Get Out Of My Hair

Rounds were done. Notes completed. Orders written. The attending and other students had left.

I stacked the charts in the rack for the nursing staff to complete.

I sat still for a minute at the nurses’ station amidst the beeps and buzzes and voices, enjoying the fact that I could finally breath. I was in no hurry to go home. Nothing was waiting for me there. Not tonight.

Still. I could not stay at the hospital all night. I was just a med student, tagging along. Unimportant. A nuisance.

I grabbed my bag and headed out.

Walking down the hallway, I stole a glimpse of my reflection in its short white student coat. I looked tired. My hair needed a brush. As I neared the elevators, I heard crying. Actually, it was more like whimpering.

I slowed, then stopped just outside the room.

An elderly woman was sitting up in the bed. I did not recognize her as one of the patients we were following.

The TV was blaring loudly. Her dinner tray was on the table in front of her but she could not reach it as her thin wrists were bound in soft restraints. Gray hair was tangled around her face. She needed a hairbrush much more than me.

I walked into the room.

“Do you need help?”

She nodded.

“Is it OK if I turn the television off?”

She grimaced a bit. I took that to mean “yes”.

I searched for the TV control and found it dangling off the side of the bed by the cord. Unreachable to her.


“Are you hungry?”

“Please let me go,” she pleaded, her voice hoarse and gravelly. Maybe she had spent a few days here yelling? I weighed the situation.

“Let me help you eat. We can talk.”

She nodded.

I sat there beside her, sinking down slowly on the squashy mattress.

I lifted the plastic dome over her plate. Condensation cascaded off the inside, leaving a small puddle in the plate. PurΓ©ed diet. Blech. Still, she ate with gusto as I fed her.

How much of what she said was true, I did not know. She was demented and confused, jumping around from one subject to another. Kids. Husband. The nurses were trying to kill her. After hours and hours of super loud TV that she could not control, anyone else would have been a bit crazy, too. Isn’t that a torture technique, anyway?

This felt good. My heart soared, full of self satisfaction.

As I was finishing up with her last few bites of vanilla pudding, the aid showed up, the smell of tobacco from her smoking break hanging heavy in the air about her. She glared at me, her gaze full of animosity as she realized I had done her job. Did she see it as an indictment? Did she feel guilty that she had not done it herself sooner? I smiled at her, hoping it would show that I was on the same side. I was not judging, just trying to help.

“You students are all same,” she snarled. “Go home. You can’t save the world.”

My heart sank. I wasn’t special.


88 thoughts on “Get Out Of My Hair

  1. Well, if that doesn’t sum up the half of folks who help patients in assisted living, I don’t know what does.

    I keep meaning to tell you how much I love the photos you post. They are marvelous — all of them!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Kindness that’s simply such a part of you it doesn’t seem like much, but it makes a huge difference to people like the old lady. There are good and bad folks in every profession, and you’re one of the good ones for sure, in a role where such kindness is essential. *smiles*.

    – seasonal sonmi upon the Cloud

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thats bizarre normally aides like help, and try to pin their work onto others as much as possible. lol at least that’s the case at the hospital I volunteer at. you did what you do because you wanted to, and the patient appreciate that. nothing else matters.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe it was just that hospital, because usually students (med or nursing)are always liked by the staff and patients because they will do anything (that others are too lazy to do). I see nursing students all the time, treated with equal respect and work as a team with aides. Now as a volunteer I have gotten my eyes rolled at by some of the MD’s and staff nurses- don’t know why!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I must say, I GREATLY appreciate your writing. I’m very grateful that you take the time from what must be a very busy schedule to share your insight with others. Your compassion and caring shines through, to give the world an insider’s view to the PEOPLE–and the humanity of the medical profession. You are a credit to your profession and I applaud your willingness to share your experiences in the wonderful way that you do. Thank you for what you do–in so many ways, in service of others!


    Liked by 3 people

  5. Your comment about the atmosphere at a teaching hospital struck me…shouldn’t that be the one place where the ‘good’ forms of getting in the way are encouraged, and respect and care for all patients is stressed rather than looking on young students as being in the way. Seems like a stupid system when you are there to learn all you can about medicine and good patient care yet you are labeled as a hindrance in more ways than one. Seems as if it’s important to question exactly what students are learning in med school and what kind of doctors they are being molded into.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mainly this attitude comes out because every 12 months staff is answering the same dumb questions all over again. Shouldn’t be that way in an ideal world but it is a reality. On some level, it is a good thing. A lot of med students are full of arrogance and bravado. They need to be reminded they don’t actually know anything and their role at that stage is to learn as much as they can. However it does often go too far.


