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.