Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone, Part 2

As I've mentioned before, this year, my second and final year of nursing school, the pedal is to the metal. Lots of work and lots of new things.

We had a test yesterday on pancreatitis, hepatitis and several other subjects. I got news from my friend Ricky that he had not gotten a good grade. I was surprised; I know he'd been struggling, but he'd really been working hard. I went online and checked my grade; I'd gotten the same grade as he did. I was a little shocked-- I thought I'd done well. Tomorrow, we'll go over the test and I'll see what happened.

Today, I had clinical-- the picture at the top of this post is the view from the lobby of the tenth floor, where I work. That's Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan. In any event, I had a patient with pancreatitis, which is one of the things we're studying. He had a huge incision in his abdomen from a recent surgery and tubes coming out of everywhere. He's on total parenteral nutrition, has an iv for fluids (he's "NPO"-- nothing per oral-- because of his surgery). He also had two drainage tubes in his abdomen.

I was paired with a classmate I've known since the beginning of the program-- we had 101 together. She had a reputation as being a little prickly, though I'd always been able to get along with her. She demonstrated why she had her reputation; she had a chip on her shoulder big-time. I had a lot to do, so I left her to do her stuff-- nursing assistant stuff-- and I did my stuff. I don't have time to deal with her bullshit, for it is, after all, her bullshit. In the long run, she'll have to deal with it as she discovers that she has to work with other people.

One of the things I've mentioned frequently in this blog is my love of the mini-series "From The Earth To The Moon," about the American Space program. There was an episode called "Spider," about the difficulties in developing the lunar lander. In it, there's a scene in which three astronauts discussed their upcoming mission, in which they were to launch the massive Apollo spacecraft and practice separating the command module and lunar lander, fly the lunar lander around, then dock back together. There was a laundry list of things that were firsts for the space program. I felt that way today. I'd never dealt with iv drug administration, mixing a drug with water, flushing a saline lock or a heparin shot (I'd given a bunch of flu shots, which are intra-muscular, a couple of weeks ago; heparin shots are "subq"-- subcutaneous).

My patient was in a lot of pain from a huge incision, and was quickly coming due for a PRN ("as needed") pain shot, so I had to hurry. I was aggravated when I made a dumb mistake-- I injected water into a vial of mixable med, then tossed the whole rig into the "sharps" container, rather than just the needle. My instructor was okay-- she realized I was nervous and that I had, because of various circumstances, not done any of this before. I grabbed another hypo and needle and filled it up.

I wanted to get my patient's pain meds running so he'd get some relief, so we hurried. In the process, I managed to spill the cup of liquid antibiotic. I got the pain med in, flushed the lock, and got the other meds going. We went back and got another dose of the antibiotic.

I came away liking my clinical instructor a lot. She rides our asses like we're ten dollar burros, but knows when we're scared to death and to back off a little. She understands what it takes to make us good nurses, but is also generous with her praise. I know that she's one of those teachers who I'll always remember. At the end of the day, as we were leaving, she stopped me and told me I did a good job. It was much appreciated.

As I went home, I thought about it all and realized that there was a family history that greatly increased my anxiety when doing something new. Getting past that anxiety was liberating not just academically, but personally.

I came home from clinical, ate a nice lunch and took a badly-needed nap. I woke up feeling really good, looking forward to the next challenge that this program will bring me. I keep thinking about that saying about doing something that scares you to death every day. I did about four of them today. I've come to realize that in order to make the big changes in my life I desire-- a new career, and it's consequent financial security, being able to pay for my kids' college, being able to pursue some other dreams, and maybe someday being able to retire comfortably, I've got to keep stepping outside of my comfort zone. I've got so many things, so many skills to develop ahead of me-- putting in an iv, putting in a catheter, suctioning an airway-- but each time I do it and succeed, I feel a little more alive, a little more happy that I went this route. And I also keep coming back to a line in one of my favorite songs, Bob Dylan's "It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding"):

"He who is not busy being born is busy dying."


Churlita said...

Just think how soon it will be until you're done with school and making some decent money nursing. I know it seems really hard right now, but also seems like you're getting a lot out of it. You're going to make a great nurse.

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SkylersDad said...

I tend to make mistakes when I try and do things too quickly also. I have to remind myself to slow down and breathe a lot. I know you are going to be a great nurse!