To pick a single moment in my nursing career as the weirdest or most memorable is sort of like being asked to choose my favourite food, or perhaps, like being asked to choose my least favourite food. Or like giving birth to twins and having to decide which one you’re going to put up for adoption because having two children is really eating into your ‘me time.’ How can you possibly choose?
Nursing offers a unique vantage point, providing a view of people often at their most unflattering angle or lowest ebb and frequently with a bare behind showing through the back of an open theatre gown. Nurses might not know it all (that’s what doctors are for!) but they’ve seen it all. They know what you look like when you’re sleeping, vomiting and when you’re sitting on the toilet. And they know if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.
Distilling a decade in nursing to a single stand out moment is impossible, but certain patients do adhere more stubbornly to mind – for reasons unknown in some instances, and fiercely known in others. I am struck by the memory of the patient who threatened to ‘get me’ as security escorted him from the hospital grounds, and the resultant uneasiness that left me wondering if it wasn’t time for a career sea change.
But on the other hand, there was John the cancer patient, whose mental capacity was so impaired he didn’t understand that he was a patient in hospital. He possessed even less awareness that he was connected to a machine by two metres of plastic tubing, a lack of insight similarly extended to the catheter inserted into his bladder. The catheter was held securely in place by a water-filled balloon, a balloon that John was threatening to dislodge via his urethra after attempting to climb out of bed. I found him sitting on the edge of the mattress, sans pants, with both tubes pulled taut and straining to remain in place; a disaster just about to happen, like Tony Abbott in 2013. Fortunately for both of us, he wriggled back down the bed.
For every sweetheart like John, though, there is a Keith. Keith was equally confused, but where John was pleasant and endearing, Keith was cantankerous, surly and worryingly low in haemoglobin. Unfortunately, a blood transfusion was required, and even more unfortunately, this meant checking his blood pressure, pulse and temperature every fifteen minutes to make sure things were going swimmingly.
“Keith, I just need to wrap this blood pressure cuff around your arm,” I told him, deliberately keeping my tone light and breezy.
“NO!” he bellowed, “YOU ALREADY DID THAT!”
I tried to explain the rationale for repeating his blood pressure measurement, but Keith wasn’t interested. He shook his head furiously and glared.
“Please, Keith, let me put the blood pressure cuff on your arm just one last time,” I implored him.
“THAT’S THE THING WITH YOU,” he shouted, “YOU ALWAYS SAY IT’S THE LAST TIME! AND IT’S NEVER THE LAST TIME! YOU CAN STICK THAT BLOOD PRESSURE CUFF UP YOUR ****!”
Ah, nursing. There’s nothing quite like it. 🙂
By Kristy Chambers – http://www.kristychambers.net/
Author of: ‘Get Well Soon! My (Un)Brilliant Career as a Nurse’ & ‘It’s Not You, Geography, It’s Me’