There’s this odd thing bedside nurses do: When draping a flat sheet over a patient, we fold it in half by length, forming a doubled, shortened cover. Old-school nurses do this out of habit, the good ones refraining when a patient feels febrile, or clammy.
This strange practice was the thing that taught me – as a new nurse – that every, single action in nursing practice must have a reason. I could see no earthly explanation for this extra set of motions in my infinite sea of tasks to perform, but when I quickly threw a sheet carelessly over a patient, edges brushing the floor, my preceptor offered one: Appearances are important here. Nobody’s family needs to be told their mother is dying as she lays in a disheveled bed. A spot of blood on a sheet will set you back hours.
Infuriated, even in my naivety, I kept at it. She’d act, I’d cross, and every time she’d tell me the exact reason she had chosen her placement, or order, or choice. To me, it seemed much was reasonless and alterable, but not to this experienced master. She told me every reason, because she had a reason for her every action. And this necessity, more than the actions or the reasons, was the unspoken lesson that stuck.
Yesterday was a bit like this. My legs itched to discover, to find my own experience. I could see no logic behind the inside view of my oh-so-patient guide, and wanted what I wanted, or at least a reason for his contradiction to my opinions. Funny, how closely my early nurse days visit me here – his explanation was quite similar to my preceptor’s – just because I know better than you.
Dammit, that’s the hardest pill to swallow. Then, now, likely forever. But, despite the awkward, bitter first gulp, I know I am fully better for it. I know this from my nursing past, and probably (sheepishly, though) now, too.