Humor Non-Fiction posted July 3, 2019

This work has reached the exceptional level
a glimpse into the life of a nurse

It's Who I Am!

by Patty Palmer

From the time I was a little girl, I always liked helping other people. After graduating from High School, I was hired by a nursing home as a nurse's aid. I liked it from the start. Being a fresh 18 -year old, I admit, some of the duties involved I was a little worried about. I'd never even seen a naked man before in my life and now I was expected to give one a bath! The aid training me, Mary, gave me some great advice that I've used in my entire nursing career. She said, "If you treat each patient as if they were your very own mom or dad, you will never go wrong."

So, my first bath was for an 88 -year old man. He didn't seem at all embarrassed so I didn't neither. After he was bathed and dressed, hair combed, and clean shaven he sweetly smiled and said, "Thanks witch!" Only I think there was a "B" instead of a "W". I was surprised, but I looked at him and seriously said, "You're quite welcome!" and went about my business cleaning up the bath area. He left the room and Mary and I burst into giggles. I had survived my first bath quite well and my nervousness was gone.

Working with the same patients every day, it's hard to not become attached to them and when they pass away you do feel a loss. We had this little old lady who was less than five feet tall. Everyone called her Daisy because the only clothes she would wear had to have daisies on it. She was cute as a button and always had a smile on her face. She loved to sit and tell us stories about life when she was young during the Depression. She was terribly funny in her antics back then and she kept everyone in stitches! Eventually her health began to fail and she came down with pneumonia which is pretty serious. We cared for her day after day, even feeding her when she was too weak to feed herself. We washed her, turned her and sometimes one of us would use our break to just sit in her room with her and hold her hand, since she had no living relatives to come to stay with her. One evening the nurse on our floor called us together towards the end of our shift. She told us that Daisy in the last hour had taken a turn for the worse. If we wanted to say goodbye, we should do it now because the nurse doubted that she would make it through the night. It was Christmas Eve and we were all sad. We went into her room and the four of us stood around her bed. It was 11:00 p.m. The room was dark with the only light being from the small Christmas tree on her night stand. It was so quiet as we told Daisy how much she was loved by all of us. Then the nurse came in and very softly began to sing "Silent Night. We all joined in and as we finished, we quietly left the room. The next day, Daisy was not there.

Eventually, I decided to go to nursing school. Academically, it was really hard but I loved what I was doing. It took one year with only Christmas off. No vacation days at all were given. We were only allowed one call off for the year. If you needed to be out longer, you were rescheduled to return the following year. Surprisingly, we all made it through and graduated with outstanding grades! If you received a test grade of under 85% you failed. At least we were confident that we knew what to do as nurses.

I began an L.P.N. position in another long- term care facility. I loved the job, my co-workers and enjoyed working with the patients. One night sticks out in my mind because it scared the heck out of me at the time. It was one o'clock in the morning. All of the residents on my floor were sleeping soundly. I knew this because I had just done rounds and all was well.

Suddenly, a fire bell started ringing. Running to the nurse's station to grab the medicine cart, and resident list, and heard where the fire was. I ran to unlock the front lounge door to allow entrance for the fire department. This was one of my duties as the nurse on that floor, so the firefighters didn't have to break down the door, which they wouldn't hesitate to do if need be.

There's a fire truck out front with lights flashing and the Administrator of the establishment and the fire Marshal walk in. I was thinking why are they just taking their time strolling through. I was told the we needed to evacuate immediately, which the aids had already begun, taking residents to safety behind the fire door on the unit beside ours. Now it's like almost 1:30 a.m., help from the floors that weren't in danger had arrived and assisting with the evacuation. Back then restraints were used. (A long length of cloth used to tie around a resident to prevent those in danger of climbing out of bed and falling). In an emergency the restraint would be cut in order to quickly free the resident from the bed. Those who could walk with a walker were able to walk down the hall. Others who didn't walk well were put into a wheelchair to be whisked away to safety. Those who couldn't walk at all were lowered to the floor and placed on a drag blanket (a padded sheet with handles on the ends to hold onto to drag them down the hall).

Finally, all residents evacuated to safety behind the fire doors and doors closed. The fire marshal asked if everyone was accounted for to which I promptly answered with a positive "yes!" He asked me how did I know this so quickly. I showed him my medicine roster that has each resident's total immediate info. Medications, allergies, family information and contact people with phone numbers. He seemed impressed and told us how fast we were able to evacuate, and gave a few tips that could be used. Then he says, "You all did well! Thank you. There was no fire. This was an evacuation drill to see how you would do in an emergency."

