Walk with me – Foot in the door

MN_shoesEditor’s Note: Today’s story continues with the seventh installment with one Mighty Nurse as we walk with her through her nursing adventure. New stories in this series will be published on the second Tuesday of every month. The entire series can be found here, Walk with me.

Let the countdown begin

Not to belabor the countdown, but … we now only have 18 weeks left!

Somehow that makes everything easier to deal with.

And by “everything” I made a list of my top three issues.

  1. The group projects we will be assigned this term. (Does anyone ever really enjoy group projects?)
  2. The random practice exams and simulations which somehow don’t make it onto the schedule (How is this even possible?)
  3. The logistics of figuring out exactly how we will follow our home health nurses around the entire county without getting lost (We cannot ride in the car with the workers, even if we sign a form stating we will not sue them in the event of unforeseen maiming or death).

At some point one simply has to focus on the most important aspects of nursing school (the nursing skills), and just let the rest go.

If some of the other things don’t work out, then they just don’t work out.

Some of the exigent costs and expectations are impractical and unnecessary.

I’m not saying that I blatantly ignore them.

I’m just saying that I’ve realized they are not worth worrying myself sick over.

Although I am rather tired of feeling like the nursing school owns me rather than I am paying them to educate me.

Nursing school is not for the weak

I am a 34 year old woman, and at times I think I might feel more dignified in military boot camp.

However, having more life experience and not caring all that much for the answer “No,” I have taken matters into my own hands.

After asking multiple instructors about options for shadowing or volunteering in ERs, ICUs, and Cath Labs (and receiving absolutely no assistance whatsoever).

I remembered that my clinical instructor used to work in the ER at the hospital several blocks from where I am living.

So I called and spoke with her, and by a rare stroke of luck she happens to be an incredibly nice person.

She helped me set up some shadowing in the department, and connected me with several other people who have helped me become an “extra set of hands” in a volunteer capacity.

Finally a real view of nursing

I obviously cannot perform any nursing actions while I am there, but I can show up to the ER anytime with my volunteer badge and let them know that I am there to help with the little things.

I have learned more about skills in the week I’ve spent there over Spring Break than I have in school.

Which I find appalling. But, that not withstanding, even just observing the basic procedures multiple times at close-range is invaluable.

And in this particular ER, the nurses AND doctors are all but pulling and pushing me into rooms where “cool things are happening.”

I have seen intubations, extreme hyperglycemia, STEMIs, stroke, IV placement, Foley placement, central line placement, seizures, and sepsis treatment involving intubation, blood cultures, an arterial line, and IV poles with six channels running into peripheral IVs and a central line.

“Enthusiasm seems to be ignored, and is sometimes met with, Don’t even ask me about that.”

I am thrilled that I happened to find such a wonderful place, but moreover it frightens me to realize the number students who are not having this experience, and the number of skills which are not truly taught in these accelerated nursing programs (I assume that the four year programs allow for more time in lab and clinical settings).

Their priorities seem to be a woeful mystery.

I don’t want to make it to my preceptorship only to be asked, “Can you go ahead and place this Foley?” and be compelled to respond, “I have never done that before.”

How embarrassing! It is a simple task, but even simple things require practice.

I do not want to be inappropriately critical of my nursing program, but at this point I do not know of one student who is happy, nor have I heard anything but stories of students being blown off by instructors when they take the initiative to express dreams and desires of specific specialties.

Enthusiasm seems to be ignored, and is sometimes met with, “Don’t even ask me about that.”

And most people would even be happy with contact numbers at these hospitals so they could simply have a place to start doing their own footwork!

We are asking for a resource so that we might be able to clock some hours in our preferred fields and at least have that on our resume even though we will not have the ubiquitously demanded “ONE YEAR OF EXPERIENCE.”

So I suppose the positive take-home message is: Don’t be afraid!

Here is what to do if you want to Do It Yourself:

  • Go online to hospitals’ websites.
  • Search for their Volunteer Coordinator’s contact info. Start there.
  • They usually have this job because they like coordinating things!
  • They know the department directors because they contact them to arrange the volunteer opportunities.
  • Tell this person that you are in nursing school, and tell them your desires – many times they will be inspired by your enthusiasm.
  • If they don’t have room in their volunteer schedule for another person, they might make an exception.
  • If not, they can usually set you up with phone numbers for or meetings with department supervisors and you can discuss shadowing opportunities.

The bottom line: Get in there!! Be nice, be patient; but don’t be shy.

And if the volunteer coordinator is a dud, then go ask the person at the information desk where the HR department is.

Ask until you find that nice person who remembers what it was like when they were eager and inspired.

There are hundreds of people who work in a hospital. Someone there will want to pay it forward!

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