In my first placement I sometimes had to help whilst a child was cannulated. For those who don’t know what that means, it’s were the doctors put what the child probably thinks is an enormous needle into their hand as intravenous access. Obviously for a child this isn’t a simple procedure and they would often fight as much as they could to stop the stabbing!
I felt bad if I was ever involved because I had to ‘restrain’ the child a little. In this case restrain simply means to hold their hand and sometimes arm to make sure it was still whilst the needle went in. I realise now this is probably as far from actual restraint as I could have got whilst still feeling guilty.
After six very productive weeks back in lectures the time came for my second placement. I was based on a neurology and metabolic ward, great stuff, there’d be loads of new interesting things for me to learn. Indeed on the first day I spent a good while googling various things from the handover over sheet that I’d never heard of before.
The first day passed by quite uneventfully, being only my second placement I wasn’t as confident as some of the third years who were practically running the ward when I got there. So when the evening rolled by and a child started having a..moment?…I wasn’t really sure how to react.
I say moment because I don’t know how else to describe it, maybe an episode? They’d recently been diagnosed with encephalitis causing rapid changes in personality. I can’t imagine how the family must feeling watching their child turn into someone else and hear them say some appalling things to them. I’m not even sure how I felt watching the other nurses huddled around this child screaming on the floor. This could be a tough six weeks.
The reason I opened with the ‘restraining’ tale was because on my second day, another patient on the ward had a very frightening episode. The patient had Opsoclonus Myoclonus (I’m still not entirely sure what that is) and had been suffering from severe hallucinations. For about five hours that morning she was seeing snakes and spiders and goodness knows what else crawling around her and over her. And sometimes, we did have to restrain her.
I wouldn’t say I’m particularly scared of creepy crawlies but I definitely would not want them all over my bed. We took her for a walk to try and calm her down and get away but the hallucinations struck again. In the middle of the ward she was screaming and crying out to be carried away. As a student I am still getting to grips with what we can and can’t do, both as a student and as registered nurses. Deciding it would be best for her and everyone else on the ward I complied and carried her away to a treatment room
Along with a staff nurse we held her on the floor to comfort her and reassure her that there was nothing in here that could hurt her. What perhaps made things worse is that she was fully aware that it was her mind playing tricks on her. She knew it wasn’t real but the terror in her eyes was. In a desperate attempt to get rid of whatever she could see she would throw herself around the room. Of course we had no choice but to stop her.
I wouldn’t change what I do for anything, I love being a (student) nurse, but that second day proved to me more than anything else so far that this is possibly one of the toughest careers I could haven chosen. The amount of respect and admiration I have for the full time staff on neurology wards is sky high right now. I can’t wait to get back to work to keep helping and I hope that in six weeks time when it’s time for me to leave I’ll have seen at least some of these terrible diseases cured in these children.