Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Back in the Old Days....

Grand Rounds 2.06 is up over at Kidney Notes
this week and I'm going to be spending a good part of tomorrow morning with a cup of coffee reading the posts. Looks like a fantastic group of topics again this week. Check out the crocheted GI tract (I'm serious!).

If you are old enough to remember the people in this photo, well.....you're old. Is there anyone who didn't watch "General Hospital" at one point or another? I'm not sure who this hapless student nurse in the ugly blue cap is, but the guy on the right is "Steve Hardy, MD", CEO of the hospital and on duty in the emergency department 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He also did surgery on a few occasions and was the first TV doc I knew who defibrillated a patient in asystole waaaaaay back when I first knew what that meant. The nurse on the right is "Jesse".
Never knew her last name. Head nurse of the ER and this photo is the only time she was ever caught smiling. I'm so old that I remember when old-lady-nurse "Lucille" was an ER nurse that constantly picked on "Student Nurse McGillis" who obviously never rotated to any other department in the hospital but the ER. Probably graduated in the hallway. I used to pray that I would never have to work with a nurse like Lucille and thought that all nursing instructors were there to make you feel like a piece of dirt. Luckily, my real-life experience was not like that; I felt like a piece of lint in nursing school.

That reminds me of the time during the last quarter of our last year of school (when "Grease" was the word and "Star Wars" was new...) a bunch of us decided to play "hooky" from clinicals on this particular Thursday and go down to Santa Cruz for the day.. Never mind that most of us were from the same clinical group, we all "caught a bug" at the same time and called in sick. Had a great day, but I got so badly sunburned I made a lobster look like an albino. The next morning I was in so much pain I couldn't even put a bra on (trust me, no one would have noticed) and I walked like Lucy Ricardo in the episode where she fell asleep in the sun and had to wear the scratchy designer suit in the fashion show. Anyway, there was no way I could miss another clinical so in I waddled. My instructor (Claudia, bless her heart), with a barely straight face, asked me if my "flu" was better. Of course, we hadn't fooled her for a minute. There were no repercussions; she probably figured I was suffering enough.

The next rotation nearly caused me to quit nursing all together. We were rotating through intensive care and all of a sudden I went into panic mode. I realized I had no clue what I was doing. I thought I was going to kill someone in my ignorance. The fear came out of nowhere and was as intense as anything I've ever felt in my life. These patients were sick and I was just a stupid, clueless 20-year-old who was going to be let loose on the public in six weeks.
At least that is what was going through my mind at the time. Then one morning I was assigned a patient on a ventilator. I walked into the room, took one look at this prostrate human being with tubes in every orifice and in orifices made just for the tubes and I snapped. I got numb and said to myself, "I'm quitting. Now. I don't want any part of this. Ever." I turned around, told the staff nurse and my instructor that I was ill, picked up my stuff and walked out of the hospital.

My plan was to drive by the college and turn in my resignation/drop my classes right then. Just thinking about dropping out took about five tons of pressure off my back. Instead, I felt so spent that I went home first, I told my mom what my plans were. By the way, it never occurred to me to tell my instructor how I was feeling.

Thank God for moms. She went ballistic. Told me I had only six weeks to go and was crazy to drop out now and if I wanted to be a secretary later that was fine but at least get the degree and how could I possibly even remotely think of wasting all that time and effort just now before it was time to graduate, etc, etc. And for pete's sake don't make any decisions until after the weekend when you've thought about it!

I went back to lecture that Monday, but only to do what my mom suggested: to finish the degree. Then a miracle happened. The next Thursday my instructor met me to give me my assignment, which was to observe the ICU nurse as she cared for her patient. I didn't have to do any procedures unless I wanted to. And she paired me up with an absolute angel of a staff nurse. By the end of the day I was measuring MAPs and suctioning an ET tube and understanding arterial lines and hanging IVs.

That instructors name was Pat and she knew exactly what was going on. I never told Pat that I was scared or anxious or ready to quit. I never told anyone but my mom. Pat had sensed what I needed and put me right where I needed to be with the exact person I needed to be with.

I graduated, obviously! And after a three month stint on a med-surg unit, guess where I ended up wanting to work. Yep, critical care! Go figure.....

(Blogging is a funny thing. I had no idea that I would end up with this post when I started.
Must be because I am reading lots of blogs of nursing students and they are bringing back memories I had long forgotten. Back to ER musings tomorrow....)



4 Comments:

At 11/01/2005 03:25:00 PM, Blogger I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

Jessie Brewer, RN! My Mom watched "General Hospital"...it began airing in 1963 when I was two years old. I can remember getting to watch episodes of GH, or "Days of our Lives" or "All My Children", depending on what phase my mother was in. The medical stuff always fascinated me (duh) and GH was my favorite. I can remember when some nurse (a forlorn woman) was going through treatment for Hodgkin's Disease, but keeping it a secret from everyone. I was praying for her, as a little girl. I think in a weird, roundabout way, even that set my impressionable mind on the idea of being a nurse. Jesse in her crisp hat, Dr. Steve all gruff (and reminding me of my father, really!)

Interesting. And then there was "Emergency" which you referenced in another post.

WOW...I am such a product of the media! :)
Hh

 
At 11/01/2005 09:38:00 PM, Blogger kenju said...

That was a nice diversion.

Mommies are good for getting you on the right track. Mine did that when I wanted to skip college. She said NO WAY - and now I am glad, of course.

 
At 11/01/2005 10:29:00 PM, Anonymous Susan said...

My two favorite nurses on TV were Diahann Carroll on 'Julia' and Dixie McCall on 'Emergency.'

That Dixie cracks me up. She was too sexy for her uniform!

 
At 11/02/2005 12:22:00 PM, Blogger Goddess said...

Your post reminds me of a story my grandmother, who was a student nurse in the 1940s in eastern Canada. The student nurses at her hospital liked to sunbathe on the hospital roof- topless. Imagine their embarrasment when they all had to go and request cream for their severly sunburnt bosoms.

 

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