We’ve had nearly two and a half years of nursing school, and we’ve come a long way, but I can still remember the jitters and nerves of that first day of clinical and my first assignment. We only had one quarter of classes before we started in the clinical setting, and in that quarter we learned about physical assessments, basic would care, charting I’s and O’s, and about bed baths…sort of . That last lesson was a little blurry. You would think that the concept of giving a bath to someone in bed wasn’t so complicated, but it wasn’t exactly something we were able to act out in the class room setting. Even washing the sim-man didn’t quite prepare us.
On our first day, after a brief orientation to the floor, we were assigned a patient in pairs and were told to just ease into it, performing a basic assessment and giving a bath, nothing else. A friend of mine and I were assigned to a 60-something man who was in the hospital for cellulitis, and gangrene of his, well, manly-parts, and they told us he was also ‘not all there’. So here we were, two anxious, green nursing students, totally not sure of what to do or say or think, especially since he apparently didn’t have all his lights on. But we went in and started talking, and he seemed just fine. We were assessing him slowly, trying to remember all the steps, and each taking our turns listening to his heart, lungs, and bowel sounds. He was totally having a conversation with us, and he seemed like he was totally lucid and fine.
So then we prepped for the bath, and while he was still all covered up, it was somewhat awkward since, in the back of our minds we couldn’t help thinking, “but he’s talking to us, and he can move around, should we be bathing him if he can do it himself?” Â But we had been assigned to him, and we were told to give our patient a bed bath, and so we did. Around that same time the conversation turned to the patient in the next bed, who was obviously undergoing some sort of procedure he was not enjoying. Then our patient started to seem a few crayons short of a box as he said, “I don’t know what they’re doing to him in there, I saw them do it yesterday, they’re splitting his body in two! I swear I saw it”
Now we were royally freaked out. “What is this guy talking about? Splitting bodies? WHAT?!” Â And around that same time, we both realized that the only part of his bath we had left to do was still hiding under the blanket…and it was gangrenous. We hadn’t learned about giving baths to gangrenous parts, and weren’t really sure how to deal with that, especially on a man who was not talking about splitting bodies in half. We managed to squeal out a “um… excuse us, we’ll be right back” as we bolted out from the curtains and looked for our instructor, and he yelled out after us, “but you skipped the best part!” YUCK!
But we survived it, as awkward as it seemed, and now we have this story to tell. And while words don’t do a justice to the actual experience, it reminds me of where we were, and how far we’ve come. And as odd an uncomfortable as things might get, we’re still doing what needs to be done, and that man was as shiny and good as new when we were finished with him!