Get up, get up, get up out of bed -
it’s time to start walking this road up ahead.
I know you cannot see anything,
But I have a candle for you.
Please tell me this isn’t me,
this is not real.
Normal people don’t act like this, don’t
use their friends for shrinks and parents, don’t
pretend that the inevitable will be prevented by
It cannot be me, who is sitting here now,
facing a firing squad of my own creation.
God what have I done and why?
I have no answer.
I do not want to die, but
why I choose to ride through hell
on a stretcher - now that
is a good question.
“Yep.” What other answer can I give?
I cannot constrict years of wreckage into
the allotted 2.5 minutes, that is a miracle
I refuse to wish for.
I cannot wish –
wishes have hope of fulfillment.
Or maybe not – in that case,
I wish not to wish.
Brown hair, blue eyes, shy smile.
We are similar,
but you are the patient,
I am the student nurse.
We cannot be the same.
I am saddened by your pain
but strangely −assured.
I am not you, here.
I will ignore the mirror
in your eyes.
We talk − I am practicing
like a good nurse,
until you pull your sleeves up.
I want to run −but I cannot.
If your eyes are mirrors
then your arms are the canvass
of my heart.
Here is the terrifying picture
we cover so well, railroad tracks
of wounds and scars
slicing across your arms and up
through my mind, a mute witness
to the pain for which words
have failed us.
You are the patient,
I am the student nurse.
We cannot be the same.
But even so, we cannot be
so very different.
In honor of all my fun times with tests in the nursing building both past and yet to be faced in David and Goliath fashion. This is written by an anonymous author who must have been a college student as well 😉
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not flunk
He keepeth me from lying down when I should be studying
He leadeth me beside the water cooler for a study break
He restores my faith in study guides
He leads me to better study habits
For my grades’ sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of borderline grades
I will not have a nervous breakdown
For thou art with me
My prayers and my friends, they comfort me
Thou givest me the answer in moments of blankness
Thou anointest my head with understanding
My test paper runneth over with questions I recognise.
Surely passing grades and flying colours shall follow me
All the days of my examinations
And I shall not have to dwell in this exam hall forever.
This, and heaps of prayer…
“Student, you do not study to pass the test. You study to prepare for the day when you are the only thing between a patient and the grave.”
~Mark Reid, MD
We can either laugh or cry about most things that happen, and for what it’s worth, this time I’ll choose the laughter.
Thump! Thump! Thump! “Help! Someone come in here right now! Why won’t anyone help me?” Thus began my day with sweet Miss Marigold. She had disposed of her call light in preference of making a racket by banging anything she could grab on the floor to get attention. “Gonna be a fun day….” I thought, walking over to her room. She was leaning forward in her recliner, one hand clutching her makeshift alarm. In her other hand was her precious purse, which was packed with an assortment of crumpled tissues, two hairbrushes, a handful of Hershey’s kisses, and an audio clock which seldom reported the correct time.
Miss Marigold was blind, and so I made sure to announce my presence clearly and early. “Hello Miss Marigold, what’s the matter?” She looked over in my direction with an indignant expression. “They stole my chair again! Those scoundrels are always taking my things, get them out of here!”
Ah, the little men were back. From her frequent descriptions of them, I imagined the imps to be something like Santa’s elves in size and appearance. Miss Marigold would often see them in her room, getting into her drawers and closet. Sometimes when I helped her up to the bathroom they would strike while we were gone, and take her chair up to the top of a nearby hill. Of course, her chair was always in the same place; it hadn’t been moved more than a foot since the day she arrived here six months ago. Despite this, the chances were slim that she would accept my outlandish claim that the chair behind her was indeed her chair.
Notwithstanding all that, I did try. Blunt explanations rarely worked on their own, so my conversations with her usually morphed into a blend of truth and play-acting.
“Your chair is right here, I promise.”
“Are you sure? You know they’re very tricky. I think you should call the
“Well just sit down for now, I’ll get help looking for your chair as soon as I can.”
“Oh thank you! I do appreciate you, thank you so much for helping me, I
hope you find it soon!”
“Me too, Miss Marigold.” (More than you know…)
Back to today’s particular crisis. It was worse than usual. Those rascals had taken her chair and ran with it with no intention of returning, and nothing I said would convince her of the contrary. I didn’t know what I was going to do, there was no mention of elves and chairs in my nursing assistant textbook. I had learned how to fold a washcloth just so, but the last time I encountered a dilemma like this was years ago when I fixed a three-year-olds’s truck with “blue goop”. Actually that might not be such a bad strategy…
Necessity is the mother of invention, and there are times when if you really can’t beat them, you might as well join up. “Come on Miss Marigold, we’re going to look for your chair.” I said, setting her walker in front of her. At the count of three we were up and on our way, on the hunt for her stolen property. I guided her across the room towards the door and hallway. “Do you see it yet?” she inquired, peering over at me anxiously. “Not yet, but we’re not done looking yet you know.” We left the room, and I led her slowly in an arc until we were headed back through her doorway. “Just a little more Miss Marigold.” She followed my lead shuffling along slowly.
