Being 20 Being Right

The other day, when I looked at Kristine’s Random and Odd for Stuff Portrait Friday, one of the assigned pictures was the best one I have of ME.
That was as far as I got because of classwork and crochet angst.  I figured out a how to do a new pattern (in about four and a half hours) and the result is quite beautiful, if I do say so myself.  Its picture will be for a post at a later time.
Husband says if I would be willing to put such extremes of effort and pride into a decent research paper for Composition, I would be passing my class with flying colors.

Well, anyway, I went hunting for pictures of me which I might be willing to post for all the world to see.  I came across this one, taken the summer of 1976. 

My graduation picture and almost a Licensed Practical Nurse.  Twenty years old.

About a million feelings came flooding back because this was on a page in an album with a bunch of other friends, most of whom are still nurses.  The one of the guy across the page (so that he would be rubbing up against me when the book is closed) died in a motorcycle accident when he was only age 38, so here came the tears welling up for how much time we have lost.  His wife is re-married, his daughters in college.  Pardon me, my lip is quivering again….May he rest in peace.

Every time I look at this picture I see the nurse I wanted to become.  This was the person I thought about whenever I read all the romance novels about heroines who happened to be working as nurses.  This was the nurse I idolized when I was a teenaged Candystriper and thought nursing was so glamorous and everybody looked up to them as angels sent to ease the suffering of the less fortunate.
I was going to be the best doggone nurse since Clara Barton.
Isn’t that a nice picture of a NURSE?

About a week after my appointment when this photo was taken at the portrait studio, maybe two months before our actual graduation ceremony, I was on the last week of rotation in Pediatric (Children’s Wing) clinicals.  The Instructor from Hell had earned her reputation as a hardass, and every day at least one of the ten of us in my Cluster had tears dripping on the way to the parking lot.
We were going to know how to be proper nurses if it killed us in the trying.

ssshhh I’m thinking that most of the following story got written as a comment over at Army of Mom’s weblog, but, because of finding the picture, I have to write about it here again, these months later.

Pediatric Wing—I got an assignment to do a New Admittance, coming up from the ER.  A boy about six years old, the fretful type, with a hovering mother.  Oh joy.
The kid maybe I could handle, the mother not so well.
I took his vital signs, as if they hadn’t been done 20 minutes before, downstairs.  I began asking questions, looking at the child, and using all my experience of years of babysitting and being a teacher’s assistant in Vacation Bible School.  The mother answered all of them, the boy sitting there wiggling around on the sheet like he wanted to put a new hole in it to give the seamstress something to do.
I looked over the notes from ER.  Scrotum reddened.
Oh joy. I get to check his private parts.
I told him in my best nice nurse voice what I needed to do, told him what position to take and looked at the area usually covered by underwear.  His mother was talking at my side the whole time, saying things like “he won’t leave himself alone down there.  He’s always wiggling and scratching.”
It reminded me of when my neighbor’s dog was scootching his backside along the sidewalk and giving this low howl/growl of torture.  Turns out his anal sacs needed treatment.

I finished what I needed for my chart work, and went down the hall to the nurse’s station.  The ER doc was there writing notes for Admittance until the private pediatrician could be notified that one of his patients was at the hospital.  My Instructor had been with another student, but checked my notes to make sure I hadn’t left anything off before putting the pages into the book.
While I was standing there waiting for the doctor to get done, I happened to lean over the counter and say “You might order the Lab test for pinworms, ‘cause that’s what he’s got.”

You would have thought I had cast a spell on them.  Everybody in the nurse’s station froze in mid-motion.  The doctor, ward clerk, the head nurse, my Instructor.  Even the phone was silent, which never happens on Peds.

I realized I had horribly violated a forged steel link in the chain-of-command.  Someone in a green and white student’s uniform had given directions to a full-fledged medical doctor, in front of many others between us in the hierarchy.
Although my Instructor was all white around her tight lips and the vein at her temple was as purple as a plum, the Head Nurse found her voice first.

“Now, how would YOU know that?” she asked in a much too syrupy voice.

Oh, gawd, all that studious nursified gazing I had done at the portrait studio would be for nothing.  I was never gonna be a nurse now.  Me and my mouth in trouble again.  So many times this has happened before.  I made it to age 20 and still don’t know when it’s time to shut up.  However, I was age 20, and old enough to know one must be right some of the time or else not be able to look in the mirror for the rest of my days.
I was right this time, my gut instincts and previous experience told me so.

Since the Head Nurse was the one who asked the question, I looked at her while giving the answer.
“Well, he lives in a house about six blocks from where I grew up.  I had pinworms when I was about his age.  At that time, the doctor said it was because I bit my fingernails.  His scrotum is red, with darker red dot marks around the anus.  His mother says he is constantly wiggling and scratching himself down there.  He bites his fingernails, a known method of transmission.”
I turned my head and looked at the doctor.  “My observations are written in the admitting nurse’s notes.  You can read them after I put them into the chart you have there.”
The muscle of his jaw worked itself into a knot the size of a walnut.  He slammed shut the book, dropped it on the desk and went striding off down the hall.

My Instructor grabbed me by the elbow and led me to an unoccupied room, and closed the door behind us.
I stood at attention, staring at the wood work at the edge of the window.
She walked around me in circles, getting in closer to my ears at times.  The gist of it being that a pissant student nurse has no ideas and no voice.  I have blocked out all the words she said except for “NEVER EVER speak to a doctor in THAT Tone of voice AGAIN!”

When we came out of the room, she told me to go be with my patient.  I got to his room to find his mother getting him dressed in his street clothes.  She looked at me, smiled sheepishly, and said the doctor himself came in and said they could go, he would not be admitted.  She should pick up his written prescription at the nurse’s desk and get it filled at the pharmacy down the street.

I watched them leave, then put some pent up energy into stripping the bed.  The child had been wiggling around on it for a half hour, so it definitely needed cleaning.

The rest of that afternoon, indeed, the week left of Peds Rotation, not another word of the incident was mentioned by the staff, my classmates, nor the Instructor.
I showed up and did what was expected to the best of my ability and the Instructor ignored me except for the most basic words pertaining to my assignments.  I don’t know if there was ever a write-up in my permanent file, nor if anyone ever talked about it behind my back.

In October 1976, I earned my Certificate of Practical Nursing and the gold pin which comes with it.  I passed my Board exams a month later.

These days, my Academic Advisor is trying to get me to take that route again for my education.  I’m told that current doctors and nurses have a better team approach to patient care.
I have my heart set on babies and daycare, so my classes pertain to an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education.
I like working with non-sick children.  Even if the diagnosis is only pinworms.

Looking at that picture, more than 29 years have passed.  So many ideas squelched, dreams dropped and forgotten.
Back in the day, I had a wall poster which said

The old understand more about being young than the young know about growing old.

You could not have told me that when I was 20.
Life must be lived to understand certainties.

~~love and Huggs, Diane


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