Practice Makes Perfect


Posted to Nursing, Nursing Jobs

We recently excerpted an article about nursing mannequins, which allow nurses to practice their skills before they unleash the needles (and other indignities) on a real human. However, not everyone has access to that kind of high-tech help.

So what is that like for the nurses who have to practice drawing blood for the first time, for example? Theresa Brown, writing in the NYT’s Well blog, describes the day she learned how to draw blood, as an instructor looked on:

We don’t usually tell patients when we are practicing on them because it makes them hesitant and nervous, but they often figure it out anyway. If they ask, we don’t lie, but we try to answer in a way that puts them at ease. To the patient who asked why someone was watching everything I did, my instructor explained that I was a nurse, and that we were just “reviewing peripheral sticks.”

I wish I could say I remembered all of my patients from that day perfectly — those from whom I managed to draw blood effortlessly and those from whom I didn’t. The truth is, I was there for eight hours, and the day was a blur of talking about veins, looking at veins, thinking about veins and the final feeling of accomplishment when, at the end of the day, I had a pretty good idea of what to do to get blood out of someone’s arm.

During my next shift on the oncology floor, I was ready to try out my new skill. My first patient was having horrible nausea and felt terribly weak and spent most of her days lying in bed with the lights off. She was also diabetic, which meant her veins weren’t easy to access. I didn’t tell her that I was practicing on her, but my slowness, and my need for guidance from a more experienced nurse, tipped her off that I was still a novice.

Despite my obvious inexperience, and how horrible she was feeling, she agreed to be my guinea pig. “Everyone has to learn sometime,” she said.

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