Open Lab

Our nursing program recently held an open lab for anyone who wanted to stop by and visit. I got the impression it was geared mainly towards the newly accepted nursing class, but most of the visitors were elderly members of the community.

We didn't use the lab for much this year, our manditory "lab hours" were mainly spent in extended lecture in one of the lecture rooms instead. The first year we practiced injections, foleys, bed-baths, assessment techniques and all of that good stuff. We have one of this highly vaunted and sought-after "Sim-Man" simulated patients, but I only had one simulated patient experience during my entire stay in the program. I was skeptical of Sim-Man, but the one exersize I did with it paid off immediately, the simulated patient had a fractured hip and was dyspnic, the "solution" to the problem was simply to reposition and prompt to turn-cough and deep-breathe. The very next day I had a similar patient with a similar problem that I resolved in exactly the same way (after assessing for fat embolism and all of those nasty complications of fractures).

But anyway, back to the Open Lab. Most of my time there was monopolized by a single visitor and a conversation I couldn't politely extricate myself from. I wasn't in a hurry to do so, there wasn't anyone else I really needed to interact with, so I leaned against a table and snacked while she basically related to me her life-story.

She spent most of her career in corrections nursing. A few months before retirement, an infectious process resulted in a cognitive disability which robbed her of her pension and placed her on SSI. She had tears in her eyes when she told me of her dashed plans to become a nurse educator and how much she loved to teach. She's also a reiki master and told me some stories about volunteering for our local hospice organization, and some anecdotes about using therapeutic touch modality in the corrections environment to relieve pain and allieviate injury-related periorbital edema.

The main aspect of her cognitive disability was severe short-term memory loss, this was the main reason she couldn't continue to practice nursing. I could hardly tell even after a 30+ minute long conversation. Something I would have guessed that she made a point of telling me was that this memory impairment doesn't affect her ability to practice reiki at all.

What I wanted to tell her, but couldn't figure out the right way to say it, was that in the absence of memory, life becomes a shining thread of coincidence.

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