Death by Bed Bath

It’s a good thing people are harder to kill than I thought in my nursing student days.  In my first few weeks, I thought I’d killed several.  My first great scare was in my first day on a clinical unit.  I was assigned to give a bed bath to a poor old lady who’d had a leg amputation.  I did NOT want to give that woman, or any patient for that matter, a bath in the bed or otherwise.  Of course we’d practiced bed baths in the lab till we were sick of it.  I dreaded clinical that day, knowing bed bathing would not be put off any longer.  I gathered my supplies, a bed pad, two sheets, a mattress cover, four bath cloths, four towels and a blanket.  In the room I introduced myself to the patient and bumbled around till I came up with gloves, a basin of warm water, soap, toothbrush, tooth paste, mouthwash, and lotion.  God forbid, I was expected to do mouth care, too.

Done properly, a bed bath and bed change can be accomplished in minutes.  I believe I probably tormented that poor woman the better part of two hours.  I won’t bore you with the details but I slopped water all over the patient, the bed, myself, and the floor before I was finally through.  I left her wet, uncovered, and freezing, I am sure.  Finally I labored long enough to get her in a clean gown and do mouth care.  I was so relieved to be through when she looked at me with sad eyes and said.  “You put my gown on inside out.”

Sure enough, it was.  Hopefully I suggested, “You don’t want me to change it, do you?”

“Yes.” she moaned.

I wanted to argue, but knew I had it to do.  I worked till I got it fixed, but snatched her IV out in the process.  I hadn’t gotten to the point I could start IVs, so my nursing instructor had to do it.  She was not happy.

Not long after I escaped from her room, her family returned.  The doctor made rounds with the head nurse. They all came came out with their heads together.  I was sure they were all discussing the horrible bath I’d given.  I had no idea they’d be able to tell.  I was mortified. Fortunately, that was not the problem, but it was an awful day.

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