We came closer and closer until finally the chair was at her side. Here goes, please God let this work…“Oh look, here’s your chair! Why don’t you have a seat, you must be tired.” Her eyes widened and her face lit up with a smile as she reached back for the armrests and settled down contentedly. “Thank you, thank you! I’m so glad we found it!” she said. I smiled and said goodbye and told her I’d be back later on.
6:10 am. Technically my shift at the nursing home started only ten minutes ago, but I already feel behind. There are ten residents to get washed up and dressed, thus the motivation for my new habit of speed walking at work. I enter Lynda’s dark room and squat down by her bed, hoping that we can finish getting washed and dressed in fifteen minutes, which to be honest rarely happens. “Lynda,” I say loudly and slowly (also a new practice), “it’s time to get up. How ‘bout I help you get ready for breakfast?” She opens her eyes drowsily and nods, still groggy as I tuck one arm under her shoulders and another under her knees to pull her into a sitting position. I wish we could take our time, but time is a luxury that gets rationed sparingly around here. “Sit up straight now, and give me a hug ‘round my shoulders. That’s it, nice job. Ready? One, two, three!”
And just like that I stand up for the both of us – me, grabbing onto the gait belt I had strapped snuggly around her waist and my right foot and knee wedged between her stiff legs. For those few seconds when we are both standing, we sway a little as my body adjusts to balancing another human body in addition to itself. She hangs from my shoulders limply, barely able to even slide her feet around mine as I rotate to set in her wheelchair. I wonder again if this is the time I’ll tear some ligament and be out of my nursing career before it even starts.
A three-second trip to the bathroom, and a variation of the same feat is repeated. “Lynda, I need you to wake up. Do you see this rail in front of you?” She nods slowly. “Good. Now lift up your hands and hold onto it tightly. Ok? One, two, three!” She strains to stand and I pull firmly upward and forward on the gait belt, moving my knee like a doorstop under her bottom to support her stance. Immediately I grab the gait belt with one hand, shove the wheelchair out of the way with the other, and then pull down her disposable brief. I help her sit, and begin morning care: ten swipes with a washcloth and towel in all the essential places. Shirt, underwear, socks, pants and shoes all in place and ready to pull up and tuck in when we stand and sit for the third time. My two hands trip over themselves in the attempt to do what would have kept four hands busy. I take fifteen seconds to comb out the nighttime hairdo, and then wheel Lynda back by her bed facing the television before scooting off to bag up the aftermath of our morning toilette, and toss it in the laundry and trash.
“Good bye Lynda, I’ll be back with breakfast later!”
It’s just now nearing 6:30 am. Not bad, only nine more residents to go.
(or, Let’s All Go Pee in a Cup)
There are a lot of stories about nursing school, some hilarious, some heartbreaking, some terrifying. I read many stories and dreamed up a few of my own as I waited for a certain Monday morning in January to arrive, when I would begin nursing school. Finally the day came, and I walked my jittery self up to the third floor of the nursing building to begin a story of my own. I was soon surrounded by sixty-three students, most of whom I barely knew. My first challenge would not necessarily be picking the most correct answer out of multiple acceptable choices. Instead it would be more like what I had confronted my first day in kindergarten: saying hello to another kid my age. Except the stakes were a little higher this time, like learning how to save a life together rather than who gets to go down the slide first.
Luckily, nursing school tends to send many students through the proverbial fire all at once, and that tends to make people press together. My classmates and I were in the same boat, headed for many of the same experiences. One of those memory-makers was urine testing. After going through the syllabus and course expectations, the professors for level one sent us out the door to the representatives of a drug testing company. We lined up in front of the table set up by the restrooms and were given a special testing cup with a green screw cap, and specific instructions. Fill up to a certain line, bring straight back for evaluation, don’t wash your hands until after it’s all done. I finally decided that urine tests were a remarkably effective way to get me hydrated. In my mind the one thing that might be more awkward than carrying my own cup of urine in front of a bunch of strangers, was to have nothing to fill up that cup with.
There were two bathrooms available for sixty-three of us, going one at a time. And no matter how awkward it may have been, it was somehow comical. All of us newbies were in this adventure together now, and there was no way that we would all remain strangers for very long. Our nursing professor seemed to agree. “This is bonding time everybody” she announced, a wide smile. “Time to get to know each other.”
If the proverbial journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, maybe it could be said that the journey of a nursing student begins with a clear plastic cup and a green screw cap.
Welcome to nursing school.