Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another Fall

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

My heart beat pounds in my ears, and I rest my forehead against the cooler porcelain that edges the tub, closing my eyes against the bright overhead light.  The water rushing into the tub is drowned out by the blood rushing in my head.  Subconsciously, I begin to count my pulse, opening my eyelids to slits to glance at the second hand of my watch that lies on the floor, partially buried under the heap of my discarded scrubs.  Eighty-eight beats per minute.  My normal resting heart rate is around sixty-two.

Slow down, I implore the weary organ.  Please slow down.

Bon Iver plays faintly from the stereo, and I want to stay in the bathtub forever.  The water cools around me, my skin begins to wrinkle, and still I sit, wrapping my arms around and behind my knees to try to stay warm.

I blink back tears and wonder idly why I'm crying.  Why oh why can I not make it through these seasonal transitions without falling apart, I say in my head, I mean come on Cait it's fall, it's not the fucking end of the world.  It's fall, it's school, it's raining outside, it's we haven't been grocery shopping in three weeks, it's I can't see my bedroom floor for the mess everywhere, it's everything and nothing and who even knows.

The leaves have begun to blow in the streets.  In the predawn darkness of 5 AM, I can nearly see my breath.  It's fall again, and I panic.

They chose wrong.  They have no idea how wrong they were to pick me.  I don't belong here.  I will be in the 2% of my entering class that doesn't graduate.  How could they have been so stupid as to choose me?

My first patient, he's on contact precautions.  He has MRSA.  It takes me five minutes to gown up to go into his room, my preceptor nearly twitching with impatience at my ineptitude.  I find his pulse, and press down to start to count.  His hand jerks, his face grimaces in pain, and I realize that I've found his pulse on the wrist of the hand that has a fresh IV.  I want to cry, I feel so bad.  He offers me his other arm, and I take the pulse on his left wrist, awkwardly leaning over the bed.  I dig for my watch underneath my disposable protective gown, start to count, and give myself a talking-to.

This isn't about you right now.  You are going to fuck up.  You are going to fuck up a lot.  You need to get over it.  Look, he's already over it.  Get ahold of yourself.

And it's true, he is.  I take his vitals, and we talk about the operation he's scheduled for the next day.  He tells me about his fifteen-year-old grandson that called him just minutes ago to ask him to tell Nana, his wife, to make sure to drive safely home from the hospital because it was storming.  I ask him if he needs anything, make sure his call bell is within reach, and I tell him to get a good sleep because he has a big day tomorrow.  I fumble taking off my gown and gloves before I leave his room, and I idly wonder if I'll come down with MRSA from my first real patient.  I wipe my stethoscope extra carefully with the caustic bleach wipes provided outside his room.

It's 11 PM.  I feel like I've been awake for a month.

I go home, and climb in the bath.

Clinical is over.  Until next week.


Anonymous said...

You'll be ok. Promise. Just remember this: Many nursing school instructors can be intimidating and bully-ish. They 'eat their young.' You need to be very aware of this. Sooner than you think, you'll be graduated and the journey begins! When they chose you for the program, they chose well. You're going to be a kick-ass midwife. In the meantime, it may feel like an uphill battle. Nursing school. It's not for the weak. BTDT

Anonymous said...

By the way - I'm the anon. who posted above.My name is Lisa and I'm, you guessed it! A nurse. I have a (fairly useless!)blog. You can reach it by going to

Cait said...

Hey Lisa! Thanks for the encouragement. Lots to adjust to here, that's for sure. I'll be checking out your blog for sure.