I’m studying for my MedSurg final and I remembered this incident that happened last week during clinicals.
My patient was very stable and compliant that day, so after doing my assessment and morning care I went to check with my assigned nurse to see how else I could help her. We saw all her other patients and then I tagged along while she gave meds, which gave me a chance to review desired and side effects as we went along.
One of her patients was a middle-aged man with severe wrist swelling. As she prepped his meds, I would tell him what he was taking and some side effects to watch out for. For one of the meds we had to check his sodium level, which at the time of his last labs was 131, slightly under normal (135-145 mEq/L). As I applied a topical gel to his wrists to help with the pain, he asked us if he was scheduled for a brain scan that day. The nurse and I looked at each other, a bit confused by his question. She said that there was nothing in his chart about a brain scan. I asked him why would he have a brain scan and he said he’d been having extremely vivid dreams for a while, the type where you don’t know if you’re awake or asleep. The nurse said she’d check again to be sure and I filed away this information.
As I went on about my duties, I kept thinking about this patient and his question. Something in his case was triggering memories in my head but I quite couldn’t put my finger on it. It hit me about an hour later, while I was helping my patient back to bed after she had eaten her breakfast and I saw the slip on her tray that said “Cardiac Diet” (which means no more than 2g of sodium a day).
The basic unit of Nursing school, to me, is the Clinicals group. Though we’re all in the same class, and at times have taken classes at different time slots, it is when we go to clinicals that we separate into smaller units and achieve that squad-level tight focus. Above is my clinicals group for MedSurg (except for the guy at far right, we were all together as well for Fundamentals clinicals). These are my peeps. These are the people I spend time at the hospital with, the ones that stand by me, and me by them, when we face medical issues for the first time, when we have exams, when we’re stressed out, when we’re overwhelmed. These are the people that I high-five when we do something cool, when we celebrate the little victories and the big ones. We talk about wildly inappropriate things during lunch, know way too much about each other’s bodies, and are the only ones who truly understand what we’re all going through. These are my friends, and without them, nursing school would be practically unbearable.
Back in 2010 I had this idea to go car-lite, then eventually car-free. I had a tag for it on my blog, I was taking notes on expenditures to validate my findings, and I was generally pumped up to do it. Then my bike got stolen, my class schedule changed, I lost impetus and it all fell by the wayside. Fast forward two years.
Much like in 2010, right at the start of classes in January my car was put out of commission, this time with the brakes ceasing to work instead of me getting my license suspended. My school is just on the other side of the bay from Miami Beach; it took me 6-7 minutes to get there by car, and being right next to the hospitals, it gets excellent public transportation coverage. So the next day I took the bus, decided it was doable on a regular basis, and after purchasing the reduced-cost bus pass for students, I made the switch entirely to public transportation.
I have not regretted it at all. Even though there are mornings when I arrive a few minutes late because of missing the bus, I still take it over the hassle and costs of driving.
In February, when my clinical rotations started, I happened to have my wife’s car available those two weeks, and when I didn’t, I car-pooled with a classmate. My next clinical rotation was at a hospital that is only 3.1 miles from my house, so now I get to commute by bicycle twice a week.
And I absolutely love it. I wake up early, yes, but then I ride for about 20 minutes around Miami Beach as the sun is rising. I get to take pictures in dramatic light. I get to arrive fully awake and ready to rock, whereas my classmates all arrive sleepy and groggy. Then in the afternoon I get to ride at a leisurely pace, stop along the way (maybe for a beer, maybe for a donut) and get home still with ample time in the day and some 7+ miles bicycled in m pocket. Seriously, what is not to love?
My car has been parked for two months and I have had absolutely no need for it. I have learned to live with the extra time public transportation/bike commuting requires and decided that the savings in cash and driving aggravations more than make up for it. I get in incidental exercise twice a week and help the environment just a little bit.
At this point I am considering selling my car and using that money for bus passes during the year. That means I’ll save the money I’d spend on repairs, parking permit, insurance and tag renewal. Even with a possible clinical rotation during the summer some 30 miles south (and an accompanying 3-hour public transportation ride starting at 3 AM), I am sure that it is the right thing to do now.
And how does this tie in with nursing, aside from the obvious connection with going to school and clinicals? This is role-modeling at its best. Although I have yet to take my Community Nursing class, I know it is an area with appeal to me, and one where I will seek to integrate my love of bicycles as much as possible. What I’m doing now can be considered research; it’s walking-the-walk so that I can talk-the-talk in the near future.
So, two years later, but look at that, I have achieved my goal of being car-lite, and eventually car-free!
January is over, which means I’ve survived the first month of this year-long crazy train that is the Accelerated Option program. In one month I’ve gone from being a newbie with no actual Nursing knowledge to having the rudimentary skills necessary to be thrown into a clinical rotation at a nursing home and be expected to not hurt anyone.
January has been tough. Getting used to the new academic methods used in nursing, the constant studying, the sheer amount of information being thrown at you, all of these have been tough on me. But I’ve survived. Mostly. I’ve already had two nervous breakdowns, one at the start and one at the end of the month, so it seems I’m right on track, based on what my nurse friends have told me. But you know what? I’m loving it.
In this first month I’ve had five examinations:
- Nursing Fundamentals Skills: Passed.
- Nursing Fundamentals Lecture exam: A
- Nursing Assessment quiz: A
- Intro to Math & Pharmacology exam: still waiting
- Nursing Assessment midterm: still waiting
I should have the grades to the last two this coming week, when I will also have my midterm in Fundamentals Lecture. Yeah, we go that fast.
This past week was also my first week of clinicals. My group is doing two visits a week at the Villa Maria Nursing Center in North Miami Beach. Our first day was all orientation, but on the second day we got divided across the various wings and assigned to the CNAs (Certified Nurse Assistants) on the floor. I ended up changing the bedding on a few beds, seeing the wound care nurse change dressings on a few nasty wounds, and giving a bed bath to an almost-total-care patient. Didn’t have to deal with poop on my first day, though I know that won’t last.
It was a humbling experience, really. I knew I knew my material, and then it seems I forgot it all when we were on the floor. But then as we did things, it all came back and I was fine. It was emotionally charged, and during our post conference various students broke down as well. I don’t think you can be a nurse and not go through this process; you’d be heartless, otherwise, and you can’t be heartless as a nurse. Tough, yes, but not heartless. I can’t wait to go back there this week.
So that’s month one done. Let’s see what February has in store.