It’s not my favorite part of the job. These audits I must do are enough to set a nurse on edge!
Typical responses to the audits range from nervous to cocky, impatient to tolerant and resentful to amused. I thought I was an expert not only on the procedural requirements, but also on the experience in general. Not so. Only God could be so omniscient, as I learned (again) the other day.
Trusty clipboard in hand, I entered the patient’s room with a nurse. A second nurse must be present and she was. Two sets of eyes are required to make accurate comparisons and I scrutinize them doing just that.
For this particular audit one of the nurses seemed a little nervous but both were friendly and easy to work with. After checking off the items on my list (they did well), I wanted to leave on a friendly note. I commented on the left-handedness of the nurse I’ll call Linda.
She smiled, glanced at the pen in my hand and said, “Oh, you’re left-handed too.”
I returned her smile then looked toward nurse Janine, whom I saw was right-handed. Well it was hardly likely that three out of the four people in this room would be ‘lefties’.
“I’m left-handed too,” the patient, Mrs. Bieleky, spoke from her bed and we all turned toward her.
A slew of questions went through my mind. Wouldn’t she have been of the generation who was forced to switch? Do I have the right to ask or is that a violation of her privacy or just plain rude or would she appreciate the question? I had her date of birth right in front of me. She’s seventy-three, hmmmm.
“I always thought that people from your generation were made to use their right hands,” Linda said.
There was a mischievous twinkle in her eye as she answered. “Oh my teacher tried to make me switch; he had me write on the chalk board but when he saw what my handwriting looked like he said, ‘never mind’!”
Janine asked, “In front of the other students?”
“Oh yes dear, they thought it was funny,” Mrs. Bieleky remembered.
“You know,” I recalled, “I had a teacher who yelled at me for not letting him know I was left-handed. He was handing out scissors and I knew I couldn’t use those left-handed ones so I didn’t respond to his ‘raise-your-hand- if’ request.”
“That’s too bad,” Mrs. Bieleky said.
“Well, when I explained myself he was appreciative that I had thought it out. We ended up getting along very well after that,” I said.
“You know - those scissors - you have to use them right from the start or you’ll adapt to the other kind,” Mrs. Bieleky said..
“Really?” I asked.
“I believe so.” She cocked her head a little and asked, “Have you ever tried writing right to left and then holding what you’ve written up to a mirror?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Try it sometime. You might be surprised at how good it looks,” she suggested.
“I just might do that,” I was intrigued.
“Did you know the ancient Greeks used to write from right to left then left to right as they went line to line? It’s called ox-bow turning. They slanted their letters according to the direction they were writing too,”she added..
“I didn’t know that,” I said. “There’s a lot more to you than meets the eye.”
“I’ve done some reading,” she answered simply, but her chin came up just a little as she spoke.
We all had to leave but Mrs. Bieleky had caught our interest.
“I’ve got to go, but I’d love to come back and match wits with you.” I shook her hand.
“That would be just fine. I’ll probably be here,” she answered and there was that little chin raise again.
I chuckled. ‘Match wits? I’m going to have to do some serious studying’ I told myself.
Here’s a nugget of truth I was reminded of that day. Patient safety is paramount, but patients are a whole lot more than names, numbers and procedures. Dear God, may I respect every person and his/her experience and knowledge.
According to statistics on the website - www.zoology.ubc.ca - The random chance of three out of four people in a room being left-handed is 0.0036. That translates to about one in three hundred forty.
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