I think many were staring daggers at him. Nobody minds drills because we have to know automatically what to do. There would be no time for looking up procedures in a real crisis. What everyone was angry about was it was now 3:00 a.m. and all these frail old people were disrupted out of their sleep. Some were very upset that they were put on the floor on blankets and pulled down a hallway in the middle of the night! One lady said to me,
" Well, I never!" Jokingly I replied, "Me neither!" and we laughed together about that. They were now all wide awake and confused! We had to put everybody back to bed, knowing many would not be able to go back to sleep. We had people getting up and dressed thinking it was breakfast time, many ringing the bells wanting to know what happened and where were they. They thought they had been taken to another place and demanding to know where. No matter how many times we patiently explained that it had been a fire drill they couldn't comprehend it. Then we had those who were quite angry at the whole deal. I didn't blame them. Although it's important to have drills in case of a real fire, they could have timed it better. Maybe closer to getting up would have not been so upsetting.

Believe me, there are things that make you crazy, but you laugh so you don't cry. One night I was working a small unit by myself. Aids from different floors would come to help me turn residents, change beds when someone had an accident. It was before time for someone to come and help me. I heard someone yelling at the end of the hall. When I walked in the room and turned on the lights this huge tall man swung at me. Luckily, I ducked. He was a new resident so I really didn't know what to expect from him yet. I was now getting a crash course! He swung his arms at me and I was able to grab one before he hit me. I did know that I was told in report that he needed assistance to ambulate. So, he's putting his legs up over the rail trying to get out of bed and I'm holding one arm and he's hitting me with the other one. I'm also trying to keep him from getting out of bed by pushing his leg back down. He's pulling my hair and I'm yelling "HELP!" hoping someone from the adjacent unit will hear and come to my rescue. I see his shoes sitting on the stand so I pick up his shoes and start aiming at the ceiling which was another unit. I was hoping they would hear the thumps on the floor and come down to investigate, but they didn't hear me either and all I was doing was getting hit in the head when the shoes came falling back down. Now, he has me half drug into the bed, pulling my hair and I can't get lose. Suddenly, three aids from other floors come running down the hall calling for me. They found me and got me loose. We got our fellow calmed down and soothed enough to stop hitting. As the girls were leaving, I asked them how they knew to come help me. They said that Shirley who lives in the room across the hall called the nursing home from her own telephone in her room. When the supervisor answered the phone, Shirley said. "You better hurry come to help Patty with the new guy. He's hitting and fighting her and she's losing fast!" So, I was rescued.

It had been a slow night working on another unit. About 3:00 a.m. when I was making rounds to make sure all of my residents were okay. I walked into one room and it really smelled bad! Of course, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to recognize the smell of poop! Cleaning old people's poop isn't the same as cleaning baby poop! I won't go into the difference here. Use your imagination and you'll understand. So, I go and get everything I need to change her entire bed and clean her up. As I'm trying to explain to her that she had an accident in the bed, she starts smacking and spitting on me. She fights me the entire time. I finally get her washed up squeaky clean and fresh sheets on the bed. The mess all cleaned up and I go back to the room to help get her settled comfy under the covers. I bent over the bed to straighten the sheet on the other side. She is calm now and smiling at me. She reaches up to pat my cheek telling me how nice I am to her. I smile and leave the room. I worked on charting for a while. I answered a few more call bells. I keep smelling something nasty. Hmmm it smelled like poop but I couldn't find where it was coming from. I took a bathroom break and while washing my hands I happen to look into the mirror. There on my left cheek was an entire handprint of poop! She must have had it on her hand when I was fixing her sheet. I scrubbed really well! Then I went to examine that hand. Sure as can be, there was a light amount of poop! I cleaned her hand up and when I was done this time you can bet I didn't bend over the bed again!

After my children, nursing is the one thing I'm most proud of doing in my life. It was what I always had wanted to do from the time I was young. I've accomplished a lot over the years in my career. Taking care of those who can't do for themselves. Helping someone just out of surgery learn how to turn or cough for less pain. Guiding an older person's hand to her mouth while she's eating, making her feel independent a bit longer. Explaining what the doctor told someone about their x-rays and answering questions they may still have. Consoling a young mother who is feeling guilty about being in the hospital instead of home with her children. Holding the hand and crying with someone who has just gotten bad news from their doctor. Wiping the tears from a teenager's face whose mother has just taken her last breath. Comforting a woman after she's just heard she has a lump in her breast and explaining what the next steps will be, while being supportive and positive.

These are just a tip of what goes on in a nurse's life. It's why I hold my head high. And I'm not just a nurse. It's who I am!

Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry


There is a lot of nasty stuff you face as a nurse , but for me I can't think of more rewarding profession!
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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