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Once was a maid/now am an aide…

…on the path to becoming a nurse.

Maid, care aide, nurse…that’s some old timey traditional female roles right there, isn’t it? What a track record. Well, whatever.

In Canada, if you’re in nursing school, you can register as a Health Care Assistant. When I found this out I decided to go for it. I’m hoping to pick up a shift here and there at a local care home. Something to defray school expenses and gain experience. While it’s been many moons since my personal checking account has held much more than $2.86, my main intention is to familiarize myself with the hands-on work of nursing. I have to admit I find the notion of HCA work intimidating, so this is all the more reason to embrace it. HCAs are the heavy lifters of the care environment, literally and figuratively. The wakers, the changers, the bathers, the feeders, the friends. They are the ones who interact most with clients (all the preceding observations are based on my experiences in long-term care).

But the night after I submitted my application to the registry, I had a terrible dream. I dreamed of a ward full of people (friends, classmates, former patients), bedbound and waiting for me to change their shitty pants. One and all had shat their pants and the ward was a cacophony of plaintive grumbling. A cacaphony. I did not know where to begin. Patient nearest to me? The loudest patient? A nice clockwise direction? Before I could decide, my waiting patients began to hurl handfuls of it. Like monkeys!

first patients

Well, not patients – “clients,” as we are taught to call them. “Patients” sounds too sick-y, not empowering. Yet to me, “clients” are something call girls have.

(But either one of those is better than “consumer.” Ugh!)

Anyhow, first patients. First clients. They stand out so powerfully. Maybe they stand out because the student nurse does not have enough experience yet to get a good mental blur going. Our class is structured so that we have 3 – 4 weeks of clinical experience toward the end of each semester. So months pass between “real patient” times. The rest of it is just asking the dummy with interchangeable genitalia how s/he feels today.

Today I recalled my guy from Level II. I think of him because I’ve always had a dread of jail, of being trapped. When I have nightmares they involve locked doors and black corridors. This man’s body was his jail. Full body immobility except for a little bit of movement in his neck and left arm. A bad mood guy but who can blame him? I still think of him at random moments. I think of how, no matter what I’m doing, he is there in that building…

Today I hiked up to the old abandoned railway and walked along the tracks for miles. The fall colors waved against the blue October sky. He came to mind, in his bed which might as well be an island. I thought of his experience of the world coming to him through his one good eye that can see the television, the remote control strapped to his hand, that little invisible laser his last bit of power in the world.

He is not the worst or the sickest I will meet. And I better get used to it now, because I will be exposed to people when they are ill – my perceptions/memories of them will not always be accurate or holistic so I should learn to jettison the emotions once my time with them is over. Is that how it is done?

sorry fucks

Some days I practically burst with compassion. The way an off-brand toaster strudel can burst in your microwave, spewing weird cherry filling. On such days I want to get out there (ie out of the classroom and pell-mell into the greater world!). I want to be the voice that assures someone they are not alone. I want to be kind to people at the end of their ropes. I want to be the rational voice I wished for in my worst moments.

Even in the vulnerability of sickness, we should know that someone knows and cares. This doesn’t seem like too much to expect. That a nurse is there as advocate, listener, and pain relief if nothing else. That we are not just a file #, a bed, a ticket from the “Now Serving…” dispenser, or just a diagnosis.

But every so often a day crops up.

A terrible, crappy, dejecting day.

A day not necessarily even provoked by external events. Just a low day. My own navy blue seeping through the cracks of reality.

A day with no compassion for all humanity’s drips, leaks, and sickness. Do you know these sorts of days?

A day where I ask myself, Can I “nurse” such sorry fucks?


mortality blues

For a month I’ve had a numb right armpit. For two days I’ve had intermittent shooting pains in my right arm and shoulder with occasional weakness in my writing hand. These S&S are at least “go-for-a-check-up” worthy, but it’s all sort of been happening in the middle of relocating to a new city and starting a new school and not having a doctor. A general wish to ignore the Reaper’s sweet lullaby, basically.

Last night my hand suddenly lost strength and I dropped my novel into the bathwater, where I was floating and reading at 11pm. Live from my life, it’s Saturday night!

“Motherfucker,” I said. Because although  I am Just a Student Nurse, I know that sudden weakness + shooting pains + general malaise = probably bad.

So I drank a double whisky-lemonade and put on my sleeping mask (this thing works wonders). I fretted myself to sleep and dreamed of monsters that tunnel and creep beneath the earth’s surface.

This town does not have a walk-in clinic that is open on Sundays. Be damned if I am going to the emergency room to be counted among the sinus infected, the drunk, the generally queasy, and other time wasters. My stage 4 cancer can be diagnosed tomorrow when the walk-in clinic reopens for business.

Post 1. School

In a year or two – or ten – you know what would be neat? Having a journal of these awkward student times. It might serve as a useful record of days that will be forgotten all-too-soon once I’m in the daily grind of my future job (<–fingers crossed).

Humans have a tendency to gloss over the past, rendering it insignificant once we’re older and wiser. This blog will remind future-me of all the “firsts” encountered in school and beyond, and bring me down to size once I think I’m hot stuff and all.

I also want to hollow out a little space in the Internet meadows to muse on the status of healthcare and nursing in Canada, particularly the role of LPNs, who sometimes don’t get a lotta respect – hence the blog name. Used ironically.

Actually, the record is already incomplete. This week I begin Level 3 of the practical nursing program (Mental Health and Maternity). So in Levels 1 -2 (Geriatrics) I have already learned the words to such well-loved standards as:

My finger (your arsehole)

The ballad of the exploding enema

Baby, can you name that pill?

Roll out the condom catheter

The what-what goes in the where-now?

And many more!

Stay tuned.