Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Seriousness: for nursing students.

It's not often that I'm really, really serious, but today I think I might as well go 'head and be.

I got to thinking today about what five things I could tell nursing students that would make them feel better--or at least a little less bad--about clinical rotations and classes. Here, then, with a special shout out to my fellow Texan Rob, currently kickin' ass and diggin' shallow graves (see his blog in the listing to the right!), is my list of Five Things You Must Know About Nursing School:

1. Nobody Wants You To Fail. They Just Want You Not To Be Stupid.

Even the toughest professor I had (Pediatrics, booyah!) would forgive stupidity if it was followed by a fast "Oh, duh, I wasn't thinking." Trust me. I had plenty of those moments and still graduated. The professors who seem most intent on weeding out students are those who are also excited and stimulated by people who want to be challenged.

2. The Nurses You're Paired With During Rotations Don't Hate You; They're Just Nurses.

We say things once and expect you to get them. We want you to conform your schedule to ours; after all, you're usually leaving halfway through the shift, and we're there all day. We double- and triple-check everything that you do not just because you're newbies, but because we care about you not learning something wrong. But we (well, most of us; there are some toxic weirdos out there) really like nursing students. We want you to do well, and we like teaching.

3. That Said, Someday You Will Be Just Like Us.

I used to swear that I would never be the brash, outspoken, cynical, irreverent, bitter person that I saw over and over and over during rotations. I'm not as bitter as a lot of those nurses, but everything else, I am. I have become incredibly tough-minded and efficient, with a short-term and mid-term memory that would put most Mensa members to shame. You will be that person, too--it's part of becoming a nurse. Just make sure the bitterness comes last in the list rather than first and you'll do fine.

4. Doctors Don't Hate You Either; They're Just Busy.

Learn to say it in the fewest words possible. Never apologize for paging someone, or forget to thank them for returning your call. Have the chart with you before they call back. If you must interrupt rounds, be sure it's for something major, like the patient's stopped breathing and you can't intubate them. Doctors like efficiency, and they love nurses who are one step ahead of them.

If these skills don't come immediately, don't fret. They take practice.

5. Eventually, This Will Be Over.

Everybody has a breakdown in nursing school, and everybody has a crisis when they're a new nurse. It's okay. You're riding the steepest learning curve known to man. In time, it'll smooth out and you'll feel finally like you're swimming with the current rather than fighting to stay afloat.

In the meantime: sharp pencils, extra pens, and notecards never hurt anybody. And have some fun learning this stuff, okay? It's actually really, really cool to be a nurse.


Sean said...

Definitely a good list!

Courtney Ann said...

Thank you for writing this post. You've addressed several of the issues that I am facing, as a newbie nursing student!

Cat said...

Awesome post! Thanks for the encouragement/words of wisdom.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post! I'm a new nursing student, and your encouragement and advice will definitely help me feel a little better.


LivingDeadNurse said...

thanks as a nurse and a student nurse it makes me feel a little better lol

Alpine, R.N. said...

some days it seems none of this helps...and you just need wine.

These days seem more frequent when our clinical group is in a terrible hospital. I fear this semester!!

d. said...

I love this post - full of truth.

But I must quibble on one thing.

I've been a nurse for less than one year. However, I'm not new to the world of work. I have four degrees and spent 16 years in two other careers. And I have NEVER been spoken to by colleagues and professionals in the way I am spoken to by some doctors.

It is shocking.

To be clear: Not all doctors are like that. This certainly did not happen where I went to nursing school (major teaching hospital) but it happens where I work, a hospital in a small-to-mid-size town in a rural, mid-west area.

I realize that because I'm new and not 100% aware of everything, I can be frustrating. But, I'm new. I'm learning. And didn't these doctors have to learn too? Or where they born "geniuses?"

But what has disturbed me the most is the number of nurses, long-time nurses, who seem to think that the doctors' behavior is normal and acceptable.

I had a nurse with 30 years of experience tell me the other day, "Sometimes, it is our job as nurses to serve as a release valve for the doctors."

I couldn't believe my ears.

Maybe these women who have never had any professional experiences outside of nursing don't know this but that type of behavior is not tolerated anywhere else.

Why can't we be colleagues? I mean, aren't we on the same team? It's true, they don't "hate" us but it is utterly apparent that they think most if not all nurses are stupid, uneducated, and lazy.

It would never occur to me to speak to our housekeeping staff or techs or secretaries with anything other than respect and gratitude.

What makes so many of these doctors think that they are entitled to treat others as lesser beings?

I truly did not feel this way a year ago. It has been by far the biggest shock and hurdle that I have encountered as a new nurse. Thankfully, I love what I do and am able to put this problem "in a box" and keep it in perspective.

But it does affect patient care. How can it not?

Susan said...

I agree with d. above. As a new nurse (about three months into my new job), I am shocked at what the doctors get away with saying to nurses. I sound like an idiot because I haven't been doing this for very long...sorry! When I ask you to repeat your order, it's so I don't get it mixed up. Everyone's busy, so when it takes you half an hour to return my phone call, don't get upset when I'm not standing next to the phone waiting for you to call back.

I'm in a small community hospital, and the respect that doctors have for nurses is very different (and much less!) than the large teaching hospital where I did my clinicals. I simply don't understand how it is acceptable to be yelled at in a professional relationship. You can criticize me in a respectable manner, but yelling and swearing is NOT appropriate. I've lost much respect for doctors in the past three months.

Abilene Rob said...

You are completely awesome; thank you very much for this!

I'm gonna print it out and put it on the cover of my binder with paragraph 5's headline in 24-point bold type.

Heidi said...

I realize this is all a couple days old now, but I wanted to say that I've also noticed a difference between small community hospitals and big teaching hospitals when it comes to doctor-nurse relationships. At the big teaching hospital where I went to school and now work, I have (so far) seen nothing but respect and friendliness between the physicians and the nurses. But at the small community hospital where I worked for my first 5 months as a nurse, it was a little more what I'd call "old school" -- lots of yelling, lots of snarking, lots of condescension, getting hung up on, doctors marching up to the desk and yelling "WHO'S THE NURSE FOR MR. SMITH??!!" when they wanted to find one of us, etc.
I wonder if this is a difference that holds largely across the board?

firmlyplantedinjello said...

I just started nursing school, and really appreciate this list. Everything is so daunting and exciting all at the same time!

Anonymous said...

Great list...Excuse me while I withdraw from nursing school :)

signed: Tongue firmly in cheek***

Mr. C. said...

THIS is why I feature your blog on the blog for our class. So my students can see that it is not just they who feel this way. Maybe, they also understand why I can be hard on them, and push them until they almost break....maybe