Friday, April 09, 2010

Obstinate Thermometers, Stubborn Over-bed Tables, and Incompetency

I usually feel completely incompetent when I'm at clinicals.  The things that usually get me are quite inconspicuous, like an innocent little thermometer or a simple looking over-bed table (which are not simple- ever.).  It is amazing how I get completely flustered over things that should be simple.  I realized (in part, I know there are more pieces to that puzzle) why I feel so incompetent all the time.  I have one task in mind (like a morning assessment) and yet when I walk in the room the patient tells me he is in pain, he would like some coffee, he wants more pillows, he wants help with brushing his teeth, and he would like a new gown. So my agenda is bombarded with tens of other tasks that are all wonderful and important things, but I end up getting flustered when my task list is not the same as my patient's.  I forget to do important things because I get side-tracked.

It amazes me how difficult multitasking is.  I used to think I was pretty good at multitasking, but now I realize that I never really had much to do.  In all of this hustle and bustle I lose sight of why I'm actually in the room (because juggling an assessment, transferring a patient to the chair, tracking down the nurse and remembering to demonstrate Christ's love is apparently too much for my tiny brain).  I'm not in the room to do an assessment on a patient or to get coffee, I'm there (ultimately) to show them Christ's love. So not only do nurses have to deal with physical and emotional needs, they also have to deal with spiritual needs. People are complex and their needs are also very complex.

So I often feel like I am just trying to stay above water.  I try to do things for my patients to show them I care, but I feel like I am sort of invisible to them. I am simply a means to relief of pain for some of them.  This attitude was pretty obvious this week at clinicals.  My first patient was in a lot of pain, she was pleasant, but had been in the hospital for a week.  She did not want a lot to do with me, other than getting pain meds and sleep.  I totally understand her frustration and I wanted to give her as much space as I could.  My second patient was much more willing to spend time with me.

I offered to help her brush her teeth and wash her hair.  We were talking about nurses and she remarked that you can tell the really excellent nurses by how much they care for the little things.  I had never had a patient say something like that.  We talk about that in our classes all of the time.  That was always my aim, I want patients to know I care and one of my patients actually understood why I do what I try to do.

That whole interaction encouraged me to keep trying to do my best- even if the thermometer refuses to work and the over-bed table does not comply with my attempt to raise it.  Patients do notice when nurses take a little extra time to do "the simple things".