Confession: I’m kind of uncomfortable with touching people.
I’m fine with people touching me, but I feel like I never really know what the boundaries for other people are. Like how much touching is comforting, how much is weird, and at what point am I being cold by not touching someone. Because I over-think things like that, it totally stresses me out. Before I go meet someone, I find myself thinking, “Okay, this is a person who is fine with me hugging, so yes, I can initiate it.” I’m kind of like that awkward teenage guy who hesitates before putting his arm around his date, and then finally decides to pretend he’s stretching his arm. Yes, I realize I’m insane.
This past semester, we had a class called Health Assessment, where we learned how to do a head-to-toe physical assessment of a patient, including things like vitals, skin assessments, heart/breath/bowel sounds, etc. Imagine my shear panic when our teacher announced that we would be working with partners throughout the whole class, and practicing and testing our skills on our partner. We’ve known each other 3 weeks, and now we will be stripping down to our underwear for each other on a daily basis. Awkward situations galore.
The idea is that we look intensely at “normal” people who aren’t sick, so that we will easily recognize deviations from those norms when we are in the clinic. So truly, every tiny “abnormality” you have must be pointed out by your partner during your testing. So you might hear your partner say things like “Your head is somewhat macro cephalic (larger than normal)” or “you have a scar/birthmark/anything on the side of your face” and all you can think is crap! I didn’t think people noticed that!
Honestly the hardest part for me was eye exams. It was torture for my awkward personality to be inches away from my partner’s face while they stared straight back at you. I’m cringing just thinking about it.
The class ended up being fine. I can now say, it’s a lot easier to do this stuff now that I’m a pro. I’m thinking about what I need to be thinking about, and not whether I’m applying a creepy amount of pressure during abdominal palpation. I also ended up with a great partner who I am now wonderful friends with. We can say we know each other on an intimate level! She even promised she wouldn’t tell anyone how much I sweat when I’m uncomfortable…