It was September of 1958, and most of my nursing classmates were the same age as me, fresh out of high school and away from home for the first time. Life had certainly taken a turn.
We had three weeks of classes to learn some basic nursing skills before our first assignment. In addition, we were also taught us how to properly “assemble” our uniform, and the importance of being on time. We were reminded to show respect to both the doctors and the patients wherever we met them. We still wondered if we knew enough to be able to do anything significant or helpful on a ward occupied by sick people, and would the staff nurses, who were much older and smarter, think we were just dumb kids?
The list of things (considered to be on our list of abilities) was longer than we realized; take temperatures, check pulse rates and blood pressure, give a patient a bedpan, and empty the results in the service room, and when all this information was gathered, we could sit in the record room with other nurses to update each patient's medical chart. We also could deliver meal trays, bouquets of flowers, and daily newspapers, and make sure that each patient had a jug of fresh water with an ample amount of ice cubes, as well as a clean glass.
We soon learned that most patients appreciated what we could do for them. It's not easy for some patient's to eat when not able to sit up, and we were there to help them by putting their meal in easy reach; even holding their spoon or fork to help get the food to their mouth without spilling it on the bed. Helping a patient change a position (from side to side), and giving them a back-rub, complete with applying a bit of alcohol to cool the skin, and baby powder to smooth the skin, resulted in many expressions of gratitude.
A bed bath was a challenge for us. If a patient was not able to get out of bed or do much for themselves, being clean was still important. We learned that giving an efficient full bath in a bed, without having everything soaking wet, was considered to be an “art”. Our instructor would come by to check on how we were doing, and corrected us when needed to improve, for the sake of the patient. As much as possible, we didn't invade the personal privacy of male patients because there were male 'orderlies' that we could call (thank goodness!)
That wasn't the case at the small country 19-bed hospital where I first worked as a graduate nurse... but that is another story.
Tags: Nurses Student A-z Challenge