Meeting your first patient

I will never forget my first day on the floor for clinical.  I was shaking with nerves and had no clue what I was doing.  (As cliche as it sounds and truly is, I kept thinking of Grey’s Anatomy and the first episode when George asks who else feels like they have no clue what they’re doing and every single person raises their hand..very accurate, just sayin.)  So, you’re a hot mess filled with nerves and hoping you’re not the only one who is totally clueless on how to care for your patient (mind you, you’re most likely not even doing any ground breaking care, you are probably just giving baths and maybe, if you’re lucky taking vital signs…).  This moment is one which you will remember forever, no matter how insignificant it may truly be in the mind of the patient.

My first patient was a heavier woman with a yeast infection under rolls of skin in her belly and perineal area.  Luckily, she was the sweetest person ever and, after I informed her she was my very first patient, coached me through the a.m. care process.  As I went in for the awkward task of cleaning her vaginal area, she talked with me and her comfort made me all the more confident.  I learned so much that first day and every day since so, here are a few things which may help you through your first day:

  1. Throw all concepts of privacy out the window.  You are seeing these patients at they’re very worst.  And as you ought to know, stress makes you sweat and sweat smells.  So roll your sleeves up and get all the cracks and crevices clean.  Confidence will be your strongest trait going in to care for your first patient; if you can’t seem to talk yourself up, fake it til ya make it – it will come with time.
  2. Remember, you are caring for a person.  This may seem to contradicts my previous point, but think of yourself in your patients position.  While many of them get desensitized to the concept of modesty quite quickly, it’s not a comfortable place to be in.  Be respectful, cover up when you can, and talk to your patient to increase their comfort.
  3. Show you care by going above and beyond.  While a nice back scrub or some lotion and a foot massage may seem like you’re more a servant than a nurse/ health care profession, think of how few people likely take the time to do these simple things.  These patients are going through trials both physically and mentally, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the hospital.  These simple tasks may mean the world to them in this moment.  Take the time to go the extra mile while you have the time.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask your patient questions! How they like things done, how things are usually done by others to help them, what their usual habits are (whether it be labs or eating or anything in between), etc.  You’re patients are not clueless and they are the experts in regards to their care.  Asking them questions does not make you incompetent, it makes you caring and honestly, just plain smart.

I hope these little tidbits help, if only in the slightest.  Good luck on your first day and in the rest of your career!  You can do this!

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