As I Begin Winterim

I can happily report I achieved my goal of straight A’s in my first semester of nursing school! Okay, some of those A’s are technically A-‘s so not exactly a 4.0 but I’m pretty damn proud of myself. Aside from battling the awful sinus infection that I still have from the week of finals, I had a really great holiday break and am preparing to get back to the daily grind.

Aside from the day I called out sick, I took advantage of my time off school and picked up extra time at work. I should be okay to keep up some of those hours during winterim but hopefully things will calm down at work by the time the spring semester rolls around. As much as I love working, it is easy to get burnt out especially due to the nature of my job. Same kids, same assignments, same routine. While I love the consistency and it can be great to work on autopilot, I couldn’t make a career out of what I am doing right now. After graduation, I would like to do something with a bit more variety.

Personally, winter can be a challenging time of the year. It’s always dark out and the cold weather doesn’t help lift my spirits. Summer is by far my favorite season, but I’m going to try to make the best of this short semester.

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Everything we learn applies to real life

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.

Just Another Monday

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.