Life at a German gynecology and obstetrics ward

Life at a German gynecology and obstetrics ward
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A young training nurse's experience

One day on my OB-GYN ward:

Women screaming out loud due to the excessive pain of labor, some weeping and shedding tears of joy from the birth of a newborn baby. At a station below, others are experiencing great agony and sadness after being told about their new cancer diagnosis……Welcome to a typical day at my practical training center at an obstetrics and gynecology ward in a teaching hospital in Germany.

My name is Julia- 20 Years old, an aspiring nurse doing practical training in a teaching hospital in central Germany, specifically in the OBGYN Department. Like many others, the obstetrics and gynecology department has four major wards/stations at this particular hospital. The emergency station, the maternity/delivery room, stations 1 and 2, respectively.

 My training occurred mainly in the delivery ward and  

“Stations 2,” where gynecological patients with various ailments and conditions are treated and cared for. Young and older women with pain and bleeding, some with cancer, others undergoing surgery, others pregnant with severe nausea and vomiting; (Morning sickness ), and some, well, you might wonder why they are at the hospital at all. 

In short, it is a busy station, to say the least- emotionally, mentally, and physically challenging.  

Just waking up, preparing to go for my training, and thinking about the station gets me motivated and fired up!

My practical training at the hospital is every other week for a whole week, excluding weekends. I usually arrive at the hospital very early, at around 5:45 am. I quickly change into my hospital scrubs, an oversized but pretty cute white jacket, and tight-fitting pants. Cleaned and iron pressed to highlight our nursing professionalism and hygiene.

By 6 am, I am sitting in the nursing conference room with the whole team of nurses from the night shift and those taking over for the day. Usually, it is a formal and serious session presided over by the most experienced or senior nurse. A detailed review of every patient on the ward, including those expected during the day, occurs. A nursing plan for the day is drawn per instructions from the ward doctors. By 6: 30 am, everyone, including nurses, students, and those doing practical training, are assigned a task to ensure effectiveness and optimal care. And then, it is time to take care of the patients directly. 

I often pair up with a hardworking and friendly young student doing civic duties at my ward called Katherina to perform some of the tasks assigned to us by the senior nurses. 

The whole morning and afternoon are spent doing assorted tasks. 

Assisting the nurses in taking care and administering medications to the patients,

aiding those patients who are too tired or sick to take care of themselves, helping with basic care, including bathing and dressing.

We also distribute food -breakfast, coffee, and lunch.

Somewhere between all this busy schedule, one might create some time to have a break to grab a coffee or just ponder and reflect about the day.

I jokingly call the maternity ward “action ward” Here, things can move from calm to hectic in no time. Being able to experience the birth of a newborn is always exciting and profound. After about nine months of incubation, the imagination of a new life coming into our world is mesmerizing. And then there is the urgency and frantic atmosphere in the maternity ward, especially during emergency C- sections, where delivery has to occur as soon as possible. Ohh, I cannot forget the emotional trauma of a patient with a stillbirth at eight months. Counseling from an experienced midwife sure helped me better cope with that incident.

Sation 1, where I spent less time, is a surgical ward that comprises patients who come for surgery for various reasons- ranging from a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus or womb). Some for removal of an ovarian cyst which builds upon the ovaries. Some unfortunate few come in for complex surgeries with various cancers of the female reproductive organs. These patients are generally very anxious and nervous and are so happy to receive any form of consolation or assurance. It is incredible being a source of comfort at my tender young age to grown-up ladies in their late 50s or 60s.

Some very touching moments involve patients so lonely in the real meaning of the word-no no relatives, no visitors, and no one to seek solace or consolation. These patients are often so grateful and happy when one can share just a word or two with them and, more importantly, listen to their literally endless life stories, especially the older ladies with second world war experiences.

Time and again, away from patients, we also have to do some cleaning, especially in the kitchen or conference room after meals are served.

By afternoon around 1 pm, a new set of nurses come to take over from the morning shift. We do have another review round with a new plan and task allocation depending on what new tasks need to be done. Around this time, many patients would have had their surgeries at the operating room and would have successfully been cleared to return to station care from the intermediary care unit. We would attend to these patients alongside senior nurses. We would check their vital signs- blood pressure, temperatures, blood sugar levels, and urine Production and receive feedback on their pain perception levels.

All these measurements need to be thoroughly documented and recorded. Various prescriptions and recommendations from the doctor on duty must also be administered.

By the end of my shift, around 2 pm, I would have taken care of several patients and performed several tasks. I am often exhausted but delighted to be heading home to rest, get other personal and private issues taken care of, and connect with friends.

 Nursing and patient care is a profession that brings out humanity and compassion for the sick and helpless. It is indeed self-fulfilling in its service and sacrifices.

I am almost always tired each day when I get home, but the joy and satisfaction I get from knowing I made a difference in someone’s life leaves me upbeat and motivated to come to the hospital the next day. 

I am almost approaching the end of my three months of training and am more than elated and empowered with a new perspective of life and a stronger resolve to serve and care for the sick. When I think about the lady who felt so happy being listened to because she had not had a real conversation with someone since she lost her husband a long time ago, it makes me feel grateful and humbled at the same time. That all imagining I am merely a junior caretaker still doing my practical training being able to deeply touch and make a tremendous positive impact in the life of someone suffering in silence. Memories of the young girl in severe pain excited and finding my curly hair just like hers make me appreciate that even in sickness, one could still have humor just as well as find something in common. The patients in despair with cancer not only make me value early check-ups and better self-care, such as despising drugs and cigarettes, but they also make me value good health and appreciate every moment in life. 

To conclude, I have come to understand and learn that a nurse is a health worker, a source of compassion and love, one who sacrifices their time for the well-being of others, a listener, an adviser, and most importantly, a genuine and caring friend!

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