TSN 10: The Student Nurse and the Curse of Confidence

There was a song in my heart as I neared the end of my first afternoon shift. I had made a breakthrough with my patient, Mr. Keen, by teaching him about the lifelong consequences to his physical health if he didn’t get his diabetes under control. “Wow,” he exclaimed. “I didn’t know that. No one told me that before so I hadn’t really been paying attention to what I ate, but that’s all going to change now, Miss Tiessen. I promise you that.”

From a team perspective, I got a good feeling from my Team A nurse mate. I felt we had worked easily together and I felt valued for my work by both her and by my patient, Mr. Keen. I didn’t think I’d learned any new nursing skills but I had made personal connections with several staff nurses. I was accepted as I had not been before: I laughed along with them as they told stories to the other nurses, listened to their gossip without feeling like an eavesdropper, and felt like I was a member of the group. In hindsight, I realize this is how nursing/hospital culture was effectively and innocuously transferred to newcomers.

One week later, arriving for my 4 pm shift feeling comfortable and confident, I found my patient, Mr. Mack, sitting in bed in his room bored to tears. He was on the seventh day of his ten day recovery period following a heart attack. Routine cardiac angiography, by-pass grafts, and stent insertions for heart attacks were still generations away. Several days of bed rest followed by slowly increasing periods of light activity was standard treatment post heart attacks. He was beginning to feel stressed and agitated due to the restrictions on his activity. Since those emotions were not helpful to his recovery, I went into his room to spend some time chatting with him, hoping to distract him and ease his tension.

When I walked into Mr. Mack’s room that afternoon, he was all alone. His roommate had been discharged before noon and he was delighted to have my company. Someone to talk to! “What did you do all day, Miss Tiessen?” he asked. I grinned at him and delightedly began to recount the events of my shopping trip earlier that day.

I had taken the Windsor Tunnel Bus to Detroit to find a new knock-‘em-dead outfit for an upcoming event. For years, my mother had been taking me and my younger sister shopping in Detroit. Living so close to the American border made it an easy day’s excursion. The Canadian and US dollar currencies were at par, I had always found a much greater selection of styles in Detroit stores, and I had no fear of going alone; my mother had taught us well. With complete confidence, I had hurried off that morning, found the perfect items, and got back to the Residence with plenty of time left to get to work for 4 pm.

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Barbara Tiessen is a retired RN who lives with her husband in southwestern Ontario but winters in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. She researched her genealogy, wrote and self published The Schoenfeld Russlaender: A Mennonite Family's History in 2015. More recently her interest have focused on writing short stories.
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