First Clinical Day, First Transcultural Experience

It's my first day of clinical. My clinical group happens to arrive later than most at 800 hours instead of the usual 630 or 700. Most of us were extremely nervous to do our first bed bath. Since we arrived late, AM care was pretty much already done by the aides except for two patients on the floor.

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Our clinical instructor asked us who would like to do these two-bed baths. One was an assist, one was complete. I jumped at the chance to do the complete bed bath. I wanted this first experience to be done and over with!

My partner and I got picked to do the complete bed bath. I was relieved to get it over with but also extremely nervous. I kept on telling myself, "This is not rocket science." I think I was more nervous about making sure I maintained my patient's dignity more than anything else.

My partner and I gathered our supplies and went to room 523 to help clean Mr. Wang*. We arrive at his bedside and I introduce ourselves and let him know that we are here to give him a bath. He shakes his head from side to side. Then he raises his hand as if to tell us to go away. We leave the room and I found an aide. "Jen*," I said, "I don't think he wants us to give him a bath." "Oh, he doesn't speak English," she replies. Sheesh! Wouldn't that have been nice before going into his room! I then realized, he was shaking his head to tell us he couldn't understand and trying to wave hello to us!

So we go to tackle this feat once again! We each take a side and start cleaning Mr. Wang. Another nurse walks in and she has a new nurse with her. She starts changing bandages and percussing his back to loosen any sputum. She shows us how she does this. While she's doing this, I start talking to the new nurse. He tells me that Mr. Wang was from Taiwan in America visiting friends. On his way to the airport, the cab driver noticed he was very ill and took him to the hospital. It was there he was diagnosed with multi-lobed pneumonia. After we were done bathing him and receiving our lesson, I ran from the room to the student nurses' meeting room. I cried so hard. I could not imagine being alone in a foreign country, unable to speak the language, and being gravely ill.

I spoke with my clinical instructor about my feelings. Was a cut out for this? Here it is, day one, and I'm already crying like a baby! She reassured me that my compassion is what will make me a good nurse. I just needed to learn how to compartmentalize these feelings. (An area which I'm still working on!)

Mr. Wang was in at the hospital for a good three weeks after I saw him. Each week, I would go in and say hello. His friends had made him some cards for English and Taiwanese translation so we could communicate a little now. Not only was it nice to communicate with Mr. Wang, but he was also a great learning experience. I got to see how proper oral care was done on a patient as ill as him, sunctioning, and another procedure that I am now ashamed to admit I don't remember the name of! A bronchoscopy maybe?

The best part of my experience with Mr. Wang was coming into clinical and learning that he was on his way home to Taiwan. I think about him often and wonder if he made it okay. I wonder if maybe it was a good thing he got sick here instead of his homeland? I wonder if he ever remembers us. Even if he doesn't, I know I'll remember him until the day I die. He was the one who taught me that I have the compassion to be a nurse, whether he knows it or not.

*Name changed.

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achot chavi

980 Posts

Specializes in acute care and geriatric. Has 20 years experience.

First day of work- on a med surg unit- told to help bed 45 with her preop for vag bleeding- found the room occupied by a male. Was confused till the giggling behind me made me realize that the pt was a male in the process of becoming a female. Sex change operations were still newish in 1984.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!!!

longbow.shelly

89 Posts

I really LOVED your post! Thanks! I am wondering how I might do when I begin my first day. I am so emotional these days, after having babies, T.V. commerials make me cry! How in the world am I going to "not" empathize to the point that I break down every other second? How will I "compartmentalize"? I am curious to see how others handle this.:cry:

achot chavi

980 Posts

Specializes in acute care and geriatric. Has 20 years experience.

Crying isn't a crime- it just means you are human and your sensitivity will make you a better nurse. You will learn to compartmentalize in time, but never forget the tears. Our Med Dir cries over so many patients, it just shows how much he cares. When you feel emotional, take a coffee break. Good Luck.