A Day at the Hospital

December 29, 2015 was a day unlike any other for me. It would be the day that I would know if a career in nursing would be the right path for me because I got to shadow my cousin Margaret, a nurse practitioner, at Rush Hospital.

The night before I had hardly been able to sleep. I woke up well before my alarm to start getting ready for the day ahead. There were butterflies in my stomach, and my heart felt like it was beating a mile a minute. All the while, my brain was racing through all of the things that could go wrong. I was especially nervous about taking the train because I had never ridden it alone or gone downtown by myself.

My dad dropped me off at 7:30 in the morning so that I could catch the 7:45 train. “The train will come in on the second track, so make sure you’re ready,” my dad called out the window of the car as he pulled away.

After purchasing my ticket, I stood alone, praying that everything would go smoothly and that I would be in the city soon. After what felt like hours the train finally pulled up to the station. I hopped on the train and felt the eyes of the daily commuters follow me as I navigated through the train cars. Finally, I found an open seat, and the train began its route to the city. Luckily the rest of the ride went smoothly, and soon enough I was at Ogilvie Station. Margaret was going to pick me up, but she was running late, so I was stranded in a strange place all alone. My biggest fear was standing out or looking lost. Fortunately, I found refuge in the bookstore, pretending to look at books. Margaret was only a couple minutes late, and before I knew it, we were pulling up to the hospital.

Upon arriving at Rush Hospital, Margaret and I made our way to her office. Margaret is a nurse practitioner in Neurosurgery, so she works closely with the neurosurgeon, but she also has the ability to meet with her own patients.

“Today we will be meeting with two patients. I was hoping you would be able to see a surgery, but there aren’t any scheduled.” Margaret told me as she looked at her schedule. “My first patient doesn’t come in until 9:30 so we can go and check up on the patients recovering from yesterday’s surgeries.”

We walked out of her office and back to the main part of the hospital. We made our way down to recovery and met with the recovering patients. Each room was different, patients recovering from brain tumors, nerve damage, and other diseases. Some of the patients were awake and interactive while others were still dazed and out of it. They had bandages around their heads and open wounds, but it was all very interesting to me. I was amazed at how big of a difference Margaret made in these patients’ lives, and I was excited to be there to help. We only had time to see two patients before Margaret’s pager went off. We rushed back up to neurosurgery to see the patient. The patient sat on the exam table patiently waiting. He was an older man in his sixties and it was clear to see he was favoring one arm. I sat quietly as Margaret examined him.

“You had surgery a month ago to repair damaged nerves in your arm. Do you have full range of motion back?” Margaret questioned the patient as she lifted and moved his arm into different positions.

“Most of the motion and strength is back in my right arm, but I am concerned because my left arm is now causing me problems,” the patient responded, rubbing his left arm.

“The decreasing strength in your left arm should be examined by your physical therapist. However, I don’t believe it’s anything to be concerned about, Margaret responded.

After a few more basic tests, the patient left to schedule a follow up with the surgeon. Margaret and I went back to her office, and Margaret made a few calls to patients about scheduling their surgeries. As she was working I thought about what I had seen. Would I like doing this? I thought that I would enjoy working as a nurse practitioner because I would be able to work with my own patients and work on my own in an office. By the time she was done we were both ready for lunch.

Around one in the afternoon, Margaret, her friend John, and I decided to get lunch at Subway. Unfortunately for us, it was in the Orthopedics wing of the hospital. The Orthopedics wing is on the other side of Rush and we took us almost 20 minutes to walk there. We got our sandwiches and headed back to Margaret’s office. As we were walking through the garage, we saw a couple and their daughter on their way out of the hospital. All of a sudden the girl began running from her parents and down a hill in the parking garage. After a few moments, she fell face first, hitting her head on the concrete ground. We all ran towards her to see if she was ok. The girl sat up, and she looked at us with a blank stare. She did not grasp the situation. Her motor skills were impaired and she struggled to walk and use her arms. She was missing hair because it appeared that she had ripped it out. Margaret tried asking the young girl basic questions to see if she was ok, but the young girl would not speak to us, but only hiss and growl.

“She falls like this all the time,” the parents assured us. “She has a hard head.”

The girl’s parents informed us that the young girl had stage two Parkinson’s Disease and dementia. Besides a cut on her face, the young girl appeared ok. However, Margaret was still concerned. “ We should probably bring her to the emergency room to get her checked out,” Margaret advised. “Patients with Parkinson’s are prone to brittle bones and we want to make sure that there is no internal bleeding in her brain.”

When Margaret told the parents this, the mom’s eyes began to well with tears. At this point, I could hardly keep it together. It took everything in my power to keep myself from crying. Quickly Margaret ran and returned with a wheelchair for the young girl, and we whisked her off to the emergency room. There she was met with doctors and nurses who took her off to be examined for a head injury. As we walked back to Margaret’s office, I thought about how amazing it was that she got to help people everyday. I decided that nursing would be a fulfilling career that I definitely wanted to pursue.