With the second term of nursing school starting at Linn Benton Community College, I’ve had time to reflect on my first term: It was a whirlwind of educational and clinical experiences.
My classmates and I were absorbed in lectures, exams, trainings, simulations, tours, and rotations at local hospitals – not to mention countless hours spent studying. It felt like total immersion into a new world of student nursing, one with new jargon, customs, and expectations.
Last term, every Monday morning, bright and early, we hit the ground running with pharmacology lectures. We learned about common medications, how medications affect the body, what to monitor patients for, and how to calculate and convert doses between standard and metric. On Mondays and Tuesdays, we also attended lectures on nursing theory, which focused on different concepts such as: communication, culture, infection control, mental health, pain management, oxygenation, and fluids and electrolytes (a surprisingly complex topic).
Nursing is a hands-on profession, and we certainly put our hands to work. For weeks, we practiced head-to-toe physical assessments on fellow students – and most of us logged extra practice at home on our friends and family members (thanks, Dad!). During skills week, we trained in the school’s nursing labs on how to apply oxygen, take an EKG, remove a urinary catheter (from medical mannequins), maintain surgical asepsis, and give medications using sound nursing judgment.
When I look back on the term, simulation week stands out. At the new LBCC healthcare campus in Lebanon, the simulation lab has rooms designed and equipped to mimic hospital rooms. The patient in the sim lab, however, is a medical mannequin that has a pulse, heartbeat, respirations, and blood pressure. The mannequin is controlled by a nursing instructor who sits outside the room, behind a one-way mirror, observing the students and directing the mannequin’s verbal responses and physiological changes. It all feels incredibly real – and is some fascinating technology to see in action.
Clinical rotations placed students in hospitals in Lebanon, Albany and Corvallis. This was the real deal: Caring for people with complex physical problems. It also offered a glimpse into what the future might look like for many nursing students who will go on to work in a hospital someday.
All first-year students were assigned to medical-surgical units, which treat patients who have transitioned out of surgery and others with acute illnesses. I was on rotation at the Corvallis hospital.
As it turned out, hospital clinicals were my favorite part of the term. Each shift, I would collaborate with a registered nurse to care for a patient (who had consented to student participation). As a student nurse, the activities were limited, but I was able to perform physical assessments, take vitals and document on the patient’s chart.
On my last day at the hospital, I even administered one medication — a detailed task that requires supervision from an LBCC instructor, and is something of a milestone for nursing students. My time at the hospital helped me better understand the rationale behind different nursing assessments and actions, as well as how to prioritize tasks in a busy setting.
Nursing school is challenging, but rewarding. With every new skill, lecture, and clinical experience, I feel myself growing as a nursing student; I’m just a little bit better at caring for people than I was the day before. My fellow classmates and I are the LBCC nursing class of 2019. We still have a long ways to go, but we’re making real progress on our journey towards becoming registered nurses.