Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's the safety, stupid

Today I donned scrubs for the first time since starting nursing school and showed up for my first experience with "skills checkoff".  "Skills" have scared me for two weeks now; first I couldn't hear my heartbeat using a stethoscope, and for some reason making a bed without grabbing the sheets by two corners and snapping them in the air to figure out which is the long way and which is the short way has me completely baffled.  We can't do that in nursing lab because the snapping stirs up dust particles that might just harbor deadly bacteria.  I'm a good snapper and am having a hard time learning how to "fan fold" sheets and make a bed the right way.

I knew I would be asked to either help a patient from a chair to the bed, help a patient walk down a hallway, or help somebody roll over in bed (reposition) for today's skill checkoff exercise.  I did all those things when my mother was in a nursing home.  No big deal, right?

Last week I realized that I've spent my entire professional career using my mind and not my body.  Terrifying.

Body mechanics (helping somebody move around without straining my back), not snapping sheets, and remembering all the ways that human joints move (assisting a bedbound patient with "range of motion"exercises) are not my long suit (yet) and I entered the lab today sure that I would fail the skills checkoff exercise.

I began sweating when my name was called.  Having been asked to transfer a patient from chair to bed (the "patient" being my lab partner) I shuffled in to make all the right moves.  I know I did very well with the chatting part.  I did well with the body mechanics.  What I neglected to do, however, was to confirm the patient's identity by checking her wristband AND return the bed to the lowest position once I had her tucked in.  My professor looked at me and said, "Did you forget anything?"  I stared at her and thought, "Well, obviously you screwed this up, you idiot.  What did you forget?"  After asking me two more times what I might have forgotten (she was really trying to pass me on the activity) she showed me what I should have done.

So, I failed my first skills check.  I'll have the opportunity to redo it on Friday.  I'm trying to look on the bright side:  never ever will I do anything to a patient without checking his or her wristband, and every bed I encounter in my nursing career will be as close to the floor as possible before I leave a room.  There will be no unidentified patients falling out of tall beds on my watch.

A little humility is good for a person.  I spent two hours with my stethoscope tonight (trying to hear the lub-dub I'll need to track in order to successfully determine someone's blood pressure for next week's skill check) and then I ate a large bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips thrown in for good measure.

Good thing those scrubs have elastic waistbands.


  1. LOL! I went through Human Services Technician training many moons ago--nothing like actual nursing school, but we did have to learn to transfer patients and clean dirty diapers on adults and things like that. You brought me right back there. I'd get flustered and forget something, but was always good at keeping the patient relaxed and comfortable with friendly chit chat (love those old folks) that when I went out "in the field" the patients were so sweet and forgiving if I did forget something...LOLOL!

    You will do so well! It's just getting past the schooling and the more you do everything, you will remember all the important stuff. It's been so many years for me that I've forgotten so much. That's why I love to hear about what you're learning in nursing school. You nurses do all the harder stuff, too! ;)

  2. Love snapping those sheets! We must have learned it from the same mother.

  3. If you need to practice on making beds, I just know you will have plenty of volunteers!

  4. Nursing is a real physical as well as mental challenge. My sister is a labor and delivery nurse and she stays slim without working out because her work is a work-out!