Friday, May 04, 2007


She CAN be taught!

I'd like to take this moment to tell you all something desperately important and pertinent to your everday living: I'm done. (I'll give you all a moment to absorb that.) Yes, that's right, I've finished nursing school. And successfully at that.

(Sidebar: I finished so successfully that I got an email from the school saying that I've qualified to wear honor cords at graduation. Go me. But because I am a bit of an academic snob (GO TRIBE), I can't help myself from railing on some of the unfortunate persons who co-attend this university with me, I share this with you. I went to the bookstore to purchase said honor cords -- because, really, it wouldn't honor the school enough unless I was shelling out money, and since I'm only there a few more weeks, they have to really make the squeeze on me. The cashier looked up my name on "the (short) list" and said I was supposed to get a green cord and a gold cord.
I say, "Cool. What does it mean, versus two greens or two golds?"
She says, "It means magma."
"MagMA?" I say. She rolls her eyes at me because she has judged me to be an idiot.
"Yahhhh. Magma coom lawdee?"
"Magma, huh. Sweet."
It took all that was in me to not say with my biggest, fakest smile, "Lava with honors?!")

Today was my very last day of schoolin'. I'd say it was my last day at the hospital, which it was, but really, only my last day with a badge that says "STUDENT NURSE" -- which is almost always read as "TRY NOT TO DIE BECAUSE SHE MAY NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO RIGHT AWAY". Today was my last day at the hospital to be an imbicile. To hang IV tubing and manage to drench my pants in saline. To wipe a butt and accidentally get poop on my arm (though sadly, I don't think poop-joys are restricted to student nurses only). To say, "I can't. I'm just a student. I'm not insured to do that."

Which perfectly segues me into, I believe, one of the best nursing school stories I've had to date (and I've had some good ones). And since today's the last day for nursing school stories, I guess it officially is the best story.

I preface the retelling with some background information that the medically-lay person may not know. Healthcare being what it is today, a lot of previously fairly-majorish procedures can be done now at the bedside. Most of these are performed using "sterile technique" which involves sterile gowns, gloves, caps and masks. Once you are "sterile" you cannot touch anything un-sterile or you have just become un-sterile (or "dirty") and have to start over. This theoretically prevents wayward germs from entering the procedure space and infecting your patient. And while germs are everywhere and nothing is ever truly, 100% sterile, it is the very best effort to keep infection at bay. It takes a while to learn to do this smoothly. The majority of lab-skills in nursing school involved teaching us to do some procedures using sterile technique, how to move about, how to pick things up and how to, most importantly, keep it all sterile.

Being in the ICU these past 7 weeks I have been aparty to numerous sterile procedures. Doctors come in, gown up and get to work. And it seems almost as soon as they're sterile, their phone always rings. (I know, I know. No cell phones in a hospital. These are special "in house" phones that run on some mystical frequency other than cellular. All doctors and most nurses carry them. ) In such an instance, the doctor usually turns to the nurse assisting him and asks them to answer it. This involves reaching back and behind or over and around the sterile gown rifling through the doctor's alltogether searching for the phone. Then you either answer it yourself and have the annoying relayed conversation of"he wants to know if... Oh, great.. Ok.. The doctor says... " -- or you just hold the phone up to the doctor's ear.

Wednesday night, my patient crashed. Luckily for the patient, the past two weeks have turned on some light bulb in my head and I no longer feel like I'm all thumbs in emergency situations (maybe just 4 or 5 thumbs, but opposable thumbs). Scads of healthcare professionals streamed into the room like there was free beer and set about making her not-die. A lot was going on. Other nurses were pushing drugs into her. She was being intubated for a ventilator and they were preparing to "shock" her. The attending (Grey's Translation: McDreamy) doctor was calling the plays and the young ER resident doctor (Grey's Translation: Bailey, 'cept a dude) was prepping her. I assigned myself to the ER doctor who was to insert a central line into her femoral artery. I was not sterile, but in assisting him, I sterily dumped supplies onto his sterile field (without touching them) and did "dirty" things for him (ew, don't be gross. But he was cute, so yeah, sorta, I wish, but not really. But kinda.)

He got the line in. And in the middle of suturing her, his phone rings. He turned his back to me and said, "Can you get that, please?" I immediately thrust both of my hands under his sterile gown, like I have done numerous times before on other doctors, and into the two back pockets of his scrubs groping around for the phone.

He turned his head over his shoulder and with my palms soundly on both of his ass cheeks he soberly said, "My phone is on the table."

I quickly retorted, "Well, then I guess that was a freebie."

I don't believe that anyone else, in the hubbub, heard the exchange. I nearly fell apart with laughter, but managed to keep it together. He, on the other hand, found nothing funny about the situation. I suppose I had just molested him.

The next day I resolved to keep my perverted hands to myself. When I arrived on the unit Thursday morning, of course the same young ER doc was there -- who I had never seen before the night before but, clearly, was destined to have to see everyday now. He was with a group of doctors on patient rounds in the ICU. I hung back to listen to my previous patient's progress. I happened to notice that he was staring at me. Then it occured to me that he was not staring at me at all. He was fixated, and squinting, at my chest (which requires little squinting from 50 paces.. let's be honest). I thought, Oh God - he must have thought I was coming onto him last night and now he's checking me out or something. (I'm terribly humble.) I followed his eye line and realized that was actually reading my hoodie. I just bought it as my own personal homage to my impending pomp and circumstance. Across the left chest in small lettering it says, "I have decided, after I graduate, I am going to be a pirate." I'm very professional. He, humorless to the end, remained unimpressed. A smile, I fear, might have cracked his face.

So that's how I go out as a nursing student. Pirate aspirations and shameless molestation of an overworked, under-funnied doctor. Awesome.

I have a quote on my fridge from one of those daily-rip-off calanders for nurses. It says, "Nursing is a kind and generous profession. Nursing school is cruel and unusual punishment."

It really is. It sure was. And now it's over. Horray!

You all can commence your illnesses (eh, better wait until June) because Nurse Cathy is on the job.

Congratulations, my friend. I'm so proud of you!!
Congratulations!! Just found pictures from when we lived together :)
Hah, I laughed out loud at Magma Cum Laude. It's an honors student covered in molten rock! Run! RUN!!
Congrats! Sigh, if only I could be a master of comedy like you...the post made me laugh out loud.
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