… going to simulation lab on a Friday morning, then working 8 hours as a CNA, telling your friends you’re too tired to go to the bar after work, but still staying up past 1am to study for the pharmacology test next week.
One of our lectures in pathophysiology was on allergic response and anaphylaxis. It wasn’t long after that class that I had to apply my knowledge in a real life situation at work.
I was feeding a nonverbal resident a puree dinner. The contents are always labeled, but most of our PO residents have been at the facility for a while so it would be normal to assume that anything from dietary is safe for them to eat. After a few minutes of feeding the resident, I noticed a rash on the face and increased drooling. The puree was marked: “shrimp fried rice 8 oz”, so I instantly thought there must be an allergy to shellfish/seafood going on. I checked our computer charting system for allergies and only saw allergies listed that I already knew about. This resident often has a rash of some kind, it wasn’t that surprising for one to pop up, but something in my gut told me to discontinue the feeding anyway. I just monitored the resident while I finished charting the rest of the intakes. I brought the resident back to the living room, told her nurse what I observed, and asked her to take a look. Most of the rash had subsided but I said that it worried me and she said she would look into it.
Two weeks go by and I’m speaking with my supervisor, the speech language pathologist, about the changes in the food since our former food service manager came back to work after becoming a registered dietitian. I said that it seemed like our staple meals had been switched for more exotic recipes. After all, meals like creamed chip beef are pretty exotic compared to the turkey salad sandwiches the residents were used to! When discussing specific meals and food preferences, it came up that the resident did have a shellfish allergy after all.
Paying attention in class really did pay off! Instead of carrying out my work on autopilot, I made a potentially life-saving call based on my own clinical judgement. When I’m a nurse this will be something I have to do everyday, but as an aide/nursing student it was really cool to use the information I had recently gone over in class and apply it at work. Plus, if it wasn’t important, the professors wouldn’t be teaching it.
This semester has really taken off! Though I’m still at the beginning of this journey, I already feel like a completely different person. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always just skated by academically. I put in minimal effort, only studied for finals, and skipped class whenever I could. Though I was far from a star student, I still managed to get As and Bs in high school, plus maybe a couple Cs in college. I was well aware this method was not going to fly in nursing school, especially not for an accelerated BSN program. I had no idea if I would be able to actually put forth the effort and try. I’m only two quizzes and one test in, but I’ve gotten As on everything.
I’ll admit most of the credit goes to my new cohort friends. It turns out that sitting next to the girl I barely knew from high school was a great move. She introduced me to her very distant acquaintance also in the program and the three of us have been studying diligently together ever since. I’ve never studied in a group before, but we really hold each other accountable when we meet up and via text. During my first degree, I barely spoke to my classmates at all but I couldn’t imagine getting through any of this content on my own. We each have our strengths in certain areas, but these girls are very smart. Working with them challenges me to do better and it’s really paying off!
The first two weeks of classes have whizzed by. I’ve already done my first simulation lab, taken two quizzes, and have been studying my ass off. I truly have never worked this hard for anything academic in my life but I want to do it right this time. I have a little group to study with between classes and it’s paying off. I’ve never been one to obsess over grades, but I got a 100% on my first quiz. I’m finding that while a little effort has always gone a long way, 100% of your effort will take you much further.
My work schedule is a little different with more anticipated changes. The speech language pathologist I work under has been a great mentor and source of guidance. Being a member of the therapy department instead of the clinical staff has been challenging, especially because I work after standard office hours, but it is a rewarding endeavor. We have a lot of ideas in progress right now, so I’m just waiting for it all to get approved and take off.
Unfortunately, I also got some terrible news this week that my little sister was in the hospital. It was a rough situation and it was horrible to see her in so much pain, though I visited as much as I could. I am grateful that she is going to be okay. As awful as it was, this unfortunate circumstance gave me an opportunity to reflect on my path and find the silver lining: I truly have found my calling. Though I rarely let anyone see my softer and compassionate side, after this experience I feel certain that I have what it takes to become a nurse from my head to my heart.
Orientation for my accelerated BSN program was today. They didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know but it was the first time my cohort got to see each other. I went to high school with one girl in the program, but I don’t know anyone very well. Everyone says that nursing students get very close but I didn’t make many new friends during my first four years of college, so honestly I’m pretty nervous I won’t make any good friends. I guess I’ll see what tomorrow brings, class at 8am! As for now, I’m off to work. Time to throw on some scrubs and go.
After a 12 hour night shift that ended at 6am, an hour drive home, a hot bath, and a couple hours of sleep, I rolled out of bed around 2pm today. My sleep schedule has been pretty screwed up this summer. As a nutrition/play therapy aide, I usually work a couple hours Monday to Friday in the evenings, but I’ve picked up a few 12 hour shifts on the floor . I doubt I’ll have time to make extra money when the semester starts. Plus I love my job, who wouldn’t?
As soon as I walk in the door, I’m greeted by a resident: “Excuse me. Gimme hug!” After squeezing him tightly he looks at me and shouts: “You’re beautiful!” I guess a little makeup went a long way, and it’s pretty common for residents to comment on how I look each day, good or bad! Brutal honesty is one of the many perks of working in a pediatric facility.
After gathering my usual groups of kids, feeding them dinner, and charting their intake, I head up to my other office, the playroom. Dinner can be exhausting so this is always a nice place to decompress. I snuggle up with one of the kids and ask her if she’s excited about her birthday: “Wow! I can’t believe it, you’re turning four?” “Yes!” she giggles. “Are you so happy?” I ask. “Yes!” she beams. “What do you want for your birthday?” I was hoping to hear about a favorite TV character like Doc McStuffins or one of the PJ Masks. Her reply? “I want my mommy.”
The tears were definitely welling in my eyes after that one. One of the saddest complaints from residents in long term care facilities is that nobody visits, but usually it’s a grandma feeling lonely, not an almost four year old girl. Tons of volunteers come by to visit with kids, but you know it’s just not the same. I didn’t have long to be sad with all the other children to look after. Watching after any group of kids is challenging but factor in two of them popping off their ventilators, someone throwing his HME at somebody else, and making sure nobody pulls out their G tube… well then you’ve got one sweaty CNA!
As the aides and nurses on the floor come by to take their kids back to their rooms, I check the clock. Just ten minutes to go and I’m starving for the other half of my sandwich. I’m sitting there trying to convince the pickiest eater to finish some of his snack. “I’ll let you watch a video on my phone if you finish that cheese!” He tried hard, he really did, but after his last bolus feed I guess he just didn’t have room and he vomited all over the living room rug. His aide took him back to get cleaned up for bed and I tried to clean up what I could. Then I called housekeeping to take care of the rest, washed my hands, and ate my sandwich. Yup, just another Monday.