Student Nurse Clinicals: Wrap-up

As of today at 2 PM, I finished my first round of student nurse clinicals. Due to HIPAA and the privacy that everyone is afforded, I have decided that a play-by-play for this experience is neither good nor necessary. And one of my first observations of how nursing school has changed me is that my life will never be the same; I will always have nursing in the back of my mind and as a filter for my activities.

This isn’t negative but rather a noticeable change in two specific ways. One: in regards to HIPAA, IF I talk about work or a circumstance, I stray from pronouns so that the person hearing the story will have to guess whether the patient is male or female. Then again if I mention something regarding a reproductive cancer – whoops! Two: I realized that my weekend or break ends 12 hours before my next shift, not when I go to bed and wake up. Why? I sometimes enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail with friends over a meal. If that is within 12 hours of my start time for a shift, my license is on the line.

If you’ve read the previous posts, you’ll know that I spent my first day of clinicals in the ER and received two staples in my head. The other three weeks were delightfully different.

In this first semester of clinicals, my cohorts and I were each given one patient to focus on for the morning. I was in charge of assessing my patient’s vital signs, ensuring they participated in their ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) to the full extent possible, seeing their nutrition needs met, and educating them or their family/visitors.

By the 4th week, I finally felt more comfortable with my assessing skills. I had a plan and a pattern; the electronic charting was still cumbersome, yet that was partially due to me needing to chart EVERYTHING possible rather than bare necessities. One of my goals every week was to make my nurse’s life easier – trying to think ahead, having a plan for the day, asking for help as needed, but making my decisions independently.

My patients were all very different from each other and had various needs and deficits in their lives. Some were emotional deficits, a lot of physical deficits, some lack of coping for family and friends. There were barriers between me and the patients. Some had little knowledge of English, some came from a culture I didn’t understand, some lacked comprehension of their situation.

But I had to continue to think critically – what could I do to make their life better for that morning I was assigned to that room? What care could I provide, with no judgement, that in the end would make that 30 minutes, hour, day, more bearable?

Mind you, this isn’t a romantic view of nursing. It was hard to see the patients with the various deficits, physical or mental, and to hear the stories or see the charting as to how they got there. I did a lot of inglorious and frustrating tasks. But I felt I made a small difference, that I learned more of the skills and technique of nursing, and that I did my job well.

As of 330 PM today, I crashed in exhaustion and now need to study for two finals tomorrow instead of write.



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