plu SCHOOL OF NURSING

pacific lutheran university SCHOOL OF NURSING:  celebrating sixty years

AN EXCERPT:

SKILLS — WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD

Nursing students must pass through a physical-skills obstacle course, as well, and come out the other side proficient.  For some, who have experience as Candy Stripers or Nurses’ Aides, this may be no problem.  For others, dealing with the body fluids from other bodies or poking needles, nasogastric tubes, intravenous lines and other equipment into real people–these are no small feats.  Some of us struggle to be able to handle blood.  Some never do get over gagging along with our patients.

It all begins with . . . bed baths.  “My most stressful memories are of 2nd semester nursing school where we had to learn to give bed baths and make beds with patients in them,” says Sandra Blair Graf ’87.  “My lab partner and I dressed in our bathing suits and practiced these labs over and over before our first test.”

Michelle Meconi ’94 ‘99 remembers making her first hospital corners so very carefully, then turning proudly to her instructor, who said, yes, it looks good, but you went around the bed 23 times to do it.

Perhaps nothing brings out a sweat for the nursing student as much as giving that first injection.  How many first attempts bounce right off the skin?  That flick of the wrist it takes for a sharp needle to penetrate the body’s elastic covering is not necessarily a first-try talent.  It certainly is different from giving a shot to an orange.

“I remember my first IM injection on a real patient,” recalls Val Maxam-Moore ’86.  “Fern Gough was my instructor.  An elderly woman awaited her “pain shot”.  I carefully identified all the landmarks for a safe gluteal injection, but made my “stab” much too tentatively—the needle bounced off the patient’s leathery skin!  I was mortified; the patient didn’t seem to notice, and Fern was smiling and saying “Okay, now like you MEAN it”.  Another swift stab—success!”

Nancy Miles Haughee `69, says, “ I gave my first injection on a 4-bed ward–are there any of those left?–with a syringe and a needle that had to be sharpened!  No disposables in ‘66/67.  I was nervous.  The needle bounced off the man’s thigh.  With a little coaching from Miss Reimer, I tried again.  I will never forget her comment to me:  ‘Miss Miles, it is certainly a good thing that that man was comatose!’”

But once we begin to adjust to all these new experiences, we realize we can have fun with them, and having fun is a great way to bring down the stress level.  For instance: anatomy, and the dissection of embalmed turtles, cats or cadavers.  We name our anatomy cats after professors–beloved or notorious.  Or we name them with an inside joke.  Two students who were engaged to men with surname initials “B” and “F” named their cat “B. F. Skinned.”

We begin to turn our non-nursing friends’ stomachs at campus meals with our vivid discussions of new clinical experiences.  Surgeries we witness are especially good for this.  Oh, yes, let the games begin!  It’s fun to turn the big guys pale.  We have discovered one of the most crucial insights for our future career: humor is invaluable.

We can make a library cubicle, a dumb-waiter, a Recusci-Annie a lab station and even our text books into a moment of much-needed humor.

“I remember a group of us laughing uproariously at our Fundamentals of Nursing book,” says Janet Dressler Gollofon ’82.  “Every procedure throughout the book always included washing your hands, explaining to the patient, providing for privacy, etc.  We got so tired of reading those same directions over and over.  What set several of us studying together over the edge one tired night was the procedure of how to administer a suppository.  When the last step read  ‘The nurse will remove her finger,’ we laughed so hard we had tears running down our face and our bellies ached.  Really, was there anyone who could not figure that out on their own?” . . . .

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