Aliyah Saadein, BSN Junior, BUNDLE Scholar
I remember all the emotions I felt prior to entering nursing school; anxiousness, fear, excitement, and everything in between. Aside from the school work, most of those feelings stemmed from what would be a real life experience as a nurse during our clinical rotations. When the time came in the middle of the semester, I was assigned to a cardiac step-down unit with a group of people I did not know.
On my first day after orientation I remember feeling so excited and prepared for what was to come; little did I know how wrong I would be. I did not know exactly what I expected but I definitely thought at least some things would be easy. I expected talking to patients, interacting with other medical staff members, and performing actions that I practiced prior in lab to be easy. In fact, the things I expected to be the easiest actually became the most challenging when I met real life people with very real problems.
I had to practice speaking to patients without spewing out the medical terminology they teach us in class while still educating them about their medications and their diagnosis. By the time I started clinical, it was around the middle of the semester. I adapted to nursing school quickly and by that time, I thought I had my time management skills under control. Once again, I was wrong. When I was in the hospital things constantly moved fast; patients were discharged, orders were changed, and my work evolved fluidly throughout the day. It became difficult to time everything correctly so that I could perform vital signs, assessment, medications, all while making sure the patient had everything they needed to be comfortable. I had to make sure that before I started the day, I made a game-plan of how I was going to approach the shift to make sure I completed everything in addition to charting (remember: if you didn’t chart it, it didn’t happen).
It also is easy to compare yourself to other peers during the clinical experience. Even though I tried not to, I found myself comparing my knowledge and skill ability to other students. I found myself thinking “I don’t know as much they do” or hearing about other students performing these intense skills while I had still only performed the basics, which caused me to feel like I was behind. Even though I still experience these feelings, I remind myself that these skills come with time and experience. Not everyone is in the same hospital or on the same floor so people are bound to perform different tasks. To make it a little easier for me, I had a great clinical instructor who always reminded us of that and always pushed us to reach out of our comfort zone and perform new tasks even if we were nervous.
I am only a second semester nursing student. By now, I feel like I have experienced it all but I know I have only seen a small fraction of what the realities of nursing are. Going forward with my clinical experience I remind myself that I am a student and that the whole purpose of my clinical experience is to learn and become better. Even though it is embarrassing in the moment, I also tell myself that is okay to make mistakes and it is better to make mistakes during clinical with an instructor around than as a practicing Registered Nurse. I still struggle with all of the things I have mentioned, but I know that I have learned so much and feel so much better as I step into the hospital now compared to that first day on the cardiac step-down unit.
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What I learned during my pediatrics rotation
What I’ve learned in my pediatrics rotation
I have just finished 150+ clinical hours in a pediatric rotation as a family nurse practitioner student, and I realized I'm better with kids than I originally thought I would be. No one is more surprised than I am with this news — kids usually cry when they see me. The kids were actually quite fun, and the parents weren't bad, most of the time.
Here's what I've learned after this rotation:
- You will get sick when working with kids. Vaccines and an immune system cannot prepare a provider for the onslaught that these little germ factories will assail you with. Stock up on tissues and hand sanitizer.
- What you have learned to be the best treatment will not impress parents who want antibiotics. These situations necessitate good communication and negotiation skills. You will come armed with the latest guidelines and evidence-based practices; some parents will come with unproven demands and a history of how other providers always gave them an antibiotic. Sometimes, you will win; sometimes you will lose.
- Halfway through an exam, you are going to realize that there is some question of abuse. You are going to have to do something about it. That day is going to be a hard day.
- Your sick patient will give you a hug for being so nice. His little brother will also give you a hug for taking care of his sibling. That kid, and his brother, make it all worth it.
This has been a great rotation and I am so thankful that my preceptor and the staff at the clinic were so very willing to help me learn as much as I could. I am forever thankful for their help.
As I finish up this semester and begin looking forward to my final semester as a nurse practitioner student, a little bit of fear and trepidation swirls around the edges of my awareness. I wonder if I'm going to be ready to be practicing on my own. I have to trust in the education I've received and continue to seek out as many learning experiences as I can in the time I have left. I know this, I am more confident today than I was 12 weeks ago in the care of pediatric patients. I hope that trend continues.
Sean P. L'Huillier, BSN, RN, CEN, is an emergency department nurse currently enrolled in Georgetown University's School of Nursing and Health Studies Family Nurse Practitioner Program.