Monday, February 13, 2006

It is now my duty to completely, uh bathe you*

Because some fellow students and I are going to the Texas Nursing Student Association conference in San Antonio on Thursday, we had our Skills lab this afternoon. Lab topic this week: Bathing and Hygiene.

The slight embarrassment began with the pre-lab videos we watched over the weekend. As the nurse on the tape demonstrated perineal care (washing the lovely bits and asscrack) on the "actors", I kept thinking, "I wonder how much these people are getting paid?" I heard secondhand about a girl that was nervous about the Potential For Erections. Helpfully, our book covers this. "Wash shaft of penis with gentle but firm downward strokes. Vigorous massage of penis can lead to erection, which can embarrass client and nurse." Uh, yeah.

I'm not so concerned about the guys, it's the lady parts that make me nervous. It's not that I'm scared of labias majora and minora, I just don't want to be too rough. Err, I don't have a lot of, let's say experience, with washing the peesh.

Our lab instructor told us that most patients won't need help with perineal care and prefer to take care this themselves. As our course packet helpfully suggests, "Most patients understand what is meant is the nurse simply says, 'I'll give you a washcloth to finish your bath.'" Later I was saying that suggested phrasing is helpful. Of course someone was going to hear that as suggestive phrasing. Hilarity ensued.

The lab instructor went over the material, quizzed us a bit, and then it was time for us to bathe each other. Un-com-fort-a-ble. It really wasn't that bad, we just did face, arms, chest, and back wearing swimsuits the whole time. It was, an experience.

Last week when we were talking about this lab coming up, a fellow student was saying that bathing is a task that can and is often delegated to nursing assistants. Nurses had better things to do. Our Skills instructor gently called him on it. She explained that bathing a patient allowed a nurse to assess their skin for any potential problems and allowed a time to talk in a setting that tends to allow patients to open up. It really turned me around from thinking of bathing as a necessary but undesirable part of the job, to seeing it as an opportunity to provide care for a patient. A little mushy, sure, but true.

*All apologies to Nirvana for mangling their lyrics in this post's title.


  1. I'm not sure why, but it trips me out that they made you bathe each other.

    It seems like they should have some sort of robot to do that these days.

  2. Robot schmobot, the idea is to experience the tactile nature of it. We've got plenty of mannequin in Skills lab and washing a plastic person would be creepier. Embrace the human Colleen!

    Next time you are in town, I will bathe you. Hee.

  3. I had preeclampsia and was on magnesium sulfate following my c-section. Since I was definitely confined to my bed, my postpartum nurse (who was actually a L&D nurse, I wasn't on the postpartum wing yet) came in and helped me 'freshen up'. It made a TREMENDOUS difference in how I was feeling, since I already felt horrible about being sick and having the section to begin with, and after 2-3 days confined to bed and unable to bathe, well, you just feel crappity.

    I always thought it would be weird or creepy to receive that kind of care, but my nurse was great and I will always remember her as a kind person, even if she was just doing her job.

    There were 3-4 nurses who really stood out during my hospital stay, and they're absolutely entertwined with the birth of my son and his first few days, so I really will remember them for the rest of my life.

  4. That's what I'm hearing from lots of nurses. I hope I can help people have such positive experiences.