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.