Tag Archive for Clinical

Confessions of a Nursing Student

Aaron Montgomery, BSN Junior, BUNDLE Scholar

It was cold. It was 5 a.m. so the sky was still pitch black.  There was not a single car riding through the streets.  I had never seen that stretch of road so empty.  I sped up my walking pace to make sure I didn’t arrive late.  The first day was here and I was determined to make a good impression.  I had a feeling that I was forgetting something so I did ongoing checks to make sure I had my supplies: white shoes, watch, stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, and pen.  I started going through all the skills I had been taught in school.  There was no way I was going in unprepared.  As I approached the building, a feeling of nervousness took over.  I took a few seconds to calm down.  Then it was time to go in.  This was my first day of clinical and it was time to get started.

Looking back at that first day in October, it’s hard to believe that I was ever that nervous for clinic.  My first clinical experience has hands down been the best part of my first year of nursing school.  Early in the semester I had a hard time adjusting to the struggles that came with the program.  I had to get used to life in a new city, a new college, and professional school.  I wasn’t used to a full class schedule in addition to clinical experiences.  I didn’t know how to condense the seemingly infinite amount of information down to pass a 50-question exam.  And most of all, I thought I would never get an NCLEX style select-all-that-apply question correct. Ever.  But never once did I second guess my decision to go into nursing.  However, it was hard to envision all that hard work paying off. But that changed when clinical began.

During my first day, I was assigned to a patient in his mid-fifties who was recovering from a stroke.  I started the shift by giving him a bed bath.  Up until that point I had always taken for granted my own ability to bathe myself.  It was truly an honor to help someone perform such a simple but personal task.  After he was ready for the day, I accompanied him to radiology for a swallow evaluation.  I had only read about this procedure in textbooks so I was excited to get to see it in practice.  At the end of the shift, I went with my patient to therapy.  I got to see how the therapists transferred patients from their chairs, helped them walk, and assisted them with their daily activities.  This became valuable during later clinicals when I had to help move larger patients.  I stayed busy the full day.

Then it was time to meet with our clinical group to discuss our day.  My instructor was very direct and open about the expectations she had for us.  She didn’t hesitate to tell me the areas in which I needed improvement.  I worked on those areas, which improved both my confidence and competence.  It was time to leave for the day.  I walked out and instantly started thinking about the following day and how much I dreaded the idea of returning to class.  It hit me that not once during my shift did I think about school, or any of my other struggles.  For those eight hours I put my needs aside and focused on my patient.  There was no doubt that this is what I wanted to spend my life doing.  So far nursing school has had its share of struggles and triumphs, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

***

Aaron Montgomery is a junior in the traditional BSN program.  Originally from Torrington, Connecticut, he moved to Atlanta to attend Emory following four years in the military.  He is part of the BUNDLES program and is hoping to serve as a Student Ambassador for the 2017-2018 school year.

Senior Year – Community Health Clinical

Throughout the last semester of Nursing School, the seniors have either one of two clinicals – Community Health or Role Transition (i.e., practicum/preceptorship). After half of the semester is completed, the students switch from one to the other. For the first half of this year, I’ve been in my Community Health Clinical at the Gateway Center in downtown Atlanta. This facility serves homeless men, women, and children that have come to the Atlanta area for a variety of different reasons.

The Gateway facility is able to provide temporary shelter to these clients, but it places a special emphasis on gaining work and education. Many of the clients are enrolled in a variety of educational or treatment programs in an attempt to restore their lives and regain their independence. The initial intake area is a large, open room with a variety of clientele – all different ages, races, genders, and ethnicities. One of the first things I learned very quickly in this clinical rotation is that there is no stereotypical “face of homelessness.” Many people have preconceived notions about what a homeless man or woman looks like. However, just from working in this Center for only a few weeks, it is quite clear to me that this is not the case at all. Many of the clients we work with were once in very stable positions, but due to some unforeseen event, they have come to find themselves homeless. In fact, one of the staff members of Gateway was even a former client of the facility. Working with this population makes it quite obvious that all of us, no matter what our situation or background, are susceptible to homelessness.

During our clinical shifts at Gateway, we participate in a variety of different activities, such as educational sessions, art therapy, and health fairs. Some of the topics that the clients are most interested in include hypertension, diabetes, stress management, and heart health. We usually get a pretty good turn-out at each event, with a record set for our group of 39 participants in last week’s health fair on Heart Health (conducted by students Chelsea Pharr and Marcus Whitlow). The patients are always especially interested in finding out what their blood pressure is, ways to reduce these numbers, and information on healthy diets. I’ve been so impressed by how interactive and receptive the majority of them are with all of the students; they’re genuinely interested in hearing what health advice we can provide, and ways to improve their situations.

The nursing students at Gateway act in many different roles during the clinicals – student nurse (of course!), educator, counselor, and listener. I’ve found that the latter role, listener, is often one that the clients appreciate most. As our clinical instructors, Prof. Monica Donohue and Jordan Simcox, have informed us – many of these men and women are never even routinely called by their own name when living on the streets. So many of us get caught up in all of the busy work we have to do each day with school, friends, and family, and while this work is difficult and time-consuming, it’s important to think of populations that are quite worse off than us. Imagine living on the street and having most people avert their eyes whenever they walk past you, as if to ward off any type of conversation or pretend you aren’t even there. When a student, or anyone, sits down with any of these men or women and takes the time to talk to them, and especially listen, it truly seems to improve their outlook. Once again, the “art of listening,” that is often highlighted as a gift of nurses, serves to provide a connection with these clients that may have been missing in their lives for quite some time.