My First Bed Change

by | Feb 26, 2023 | Nursing Student | 1 comment

I bet you remember yours. I sure do remember mine! Allow me to share the hilariously cringey story of my first bed change as a nurse.

My First Bed Change

My First Bed Change As a Nurse

I’ve been a nurse since 2010.  It’s been rough at times, but it’s been rewarding.  I look at the nurse I am today and the nurse who graduated from nursing school and see two completely different people.

I originally started on this journey for practical reasons.  I like the medical field and teaching, and I wanted a secure job with consistent income.  That was about it.  I had no idea what was in store for this practical, non-emotional lady through the glorious world of nursing.

My, how things have changed.  If you couldn’t pick up a spoon last week and today you can, I’m fighting back tears because I’m so proud of you.  I’ve seen some gross things, some terrible, gut-wrenching things, but I’ve also seen some cry in the middle of the nurses’ station things because you’re just so proud of a patient for doing something that was seemingly impossible.  And man, I love it.

My First Bed Change Humbled Me As A Nurse

The joy that God has graced me with in helping people get through the worst times in their lives humbles me to the floor. This did not happen overnight.  I was not always a joyful and compassionate nurse.  I had to start somewhere.

My first day of clinicals was quite shocking for me.  I had no experience with patients at all.  I had barely set foot in a hospital at this point, let alone done anything nurse-related.

My first experience with patients was in a nursing home.

Stop and think about the last time you were in a nursing home and take a full deep breath of what you remember it smelling like.

…Did you do that yet?

Ugh.  That.

Myself and another student had to do a complete bed change for a total-care patient who did not speak or follow commands.  This was the first time we had ever done a bed change and we were completely alone.  All we had to go on was what we were told in class about bed changes.  The patient had gone to the bathroom and ’twas in all the places.

We got our supplies and got ready to get down to business. We had a little last minute scramble, trying to figure out practically how the heck to do this… but eventually got ourselves together.

I turned the patient away from me to have my fellow student hold her while I took care of business… and I had one of those out of body experiences….

Am I really doing this right now…. really? This… is what… I… am doing? …

My eyes started to water.  I tried my best to mask it, but there was no stopping it. I started dry heaving as my fellow student was sweating, struggling to keep her composure and grip.

I couldn’t breathe.

My friend was holding in laughter and trying not to breathe through her nose as well.  If I breathed through my nose, I’d dry heave.  If I breathed through my mouth, I’d taste/smell it, which produced that lovely throw-up taste. We hadn’t quite figured out that skill of shallow nurse breathing skill yet, nor had we developed the incredibly important nurse poker face.

I was trapped.

I profusely apologized to my straining friend and ran to the hallway for a taste of some sweet, sweet nursing home air.  I took one last deep breath and ducked back in.  We fumbled and struggled our way to get that woman squeaky clean.

Afterwards, I found my clinical instructor and had a breakdown moment.  “I can’t do this!  I almost threw up doing the most simple thing a nurse can do!” I said, feeling dejected.

“You’ll get used to it, it’ll get better,” my nursing instructor replied.  I don’t know if that was a deterrent, or comforting, but somehow I felt better.

Things Did Get Better

Fast forward. Now I can bathe/clean/turn/powder a c.diff +, vented patient on multiple vasoactive drips that needs multiple dressing changes in less than 10 minutes (with a glorious CNA, of course).  

I can clock-in with confidence, knowing I can handle most situations that will come my way and know who to call for the situations that I’m clueless about.  I can critically think with the best of them, comfort terrified families, and advocate for patients that need it.

That pungent bed change was just the beginning of this crazy nursing journey.  Oddly enough, I am thankful for that.  

As I sit and reflect on my nursing career thus far, I think my dog is aware.. he’s passing flatus and I instinctively began doing my nurse shallow breathing like I’m at work.

Thanks, pup.

Now if only I could have as much joy cleaning up after my dog, I’ll be set.

Getting ready for nursing school clinicals, but feeling unprepared?

Skills Refresh 3 1

Nursing Skills Refresh from FreshRN is a self-paced video course for both new and experienced nurses. Whether you’re preparing for your first clinical experience, or need to brush up on your nursing skills, this course is for you. Each lesson walks you through the basic tasks and concepts you will experience in the clinical setting. Once completed, you’ll feel comfortable in a hospital setting, understand the basics of what the bedside experience will feel like, and know insider tips and tricks that will make you feel confident and in control.

More Real-Nurse Talk

I hope this story about my first bed change at least made you laugh. I’m sure we’ve all been there. These humbling experiences happen and I believe they happen for a reason.

Here are some more real-life nurse stories that I think will keep encouraging your and inspiring you.

Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.

1 Comment

  1. Oldfoolrn

    I was happily cleaning up a badly soiled patient and the lady in the next bed was shocked, “Oh doctor… you shouldn’t be doing that!” When I explained that I was a student nurse she said to proceed with the cleanup-all was well in her mind.


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