Friends of Linn-Benton, Lebanon, and those reading from beyond, I hope you’ve had a nice summer. On September 24, my fellow nursing students and I begin our second year of nursing school at Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC).
Our program breaks for the summer. So, we students have spent the season with family and friends, many of us working at local healthcare facilities, and of course having some fun. My summer highlight was backpacking in Colorado, which I specifically wanted to mention because I bumped into a Lebanon medical student deep in the Rocky mountains — he literally goes to school in the building next door! The connection reminded me of Lebanon, healthcare, and nursing school.
Though spring term has come and gone, it laid the foundation for our second and final year of the LBCC nursing program.
Academically, spring term was a bear. We completed two pharmacology classes and learned a multitude of drugs. Students completed a math competency exam, demonstrating standard and metric conversions, correct withdraw and dilution of medications, and calculation of therapeutic dosages. The sheer number of drugs and associated information was challenging but critical to learn. By the end of the year, I had completed over 130 “drug cards,” which are detailed summaries of medications.
The nursing concepts covered during spring term were the most complex yet — obstetrics, cardiac, and neurological systems each required seven to nine hours of lecture (plus, umpteen hours of extra studying). Generally, most of our first-year nursing lectures concentrated on treating diseases that are stable and slower-moving, such as chronic respiratory issues and diabetes; in our second year, we’ll focus more on managing acute and time-sensitive medical diseases. What I most enjoyed about our cardiac and neurological lectures, however, was that we started to shift towards higher-acuity, emergent types of care. For example, we learned to identify stroke symptoms and carry out urgent nursing actions within a specific timeline.
In the spring, we spent a week on campus practicing hands-on skills with the medical mannequins as patients. Students cleaned and changed dressings of tracheostomies and central lines, a type of intravenous line (IVs) that is placed into larger veins and requires special care; both skills involved careful attention to detail and use of “sterile technique” to prevent infection.
In fact, spring term was full of education around IVs. We learned and demonstrated how to prepare and run IV fluids, as well as give medications intravenously. Proficiency with IVs is an essential nursing skill and will represent a cornerstone of our education this coming year.
Simulation — better known as “sim” — was a distinct and engaging experience. The campus sim lab is high-tech: It’s outfitted with the contemporary hospital equipment and high-fidelity medical mannequins, which look, feel, and move a lot like humans. In the lab, we performed the skills learned the week before, but with the commitment to do everything 100 percent correctly, as if we were working with real patients in the hospital.
One unusual simulation module, called “Hearing Voices,” had students listen to recordings that mimic audio hallucinations, with the goal of increasing students’ empathy for and understanding of mental health treatment. Another noteworthy sim experience included a mannequin experiencing an emergency cardiac event. Last, but certainly not least, a truly unique scenario involved a mannequin-mother laboring and giving birth to mannequin-baby.
One of my favorite experiences from last term was the Standardized Patient Encounter, which took place at the medical school in Lebanon. For this process, nursing students entered a clinical room, met our standardized patient — a trained medical actor, acting out a specific disease — and assessed the patient. The experience was recorded on video, and afterwards all students watched a recording of their performance and received feedback to improve their nursing process.
My clinical placement for spring term was at the Corvallis hospital in the medical-surgical unit, which typically receives stabilized patients from the emergency and surgical departments. As always, hospital clinicals tested my nursing knowledge and skills, helping me make important connections between what I’ve learned academically and the real-world nursing care I’ve participated in. By the end of spring term, I was able to independently administer oral medications and take care of two patients each day, definite personal progress and milestones in my student nursing journey.
I was fortunate to spend one day in the labor and delivery, mother and baby unit at Corvallis hospital. I helped care for a mother in labor. Like mortar applied to bricks, the experience solidified for me all the relevant nursing assessments, interventions, and considerations I had learned in the classroom setting. In my very next day of clinicals, I assisted a nurse with post-mortem care. The nursing field certainly puts you in touch with humanity; it’s a duty and privilege to care for patients.
My first year of nursing school was demanding and empowering, stressful and exciting. Some days felt incredibly long, yet the weeks and months flew by. In June, I helped out at the LBCC Nursing Class of 2018’s convocation ceremony, witnessing the next wave of nursing graduates strike out on their own professional nursing paths. We students work hard, knowing that success in life is never guaranteed. I’m optimistic that, if I fully dedicate and apply myself this upcoming school year, I — along with my classmates — will earn the honor of becoming an LBCC Nursing Graduate in June 2019.