Friday, September 10, 2004

Could Have Been Worse

My first 8-hour shift in the postpartum care went better than expected. Things did not start well, though:

When we arrived on the unit, we were told we needed to immediately gather our patient's vital signs. Vital signs are no big deal (temperature, heart rate, blood pressure) but this particular unit uses a all-in-one machine to measure vital signs. I had no experience with such a machine, no time to experiment with said machine and my first attempt at using the machine was a total disaster. I put the blood pressure cuff on the wrong way and when it inflated the cuff shot off my patient's arm and landed with a velcro-y thud on the floor. I couldn't get the thermometer to work. And then? I finally had everything in place (cuff on, thermometer in mouth, pulse oximeter on finger) and then the machine pooped out on me and ran out of power. SO I had to come back 5 minutes later with another machine and had to begin all over again.
I was assigned a first-time mother who was fairly patient but rightly perturbed by my initial incompetence. After my wildly inept performance, I informed her that I would return in an hour or so to do a "complete physical assessment." I'm sure she couldn't wait.
The physical assessment, however, went fairly well. My instructor had to do a great deal of prompting but nothing too terrible happened. I was left with the feeling that the first time would be the worst and that by next week I should have be able to do the assessment without revealing just how green I am.

The very good news is that I was absolutely unpreturbed by the more intimate, messy and smelly aspects of the whole thing. I examined breasts, spread labia, parted buttocks, assessed lochia (the bloody discharge that postpartum women leak the days after giving birth) and palpated hemorrhoids with ease and aplomb (I think/hope). Towards the end of the day, I managed to take several vital signs with no mishaps and mentally rehearsed how I would perform my assessment next time.

And the Babies! Oh the babies! They're just beautiful: the are wrapped up nice and tight and since they've just been born they're too exhausted to cry and just look like little wrinkly sweet babies. I thought newborns looked like cranky miniature old men but it's simply not the case: they're sweet little cranky miniature old men.

The worst part about the whole thing is the time: I had to wake up at 5:30 am and then I don't get home until around 4 pm. That is a long, long day and it's exhausting to think I will be done this for at least the next couple of years.

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