“Ranting and Raving: The Unedited, Uninhibited, and Unapologetic.”
Subject: Nursing Assistants
“Can’t live with ‘em; can’t live without ‘em.’”
Yes, I realize that this expression comes at the end of a Britney Spears song in which she is actually describing bad “boys” and breakin’ it down hard on the dance floor, but it’s also a really good way to describe the way I feel about the nursing assistants that work here at the hospital. Nursing assistants are supposed to do as their title says, assist the nurse. Doy! But sadly, they usually end up becoming slaves to whiney, spoiled parents of sick children who love to push the call bell or become slaves to the sick children themselves who bark at them to fetch their frozen chicken nuggets from the fridge, because they aren’t allowed to leave their rooms. It’s interesting actually, now that I think of it: I hardly see the nurses and nursing assistants interact much at all unless it’s in passing to confirm that little Jimmy took a giant dump in bed or that Michelle is sizzling with a 103 fever like she’s an egg on a hot sidewalk. Look, I DO feel bad that their only real clientele goes by the names of blood, vomit, crap, and piss. And maybe that’s why no matter how young and hopeful and eager the assistants start out, they end up all becoming jaded, a bit mindless, and just go through the motions to get to 7:30 when their shift is over. (7:30 is when their magic slippers go on, and they ride away in pumpkins, you know). But is it too much to ask that some of them use their frickin’ brains and some care and consideration to try to make life easier for those stellar, angelic patients such as myself?! Let me explain why I’m even “ranting and raving” in the first place.
So I’m sleeping, right? And sleep is extremely hard to come by at any time in the hospital (even with major tranquillizers coursing through your veins), because there’s always another pill to wake up and swallow or the IV pump starts to alarm at an absolutely deafening level (one I believe could stir even a hibernating bear.) But worst of all, I think, is the constant monitoring of vital signs. The assistants come around at pre-set times (every 4 hours) and take your blood pressure, pulse, oxygenation level, and heart rate. Basically, they wanna make sure and record on little index cards tied to their hips with old rubber bands that you’re still living and didn’t croak from the deadly cocktails you’ve received since the last time they laid eyes on you. So this means that at the un-Godly hour of 5:30 am, I, the sleep-starved patient, get woken up and have to be poked and prodded. Have you ever been in a deep sleep and had a stranger probe you in the ear with a long, cold instrument that beeps? It’s extremely unsettling, to say the least. But this morning, it wasn’t the fact that the nursing assistant took my vitals that pissed me off, since I’m pretty used to it by now. It was the fact that a mere 30 minutes earlier, she’d been in my room to measure how much I’d peed during the night (as she was supposed to do), but apparently had not made the logical decision to combine the two tasks. Had she checked the urine output and the vitals in one fell swoop, she wouldn’t have had to wake me up a second time, when I was just falling back to sleep. I was on the verge of reaching that glorious state when your body goes somewhat numb and you acknowledge that you’re about to fall asleep, but the act of acknowledgement doesn’t even hold you back from the impending gentle descent. That kind of euphoria is so hard to come by when you’re in the hospital, amidst all the unfamiliar sounds and smells and sensations. One day, hopefully, as medical technology continues to advance, nursing assistants will be obsolete and they will be replaced by little electrodes that wirelessly transmit a patient’s vital signs directly to the nurse’s station. This doesn’t solve the dilemma of how bodily fluids are going to be handled, but I’m sure we can think of something creative!
All in all, I don’t want to make grand generalizations and say that every single nursing assistant that has crossed my path and interrupted my sleep is incompetent. In fact, there are two or three assistants with whom I have become quite friendly. We exchange pleasantries and can joke together. One even assured me that I never had to apologize or feel self-conscious around her, as my bodily fluids were what was keeping her from living in a shanty under the Brooklyn Bridge. Anyway, this is just me “ranting and raving”…I hope you’ll understand. Ta-ta for now; time for another set of vitals!