There comes a time in nursing school where you need to demonstrate that you’re a competent, confident nurse that can perform at least the most basic of nursing tasks. One of
these is taking a patient’s vitals… something that I’ve been excelling at all semester.
Well it’s come time for the assessment, the defining moment. The moment they say YES! you are at least acceptable! I’m feeling pumped, I’ve been acing vitals all semester, so what’s a little assessment? We all meet up outside the lab and the tutor of course asks who wants to go first. I’m feeling pretty damn good so I volunteer. I team up with another student and we head in.
We’re told we’ll get no instruction from the tutor, and she’s just going to observe us and sign us off on taking the patient’s vitals. She won’t tell us what to do, and us students aren’t allowed to communicate with each other. We’ve got 5 minutes to complete the test. Well I’m up first, then my colleague is up next.
So this is it, we begin the test. I introduce myself to the patient and explain what I’m going to do, just taking some vitals… crap…. I forgot to use the hand sanitiser… but it’s all good, I haven’t approached the patient yet, haven’t touch anything so I elegantly shimmy back over to sanitiser and scrub away. It’s all good, just a minor hiccup… its smooth sailing from here on. I figured I’d get the blood pressure out of the way first, since its the hardest and needs to be done manually. So I position the patient, and throw that BP Cuff on. I get the dual stethoscope out for the tutor to listen in and I get one pump in and then… “ahem…” I look up at the tutor puzzled… who’s abruptly broken her silence… she looks me square in the eye and sternly says “are you sure you haven’t forgotten anything”
well crap… the panic sets in… what did I do wrong? my mind is racing a million miles an hour, what could I possibly have forgotten? fair enough on the sanitiser but I went back for it, i introduced myself, explained the procedure, made sure the paperwork was in order and I had the correct patient. We can do the vitals in any order we want.. so no problem there… I can’t work out what I’ve forgotten… for what seemed like a good 15 seconds I just stood there looking around, running through everything in my head. I just couldn’t work it out, she’s gotta be messing with me. Its gotta be a trick question.
And then I saw my colleague glancing at the blood pressure cuff… and I immediately saw where I went wrong. I put the damn thing on upside-down. I told the tutor I put it on upside-down and she nodded in agreement. So I removed it, flipped it over and started again, no interruptions this time. But after that my confidence was shot… I hadn’t even done anything yet and I’d messed up twice, both could have been an instant fail.
I spent the rest of the test double, even triple checking everything. second guessing myself and everything I was doing. I completed the test but went overtime due to my overcautiousness. And then it happened again… “are you sure you haven’t forgotten something?” double crap…. Again I couldn’t work out what I had forgotten… I looked desperately at my classmate who looked at me puzzled. I decided it was a trick question and answered with a meek “nope, I don’t think so.” The tutor said ok, and we proceeded onto my classmates test, who again, apparently made an error at the end, but we didn’t know what. Turns out we were meant to tell the tutor what the normal vital ranges are, something we both forgot to do.
It panned out well in the end, she allowed me to come back at the end of the lesson to tell her what the normal ranges are, and I passed! YAY!!! But I never realised how a simple mistake can send everything else spiraling out of control.