ACT II: Nursing Training at the Expense of Those who cannot Object
I had reentered the Nursing program at Rutgers University after a 7 year hiatus, being traumatized by being placed in a position to protect the life of a young mother in my Maternity rotation. Since that time, I had moved to Vermont , owned a restaurant and had my first of three children that I chose to birth at home. Abandoned by the father of my child, I returned to South Jersey to finish my training….
“I want you all to come into this room here,” the instructor called to the nursing students from the door of a room down the hall where an elderly man lay whose breathing was raspy and audible from the location of the central desk.
All 8 of us filed in the brightly lit room to find an old man propped up on pillows to facilitate his visibly difficult breathing…
“We are going to sink a nasogastric tube. We have been given the go ahead to do so,” she triumphantly blurted out.
The old man barely moved, seemed in and out of consciousness, and completely unaware of what was going to happen.
“Who wants to try?” the instructor asked us.
I was barely aware of the student who volunteered and proceeded to wash up and don her gloves. The instructor’s voice faded as I focused in on the raspy breathing body lying in front of us. He was a portly man sitting at a 45 degree angle just barely aware of his surroundings, though he seemed mildly distressed at the accumulation of bodies standing around his bed. His eyes opened and flickered briefly and then closed again.
“This is Mr. Salinas,” Dr. Romeo told us, and without a moment hesitation cranking the bed to almost a full seated position,” Mr Salinas, we are going to be inserting a nasogastric tube so that you get some nutrients that you need.”
She turned and addressed the nursing student by her side, “Now lubricate the tip of the tubing and insert it into his nose.”
Everyone leaned forward to get a better view as the man seemed to jump at the sensation of the foreign object entering his left nostril. As soon as the tube past into his throat, the gagging began. His face quickly turned red with the added strain to breathe.
“Swallow” the instructor yelled to the gagging, frightened, semi-conscious man in front of her, “swallow!”
I could feel the fear well up in me as I watched the scene in horror. Everyone else around me seemed oblivious to the sheer terror being felt by the struggling form in front of them. It felt like an eternity…
“Well done,” the instructor said to the student as she beamed with pride at the successful placement of the nasogastric tube.
At what cost, I wondered to myself as I followed the entourage as they left the room. I looked back to see the color return to the man’s face and wondered how many more procedures he would be forced to endure “for his own good.”