Certifiable (Part 2)

–2nd Saturday

There was more reading, although, after day 1, I was never called again. I chalked it up to there being very real cultural differences between myself and the rest of the class including the instructor. Perhaps even with the word mispronouncing, she felt the class probably had just as difficult a time understanding me as I did them.


Certifiable (Part 1)

It was in this second class that the second male was late to class. The instructor revisited the fact that she was trying to get the school to adjust the class time of the very last class an hour and a half earlier so that she could make her flight back to Nassau where her father was being buried.

Ten minutes in, and the guy was still late. The grandmother-type in front of me broke the awkward silence and asked the teacher how she’s doing/feeling about her father’s passing. It was like a relief valve suddenly was activated. The instructor launched into a story that flipped our collective heads on end.

She began by saying a few weeks prior, she had been chatting with her father on her way to work, and he admitted to not feeling that well.  She said she told him she’d call to check on him after she got off work, which would be around 9 pm.  She said she got off work and proceeded to call the care center only to find the calls go unanswered.  Apparently, this phone number she called was supposed to be manned 24 hours, so given her calls went unanswered, she decided to make the twenty-minute drive to the care center where her father resided.  

Because it was past visiting hours, the main entrance was closed.  She went to the back door and waited approximately 10 minutes until someone came out.  Someone eventually came out and she asked about her father, to either see him, or if not possible, to get an update.  

The nurse said she’d go see and return with an update.  10 min passed, 20 min passed, 30 min passed… after 45 min, the nurse came back to the door with the update. The nurse said her father was conscious but unresponsive and that an ambulance was being called to take him to the hospital. 

Our instructor said she and her cousin, who drove to the care center to offer support, were completely blindsided by that information since they had not been contacted to inform them there was a change in his condition. 

It gets worse.

After the ambulance arrived and the EMTs went in, our instructor and her cousin waited another 30 minutes until they brought her father down.  When they did, an EMT took our instructor aside and said, when they were transferring him, his urine bag had blood in it, and appeared that it hadn’t been changed or cleaned in some time. 

Her father passed away in the hospital two days later.  He was already battling cancer and was likely going to die within months perhaps, but the complete breakdown of care absolutely sped up the timeline.

And it is because of all this that I think our instructor was mostly emotionless and maybe a little impatient and a bit harsh during this five-week period. Not only because of the emotionality of what had occurred and what she and her family were dealing with, but also, and I think this is why she shared the story, to emphasize how critical the care we were learning to provide actually is in the real world.

The late classmate finally arrived and the reading of chapters continued, with each of the other four students reading 2-3 chapters. All but me. I figured she didn’t call on me to read again because she saw how emotionally I’d reacted to her story, with full-on crocodile tears running down my face as she was sharing this incredibly personal and terrible event in her life. Probably a good call on her part.  

We finished in the classroom and walked back to the skills demonstration room.  There was a row of plastic chairs against the wall, and we all took a seat in every other chair.  In front of us were two hospital beds with two plastic cabinets separating them.

In the bed on the right was Ms. Suzie, the full-scale plastic female patient body we were to manipulate this way and that, to demonstrate the skills. There was a bed table at the foot of Ms. Suzie’s bed. The instructor stood on the side of the other bed, behind a bed table that was raised to waist level. 

We were getting settled in and my classmate to the right turns to me and shocks me to my core by asking if I’m ready for my skill.  “What skill?”, I ask. She answered, “the one the instructor gave you last week.” I said, “What are you talking about, she didn’t give me any specific skill.”

“Yes,” my classmate said, “she did. Don’t you remember, she made us write down what we’d be doing each week?” With that, I ran back to the classroom, picked up my green notebook, tore into it, found where I’d taken notes, and almost peed my scrubs. I was supposed to demonstrate how to change Ms. Suzie’s bedpan. Panic does not even describe what sets in, as I wasn’t even remotely prepared to demonstrate this skill. 

The instructor started almost shouting, “C’mon guys, who’s up, who’s doing what skill? C’mon, you’re wasting time, let’s go, let’s go.”  

