It was January 27th and I was just beginning my second semester of nursing school. I had been assigned two very "easy" self-care patients and found myself aimlessly roaming the halls as my professor approached me. "Would you mind going and helping K with her bed bath? She could really use more hands in there"
Ugh, another bed bath. Another bottom wiping, backbreaking bed bath. Isn't it time for IV's, shots, and med passes now?
So reluctantly I went into the room. When I opened the door, I expected to see a patient like the others, finishing her breakfast and awaiting her bath. Instead, I saw a motionless, flaccid body in a bed, breathing through an opened mouth entirely filled with scabs and dried blood. She truly was a hospice patient. It was unlike anything I had ever seen, even with my experience as a CNA in long term care facility. The woman was gaunt, toothless, and wouldn't respond to any verbal stimuli.
After a moment of awe and anxiety, we began our bath. My fellow student and I wet our washcloths and did our best to remove the crust from this poor woman's eyes. She let out little moans but did not speak. Her body was tight and she grimaced as we washed her face and began to wash her body down. And then something abruptly changed. As we finally removed the crust from her eyes, they popped WIDE open and I saw the woman staring right at me. I smiled at her and she smiled back.
I couldn't believe it. This same, lifeless woman who just moments ago wouldn't respond to her name is now awake and aware of her surroundings. All this came just from a silly little bath?
My fellow student and I continued washing the patient, and as we combed her hair she let out a little "ow" and jokingly, with a smile on her face and a little chuckle, shook her fist at my colleague. Was she really playing with us? This same woman who moments ago was unresponsive? We asked her to turn on her right side. Immediately her left arm came over and she was helping us roll her over. She understood everything we asked her to do.
Of my moments as a CNA and a nursing student, this is the type where I am left walking on air and more confident than ever in my decision to become an RN. No matter how hard, bad, or boring your day is, the smallest gesture of warmth and kindness can change a patient's entire day and make them truly believe that they are still cared for in this world. All this woman needed was a little attention and love to bring back her spark in her most dismal moments of life.
It is easy to forget that even as a nurse our duty to our patients is simple. Make them comfortable and help them feel better. Whether that is giving medication, an IV, or a simple bed bath, the outcome is the same. It is hard to think that I cannot change the previous care that this woman received (which was obviously lacking based on her condition), but it is enlightening to know that because of my presence today, she is now just a little more comfortable and obviously happier.
For the rest of the day, I kept overhearing staff members say, "Have you seen the patient in 222 today? I have never seen her smile!"