By Marcy Phipps, RN, whose essay “The Soul on the Head of a Pin” appeared in the May 2010 issue of AJN. She’s written several previous posts for this blog (here’s the most recent).

An eager third-year BSN student was assigned to me yesterday. After introducing herself, she told me quite enthusiastically that she’d already decided she wanted to work in a trauma ICU after she graduated.

I love that. I remember feeling just as wide-eyed and excited as she looked. And I like having students with me, especially ones who are so teachable that they soak up everything around them like a giant sponge.

My student’s willingness to do “everything” served her well, as far as learning experiences go, and she approached tasks without trepidation. She was elated with success (insertion of a nasogastric tube) and mortified with failure (insertion of a rectal tube; she actually vomited). There were moments of fascination (touring the ICU and helping settle in a trauma admission) and boredom (attending a pain management process improvement meeting).

There was also frustration; at the end of the day, she ruined her new scrub top with a spill of dark orange rifaximin.

by adria richards/via Flickr

I’m not sure what her favorite part of the day was (although I’ll bet it was her nasogastric tube success), but my favorite part of her day was overhearing a member of the SWAT team, who was armed and stationed at the bedside of a nearby patient, tell her, in all seriousness, that Dreft laundry detergent would be her “best bet” at getting the medication stains out of her scrubs.

Now, I suppose that SWAT team members, like nurses, have a lot of first-hand experience in getting unusual stains out of work attire, but I must admit I’ve never given the matter much thought. I don’t think of tough guys doing laundry. I never imagine tough guys in the detergent aisle, shopping for Dreft.

I didn’t get to ask my student if she still wanted to work in the ICU, as she was running late for her post-conference, but I’ll bet she still does.

It’s not always pretty, but I can’t imagine someone not wanting to work in a place where rectal tubes and SWAT team laundry advice are punctuations in an otherwise ordinary day.

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