It was a sea of burnt orange at the hospital today, my clinical group's first day of caring for patients. Where before our clients had been elderly people in an assisted living facility, now we are at a hospital for the rest of the semester. Our instructor eased us into it; all we were supposed to do was pick up breakfast trays, assess how much the patients ate, keep a running count of their fluid intake, change linens, and take vital signs. Fairly easy stuff at this stage, and yet exciting to do.
My partner and I had a much better day than the rest of our class though. One of our patients was a little out of sorts. She didn't touch her breakfast and didn't want to wear her nasal cannula (tube that delivers oxygen). Our instructor convinced her to get out of bed into a chair, as much to get her ambulating as it was to allow me to change her sheets. Once in the chair with her nasal cannula in, she almost immediately became more alert and pink-cheeked.
Now more awake, she apologized for being dirty. She wasn't really, but being in a hospital bed for two days can make you feel more than a little grungy. Our instructor suggested a shower, and so my partner and I gave her one. Remember when I talked about the relationship-building aspect of bathing a patient? Even more true than I had guessed.
Bathing a stranger wasn't weird or scary or gross or any of the things you might think. It was just, caring. She thanked us profusely during and after the shower, then called her daughter to say how much better she felt and how nice we were. She was glowing and we were thrilled.
It's inevitable that caring for patients will become routine and even tedious at time, but I'm determined to always hang on to what it can mean to them and me.