Palabras Pintorescas: The joys of bed-making

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By Editha Bartley

I find some of the darndest things as I browse through the stack of magazines I never seem to read — cover to cover. Being snowbound actually is good for reading and putting yet another log on the fire.

An editor must have been desperate for a page filler recently. He/she devoted a whole page, complete with colored photographs on how to properly make a bed. Triangle folds and diagonal creases are important. Anyone who has been in the military knows that well. I knew how to make a bed when I was a student at Highlands University, but my classmates and I would have listed that job at the very bottom of the to-do list. Four of us were pre-med students and two of us had very little to do with a hospital and patient care.

Although I grew up in a hospital complex, I was rarely allowed into a patient's room and I only worked in my doctor father's clinic area.

Someone came up with the bright idea that we should work at our Las Vegas Hospital as aides to learn about basic patient care. The hospital administrator obviously had some misgivings about just what we could do, but agreed to take two of us on.

My partner, Will and I also had to get permission from our dorm mothers to work an evening shift. We were issued white lab coats and assigned to work with the nursing staff. We had no title at the start because nobody actually knew what we could or count not do.

Our first assignment was to learn hot to give a patient a bed bath and properly make a bed with said patient in it. Neither of us actually knew how to properly make a hospital bed much less with a live, sick and possibly hurting patient in it!

What an experience it was, not only for us but for the poor patient.

Thankfully he was too sick to complain and I don't think he had any idea we were such rank amateurs. The nurse that had to put up with us admitted (much later) that she never thought we'd actually stick this job out, much less retain anything she taught us. Neither one of us would ever admit that we were scared to death most of the time because we were so sure we'd make a big mistake somewhere along the line and really hurt that sick person.

We stuck it out for the length of the quarter (Highlands was on the quarter system back then) and thankfully the hospital put up with both of us. I did not go on to medical school, but Will did and both of us appreciated this very down-to-earth approach to proper patient care that the hospital staff shared with us so well. The administrator actually came up with  a title for us: we were classified as order – lies and paid minimum wage to boot.

I learned long ago never underestimate the ability of a small hospital to provide very good care, at all times for both the patient and the employees who want to share and teach what they know best.

I often think about the proper way to make a bed and continue to be surprised that this item is considered as newsworthy in a magazine!

Editha Bartley  lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.