This Will Make You Sto-Mad

, , , , , | Healthy | June 26, 2019

(I work as a trainee in a care home. I’ve been there just three days. This is my second traineeship, which will teach me specific nursing skills, like inserting a bladder catheter, stoma care, wound care, etc. It’s afternoon and I’m working with two coworkers who aren’t happy with me being there. Normally, they’d sit in the staffroom telling trainees what to do, but since this is my third day, I haven’t got a clue as to what to do exactly, which means that they need to show me. An alarm call comes in from the apartment of a married couple. We go there to see what’s wrong. When we get through the front door, the smell of faeces hits us. Going through to the living room the smell gets worse. We find the husband, who has Alzheimer’s, nearly in tears. He points us to the bathroom where we find his wife, sitting on a stool, covered from her shoulders to her knees in faeces. She has managed to partly undress and it’s immediately clear that her stoma bag has exploded.)

Coworker #1: “Yeah, not dealing with this!”

Coworker #2: “Me, neither!”

(And they both just leave. I can’t believe what I’ve just witnessed. When the woman sees them leave and sees me, she starts bawling her eyes out. I know she hasn’t had her stoma for long and she’s only seen me once, this morning, when I asked her if I could watch her stoma care and help her. She knows I haven’t handled anything like this before.)

Me: “All right, let’s get you undressed.”

(I peek around the door and ask her husband to grab five towels, two bin-bags, and underwear for his wife. To my amazement, he comes back with exactly what I asked for a short while later.)

Patient: “You never did this before; you can’t handle this. It’s a mess!”

Me: “Yes, it is, but we’ll do this together. You’ll see; it’ll be fine.”

(I dress up in gloves and a plastic apron and begin to undress her, throwing the clothes on the ground near the shower, but far enough from her that she won’t stand on the faeces. I give her the showerhead and start peeling off the stoma plate. This, together with the stoma bag, goes into one of the bin-bags. By now, she starts feeling a bit better. The smell still isn’t nice, but since a lot of faeces is being washed down the drain, it’s getting better. Her husband asks if everything is all right. I tell him yes and ask him to make a cup of tea.)

Patient: *crying* “Why did they leave? Why did they leave you here?”

Me: “I don’t know, but I’ll get you sorted. Your husband is making tea, so when you’re dressed your cuppa is waiting.”

Patient: “Thank you for doing this.”

Me: “Yeah, well, I want this to be my job, so it’s no big deal.”

(When she’s clean and feeling better, I transfer her to the toilet so she can get dressed. Normally, I’d do this on the stool, but since it’s not entirely clean in that area I have to transfer her. Meanwhile, I rinse out her clothes and put them in the other bin-bag, to go into the washing. When she’s dressed in her underwear, I help her with her stoma materials. I walk her to the bedroom to get dressed further and clean the shower as best as I can without the proper materials. She’s still wobbly from her experience, so I go and check on the husband. He’s boiled the water, but then forgot what he was supposed to be doing. I make tea for both of them and, when I’ve written in their patient book what has happened, I go and check on them again.)

Patient: “Thank you, dear, for everything you’ve done. Now, go get the signature you need for that stoma care. You’ve done great, considering they’ve left you while they knew you hadn’t handled anything like this before.”

Me: “Thank you. I’ll try to talk to them about this. It’s horrible that they left you like that. They shouldn’t have.”

Patient: “I know, but I’m glad you were there.”

(I take her clothes to the laundry room and the coworker there washes them immediately. I find one of the cleaners, tell them what happened, and ask them if they have time to clean the bathroom. They agree. I then walk to the staffroom where I know both coworkers and the manager will be for their tea break.)

Me: *slamming my workbook on the table before both coworkers* “Sign here and there.”

Coworker #1: *looks at where I’m pointing* “I can’t sign this; I haven’t seen you doing stoma care.”

Me: “Of course, you haven’t. You both walked out on the patient while she was covered in faeces from her shoulders to her knees. If I remember correctly your words were, ‘I’m not gonna deal with this,’ and you left her there, in tears, covered in faeces.”

Coworker #2: “I—”

Me: “You did the exact same thing. You walked out on her, too.”

Manager: “What? You left a patient who needed help? [My Name], can I see the book?”

(I give her the book and she signs without hesitating.)

Manager: “You go home early today; you’ve done enough. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” *points to the two coworkers* “You two, in my office. Now!”

(The next day, I’m a little scared to go back, as I know leaving a patient who needs care is a really bad thing to do. When I get to the staffroom, both coworkers who should’ve been working aren’t there.)

Manager: *when everyone else is present* “I just want to tell you guys that [Coworker #1] and [Coworker #2] have been placed on unpaid leave for six weeks due to negligence. They’ve left [Patient] with our trainee when she badly needed help. This is inexcusable. You all can understand that, right? Now, [My Name], can you come to my office later to fill out a few witness statements about what happened yesterday?”

(I agreed and we all went to work. I was inundated with questions from other coworkers about what had happened and they were all appalled by my responses. After I’d filled out the witness statements, a couple of weeks went by where we heard nothing more of either coworker. After four weeks, we found out one had been let go as she’d had a warning about negligence before, and the other found another care home to work with.)

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