For the first time in (good Lord) 38 years I have a school locker. The UAA School of Nursing issued me locker # 229 and a combination lock to secure it. I had to ask someone much younger than I am to show me how to use the lock, and as I write this I can't remember how to open it. Twice around to the right, once around to the left, then what? Oh, hell.
I had one distinct meltdown last week in the parking lot of a grocery store during a pouring rainstorm, and fortunately my sister Linda was available to talk me down from the edge. It's a great gift to have someone who knows you inside and out and is still willing to talk to you. She knows exactly what to say, and she said it. After that I was ok.
One of our first lab sessions consisted of learning how to use a stethoscope. We were instructed to listen to our own heartbeats. They are supposed to make a "lub-dub" sound. I couldn't hear mine. Just couldn't hear it. I knew it was beating because I was alert and oriented, but all I got was silence. I approached my professor and explained. She sat with me and used a stethoscope with two sets of earpieces, placed the diaphragm (the cold round part the doctor puts on your chest) on her chest, and said, "Now, you can hear that, can't you?" I couldn't. I said, "Oh God, after all this studying and working to be accepted into this program I'm going to find out that I'm deaf and can't be a nurse." She said, "Alyx, if you were deaf we would not be able to have this conversation." She suggested I try practicing (listening) in a quiet place over the weekend. I have, and now I can hear my heartbeat. I have also used ear drops and a wax removal system three times in the past three days in hopes that I'll never miss a heartbeat again. My ears are not amused.
I now know how to give a bed bath, don protective gear for situations in which I'm treating someone who is either immune compromised or has something I don't want to catch, and brush somebody else's teeth. I also know everything there is to know about handwashing. I suspect that this aspect of nursing will speak to my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Wash before, wash during, wash after, then wash again for good measure. My professor used a phrase (several times) that is etched upon my consciousness forever:
"If it's wet and it's not yours, wash your hands."