  6. Ah I get what she meant by her comment, thinking you were young but you would change, but the fact that she was missing having a ciggy when she was needed also said something about the person she had become.
    I always found that those dewy eyed young medics who went the extra mile continued to be just that little bit more human than those who ‘enjoyed’ the learning of medicine perhaps a bit more than the people they were treating. I think your posts clearly indicate how you have turned out.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My daughter was in ICU at a teaching hospital for months. Imprinted in my memory is a terrified intern essentially being instructed what to do by the two veteran ICU nurses who ran the show really. And yes, what up with the smoking? A sense of immortality is a human condition, I guess, even when faced with evidence to the contrary.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most hospitals now only hire nonsmokers. Often you have to pass a blood test. But back in the day when this took place smokingbwas almost guarenteed in respiratory therapists and heart catheterization lab personnel. I *think* it may be that they saw the effects of tobacco so often reversed or at least helped by medicine that they had an almost cavalier attitude toward it.


      • You are so right!!!! My daughter eventually landed in a rehab hospital in the Boston area. She was on a vent. The smell of smoke after those girls returned from break would knock you over. And then they’d resume suctioning the trachs…..

        Liked by 1 person

  8. It was the vile tobacco monster’s fault. It does things to people. I remember when I smoked, a long, long time ago, it allowed me to feel like I was too cool to care. She was jealous of you because you were special. You cared.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, thank you for saying so! It does make me feel uncomfortable, though. I don’t tell the stories because I need validation. It is an unintended consequence. I am not a perfect human being. I struggle like everyone else. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, but you obviously went into medicine for the right reasons. And people should appreciate you for that rather than treating you crappily as I know they must. So many litigious people out there (not to mention addicts) just must make your profession even more difficult.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Victo, you get more comments than any other blog I follow and I sometimes don’t comment because I just think mine will get lost in the shuffle. This post really moved me. I LOVED that you helped that woman. We will all be where she is in some way or other and the jaded attitude of that aid is all too common. It scares the shit out of me for so many reasons. Thanks for helping that woman, Victo.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It isn’t about saving the world. Its about care and comfort to one person who is suffering right now. Perhaps she needed that wall to do her job, but your kindness was wonderful. The patients family would have really appreciated your actions.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You were and are special! It’s not easy being a physician these days. It’s not easy being a CNA either. But your descriptions of her actions were typical of what I have seen myself. I worked as an activity director in a convalescent home 30 years ago and the CNAs were terrible. My mom is in a nursing home now and if I thought she was suffering like that I would be standing on someone’s desk. Your compassionate heart is what led you to the medical profession in the first place. And, I know that my mom has very dedicated CNAs working with her and I thank them when I see them. Thank you for a glimpse into your world of medicine!! And Happy Holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Maybe the aid recognized that you were special and remembered that she had been special once. However, over time many in the caring professions become cynical and jaded with layer upon layer of resentment for not being heard or recognized or whatever. Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I so hope that’s fiction. Touching but very, very sad. It’s so easy to forget people with dementia are human. I suppose we see the madness at the expense of their remaining sanity. I have seen that in hospitals here.

    My aunt died of cancer. Near the end, in hospital, she was partially paralysed. She’d press the bell. No-one would come. She’d ring again and again. Still no-one. She’d wet the bed. Then they’d come and bollock her for wetting herself. Sure she was difficult but they were bastards. If it’s true, you did the right thing on every count. Thank you.

    It’s so sad when cynicism, economics, targets or whatever take the humanity out of those who are supposed to care.



    Liked by 1 person

      • It’s par for the course here. 4 accidents and they can put in a catheta and then they don’t have to drag heavy people off and on a commode. They’re too busy filling in check forms and paperwork which the NHS currently prioritises over actual nursing. Ho hum.

        When she was in hospital with an arm infection my Mum spent most of her time up and about handing people bed pans and then emptying them because the staff couldn’t or wouldn’t.

        Yet they can be wonderful, too.



        Liked by 1 person

  14. This brings up WAY too many memories! When my mother died, she’d been in a home for awhile (Alzheimer’s). Fortunately, they treated her like a person, not like a sack of meat that got between them and their payday. As time passed, she forgot each of her children. After she forgot me, I stopped going to see her. I reasoned that my sister was there every day anyway, but the truth is, it was just too painful to me. She’d been a very strong woman her whole life, and to watch the panic in her eyes, as she stared at me, wondering what this stranger was going to do to her broke my heart.

    Eventually she forgot how to swallow, then she forgot how to breathe, and finally her heart forgot how to beat. The idea that I might end up the same way scares me to death.

    Thank you for providing a moment of humanity in that poor lady’s life.

    Liked by 1 person

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