Just Call Me “Stumblebutt”
To say that I loathe passing medications would be the understatement of the year.
First of all, being able to concentrate on the pass itself is impossible in the face of almost constant interruptions, and with my challenges in that arena I’m always nervous. Secondly, the population changes from weekend to weekend so I never get comfortable with the patients, and the few that are long-termers on that unit are legendary for being difficult about meds. And since all of them have about a dozen vitamins and supplements in addition to their actual meds, a pass that SHOULD take no more than an hour takes two and then some. And that’s if nothing goes wrong….unlike today.
Today, we had a brand-new tube feeder on the skilled wing who gets roughly twenty pills in the mornings—most of them over-the-counter bullshit—before his feeding. I was already behind as it was, because it seemed that nobody had been medicated for pain since the middle of the night and they all needed it. Plus, people kept mistaking me for the housekeeper and asked me to take out newspapers and trashcans, and one patient couldn’t understand why I didn’t have “a minute” to take her all the way to the other end of the building for therapy.
I should’ve known the tube feeding wasn’t going to go well when I squirted myself with the contents of a fish-oil capsule after pricking one end of it with a needle, instantly causing me to smell like a seal. Then I had to crush all the meds, which is both time-consuming and an all-around pain in the ass.
I’d just dumped the whole mess into a disposable cup with water and stirred well when another patient called to me from a nearby room. I looked away for only an instant, but that was all the time needed for the swamp cooler to come on full blast and blow the cup over, spilling the contents all over the top of the cart.
Now the entire HALL stank to high Heaven, the med record book was sopping wet, and I had fish oil plus multivitamins and iron (which are also odoriferous) all over my shirt, my pants, even my shoes. I ran into the bathroom, grabbed a batch of paper towels—you know, the kind you have to get out of the motion-sensor machine one. at. a. time.—and began to mop up the mess, knowing I was going to be even later finishing this pass than I already was.
Then I picked up the pill crusher to wipe off the bottom, and about half of the little plastic sleeves slid out of the top of it and flew everywhere. Those tiny bags are slicker than owl snot, and when you drop a bunch of ’em in eau de fish, retrieving them is a pretty slippery business.
Down the hall, a CNA hollered to her co-worker: “Holy crap, Vera, what is that STENCH??!”
That’s when I broke up. For some reason the absurdity of it all struck me as hilarious, and I laughed so hard that heads started popping out of rooms all up and down the hall. Finally I got hold of myself and went in to do the meds and the tube feeding, and my bad luck continued; it’d been so long since I last performed this basic nursing skill that I forgot the most basic part of it: you have to kink the tube before you open it up. I didn’t, and about 30 ml of stuff you don’t wanna know about splooshed all over the patient’s gown and bed linens.
After getting him cleaned up, I turned to grab a can of feeding solution off the bedside table and knocked over not one, but two half-full cups of unidentifiable liquids (which had sat there for who-knows-how-long). Needless to say, I had by now lost ALL my happy thoughts and begun to wish I could cancel the day for lack of interest. No, it wouldn’t have been enough just to go home, crawl back into bed, and start over—I wanted today to be over, and it wasn’t even noon yet.
Thankfully, the medication aide rescued me before I had to do the really hard ones, like the fellow with a grand total of 23 pills that have to be crushed up and given in ice cream, and even then he usually refuses them and harangues you about how his doctor is trying to kill him with all those pills. I’ve never had this much trouble getting through a pass in my whole career; there were still five residents who hadn’t yet gotten their meds, two injections and a breathing treatment to give, and Heaven knows what kind of trouble I’d have gotten into while trying to wheedle Mr. Muckingfess into taking his meds.
You know, when I worked 7P-7A in a hospital, I was so notorious for being a klutz that my co-workers called me the Nocturnal Stumblebutt. And while I’m no longer quite so nocturnal, I haven’t become any more graceful with the passage of the years. Today proved that. AGAIN.