Thankfully, someone else was called to demonstrate their skill and while that student started and failed multiple times and the instructor took over to show the correct way to execute the skill, I used the time to furiously take notes on how to change Ms. Suzie’s bedpan.

“Bedpan, bedpan, c’mon, Ryan, bedpan, let’s go.”  I nervously got up, stumbled my way through indirect care, and left to go to the end of the room where a sink was to wash my hands. I failed horribly at washing my hands, fumbled my notecard, gathered supplies, put some of them on the bed table, then went to the plastic cabinets between the beds and pulled out the toilet tissue, the wet wipes, and the bedpan. I also placed those items on the bed table and suddenly heard, “STOP, YOU FAIL!”  “Where does it say in the book to put the bedpan directly on the bed table?? Where, you show me?” the instructor shouted at me. “Why didn’t you put down the plastic barrier over the table first?” she asked. “Automatic fail, sit down,” she said, completing her tirade.

I awkwardly went back to my chair, and she demonstrated the skill the correct way. This pattern was essentially repeated for the other skills being demonstrated by the other students.

But again, cultural differences were on full display in the skills room. I’m not sure, but maybe in Jamaican culture, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask a woman who is clearly not pregnant if she is in fact pregnant, which our instructor absolutely did of one of the students. And going further by asking that same woman if she wasn’t pregnant, why she didn’t have a flat stomach. This young woman was in perfectly fine shape and wouldn’t be mistaken for pregnant by any stretch of the definition. This all came out of nowhere. 

Another female student, she of a larger size, then spoke up. She tried defending the woman who the instructor asked was pregnant by saying that wasn’t nice to ask. The instructor responded by laying into her, asking why she herself was the size she was. This was the student to my right who clued me into the fact that we were responsible to demonstrate a skill that day, and she was a sweet and gentle soul. I think she tried to elicit compassion from the instructor when she responded by saying she had had two kids by C-section and it had been a long recovery. The instructor shot back, “I’ve had two kids too, and I also have back problems, but I don’t look like you.” The teacher wasn’t heavy or obese, but she also wasn’t thin by comparison. She appeared like a Mom in her mid-40s with two jobs and all the stress that comes along with that responsibility. I just sat there in my hard plastic chair the entire time trying to hold my jaw from hitting the floor at hearing these zingers going back and forth.

Whenever we’d stand around Ms. Suzie’s bed, to watch the instructor demonstrate the various skills correctly, I found myself looking around the room. I hadn’t noticed it before but there was a corkboard above the chairs where we sat. It had paper of various different colors and sizes tacked into it. It was all mostly bland information-type stuff. But there was one flier that caught my attention. It was a reminder which said… “Never grab a patient by the neck, always support the patient with both of your upper limbs to ensure safety, because…” now, one would expect the last part of this sentence to say something like, “the neck is fragile and must be treated with care” OR …”patient safety is key in everything you do.” But oddly, the last part of the sentence was, “you could kill the patient and go to prison for murder.” 

Duly noted!


Ryan Maloney
Ryan Maloney
Ryan Maloney is a husband, bartender, caregiver, drummer, and former online advertising professional. In addition to writing and drumming, Ryan enjoys cooking for and entertaining friends as well as going to the beach and traveling the world. He lives in Ft. Lauderdale with his main squeeze, John. Though born and raised in Chicago, Il until the age of 14, Ryan considers his true hometown to be Phoenix, AZ. Ryan spent over 30 years in Arizona, starting in 1985 at Cortez High School. From there, community college and ASU followed, but all the while, Ryan was drumming up a frenzy in local heavy metal bands. His late teens saw his main band, TYNATOR, achieve a small amount of local success, as well as release a cd to the European market. The opportunity of a lifetime came in 2000, which provided the basis for one of his writing series', PUMPJACK - The Ozzfest 2k diaries. The 12 chapter series documents the meeting of two friends, and then the events that led up to the band, PUMPJACK, heading out on the annual summer Ozzfest tour in 2000, in which the band had been invited to participate, as well as some memories of some of the individual city tour stops.After the tour, Ryan began what then became a 15 year career in online advertising. Having left the corporate world behind in 2017, Ryan now enjoys serving drinks to thirsty customers in Wilton Manors, Florida.

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