Sunday, July 31, 2005
A First-Year Story ResurfacesToday I've been packing up nursing school books to send to my sister-in-law who starts her nursing classes this month (Yea!). While going through some old folders, I found this little paper from very early in first year. This was an extra-credit psych assignment to describe an experience where I used a method of therapeutic communication with a patient from clinicals. Exchanges like this are what keep you going when you're in nursing school. I think it might be an inspiring story for students and can also show more experienced nurses that nursing students can find awe even in the simple task of bringing someone a blanket.
D had been an unrestrained passenger in a motor vehicle collision. He was ejected and thrown 30 feet through the air and into the side of another vehicle. He had been badly injured and in the hospital for a month already when I cared for him.
He had a tracheostomy with a tent, and was completely unable to speak. His eyes often stared off into some unknown space, and then come back to rest on me, wide with anxiety and fear. Because of his neck brace, he was unable to nod or shake his head â€œnoâ€�. His level of consciousness was diminished in such a way that he did not attempt to mouth words, and even with the attentions of rehab care and speech therapists, could not communicate using any reliable yes/no method such as eye blinking or hand squeezing. But he could wave his hand.
The first time I saw it, I had no idea what to do. He was looking at me â€“ his eyes wide like a terrified child. His right hand shook in a banjo-strumming motion. I asked him if he was in pain. No change. I asked if he needed to use the bedpan. No change. Still the hand shook, and I was becoming worried about what he may be trying to communicate. I asked the nurse to hurry in because I thought D needed something.
She said he was anxious and that he got this way when he was worried. She asked him to point to where the problem was, and the strumming moved lower. She asked if he needed to use the bedpan, or if he needed to be cleaned. The strumming got faster. More urgent. â€œOKâ€� she said, â€œweâ€™ll clean you up.â€� And when we rolled him over, there was a small poop down there. It sounded to me like during certain times he was more oriented than others, and the idea of soiling himself caused him a great deal of distress. Now that I had seen it, I felt I could try to communicate if it happened again.
The next time he started waving his hand, I asked questions. â€œDo you have pain?â€� No change. â€œDo you need suctioning?â€� No change. D put his hand on his chest and then up in the air again to banjo-strum. â€œDoes your chest hurt?â€� â€œDo you want another blanket?â€� The hand moved furiously and his eyes opened wider. â€œOk, so you want another blanket, you are cold?â€� He reached over toward me with the strumming hand. I took his hand and said â€œLet me go get you a warm blanket.â€�
When I returned with two pre-warmed blankets, I rolled one out over him pulling it up near his chin, and put another over his feet. â€œIs that what you wanted?â€� â€œDoes that feel better?â€� The hand no longer shook. In answer I got the biggest smile Iâ€™d ever seen (think of the guy on the Enzyte commercials). I had to laugh. â€œIâ€™m so glad that was it. You just let me know whenever you need something, and weâ€™ll work it out until I can see you smile like that all the time.â€�
There are no communication methods I could recommend for use with D. The easiest way to communicate was to take the time to get to know him and learn how he used his body to tell a story. I was happy to see him two weeks later on the day he was headed to rehab. He still had the trach tube in, but he could whisper. He seemed much more oriented, and recognized me when I went in to tell him hello and how happy I was for him that he was recovering so well. I had enjoyed caring for him, because I was able to be with him one-on-one and he gave me a great learning experience (both in communication and practical skills), and I was able to give him the attention he needed to help alleviate his anxiety and fear. Even though communication was always tough, with practice I became familiar with his different states. I was pleased, and felt I had given him good care.
Posted by HypnoKitten at 11:06 PM