get up at 0515 though.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Health Assessment and the Student Nursing Association

Health Assessment

The faculty was kind enough to schedule Monday classes at 10 am rather than 9. Perhaps they felt it would make up for our early Wednesdays at the hospital. I was thankful for the extra hour of sleep. Although... I'd almost rather go ahead and get up at 9 for the extra hour of lecture. Health Assessment has been crammed into a two hour block once a week... and we might just need that extra time.

Nursing school is infamous for test questions asking "Which of the following would you do FIRST?" Vocabulary, structure, and function are taken for granted; you will not be tested on the normal lab values or definitions of diseases. You are given scenarios. Hypothetical cases. You're asked to assess the person completely, and relate a nursing diagnosis and nursing care plan. My Monday Health Assessment class focuses on the many, many variables a nurse should consider in patient care. Practicum exams involve going into a room and noticing every detail of that long list for the patient, then returning to an empty room to document each finding from memory.

In essence, the purpose of nursing school is to make you obscenely observant.

My first Health Assessment exam is in two weeks, and will cover 270 pages of material. That's about a third of the textbook.
Thankfully I've kept up with the weekly assignments, and have read all 12 of those chapters. But I'm still a little anxious about the upcoming test. The grade scale is such that you must make at least an 80% to pass. I've already taken an exam in two other subjects thusfar (and scored 96 and 90, an A and B). But this class is supposed to be "the hard one". I've already started reviewing the material.

SNA Meeting

I joined the Student Nurses Association, and was glad to attend their first meeting of the year this afternoon. It was during lunch break, so they thankfully fed us free sandwiches. A better meal than I would have time to acquire myself. So far this whole pre-professional organization thing looks promising.

SNA apparently sends students nursing journals as part of their membership: reason enough to join. But they also focus on several community service projects throughout the year. They talked about making shoebox care packages to Katrina victims today, which is a nice idea. I am apparently designing the T-shirt for this year, so hopefully I'll be able to come up with something interesting in the next few days.

I'm looking forward to becoming more actively involved at school this year. I've been a pretty lazy college student up until now; even though I am completely capable of leading, I often don't volunteer for projects. Since I've been spending such a ridiculous amount of time up at the school lately, I've started to feel pride in my alma mater and degree. I want to be in SNA... maybe even in SGA too. I want to be involved in campus policy and in helping the community under NSU's name.

(I'll be honest. I've never really thought much of the main campus because of its lower standards. Now that I'm in the next tier of students... now that I've seen that there are plenty of intelligent, dedicated students and faculty in this college... I'm proud to be a Demon. )

(Who'd have ever thought? )

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Saturday CPR Class

CPR mannequins creep me out.

The soft, silicon faces can be detached and swapped out for each student so that no two people have to share saliva when they practice rescue breathing. When I walked into the room this morning I found a pile of them on the table. Here's a couple pictures I took with my phone:

That one is me holding the adult face in front of my own. These things look like something you'd see in a horror movie. Spooky.

As a health care professional, it makes sense for me to learn basic life support. I've earned a card from the Red Cross in the past, but the school requires our training come from the American Heart Association. There are minor differences between the two programs, but they still amount to the same thing: several hours of watching videos and pumping the chests of armless, legless dolls.

I think my favorite part of the entire certification process was the AED machine. AED's weren't part of the program the last time I did CPR training, but I'm glad they've come into common use. The thing is essentially a talking, idiot-proof ECG + defibrillator that calculates when and how hard to shock a person in cardiac arrest. Technology is a beautiful thing.

I won't have to renew my certification for another year now, which is good because no one likes an early Saturday class. To reward myself for a hard week of work, I went to Coldstone for some icecream. I was pretty disappointed that blueberry is no longer the flavor of the month, but chocolate mint served me just as well.

Only one test and two practicums to study for next week. It'll be nice to have the break.

Friday, September 16, 2005


I had the idea to start writing this a few weeks ago, but only found a free moment today.

It's been almost a month since the semester started, so you've already missed out on quite a few things. I've purchased scrubs, taken exams, and walked around my hospital floor. I've visited with nursing home residents. I've learned how to take blood pressure. I've spent more hours reading textbooks than ever before in my college career.

These days I'm waking up between 0530 and 0700. After classes I study in the library. I have established a routine, and all before you met me. We have a lot of catching up to do.

Instead of trying to cram everything into one post, I'll just fill you in as we go. More fun for both of us that way. Look for updates each weekday around 4-5 PM, CST (I'll be in the library after class anyway. Might as well wind down by telling you how it went.) For now, its definitely bedtime. Mandatory Saturday class tomorrow on CPR from 9-5. Hopefully no one tries to give me mouth to mouth.