I have 14 students. As a part-time job between finishing my masters and getting a job as an NP I decided to teach. I take seven first semester nursing students into the hospital for eight hours, two days a week. For most it's their first experience in a hospital. It's been a little crazy. It has been full of joy.
I did it for three reasons. Mainly because I needed the money, but also because I loved precepting students when I worked in the ICU...watching them "get it" for the first time and understand what it's like to be responsible for another living body, a living soul. It's remarkable. I also did it because I had a terrible clinical instructor in nursing school. For some unknown reason she hated me. She hated me and I wasn't used to it. I had always been the teachers-pet-my-parents-are-in-education kinda person. My how that has changed.
Regardless of my reasons I am glad I took the job. It has not all been easy. There are the slackers and the strugglers and the know-it-alls but when I look at the whole experience I have been so blessed. I often forget to write about the joy in my life because I don't need to process it like I do the sorrow and anger. However, I'm learning to take more time to process everything these days.
A few weeks ago a patient allowed me to perform a full head-to-toe assessment on him while my students watched. He began to tell us his story and I tried not to look at my watch. He told us about his job with the CDC and how he's worked all over the world...I listened a little bit. He told us that healthcare providers are among the most important people on the planet. He told us that he could not fully express his appreciation for nurses.
I was beginning to feel like I was in a Johnson & Johnson commercial when I noticed that at least three of the seven students in the room were in tears. They were so moved by his affirmation that they were doing the right thing.
I had forgotten that part. How terrifying it is to stick someone with a needle for the first time. To inflict pain upon a body even for a good cause. To see someone naked....their naked broken body and often their naked soul. To be the one that is with them for twelve hours while they walk for the first time on a new joint or experience what it's like to function with the tumor gone. To listen when a patient knows what they want to say but is unable to express it because of the blood sitting in their brain. I had forgotten what it's like to be that person and the whole time wonder if you're supposed to be. If you're cut out for it.
My students are probably most afraid of waking patients up when they are sleeping and causing pain. These are two things that I don't even think about anymore. Almost never. At first it was adorable and now it's just annoying. But I'm realizing that even eight weeks later my students are still trying to figure out how they are supposed to relate. As a friend, as a servant, as an enforcer, as helper, as a nurse. It took me at least two years to get the patient/nurse relationship down. To be in charge and yet always be the most sympathetic person in the room. To negotiate the things the patient doesn't want to do and yet allow her to feel as if you are her biggest fan.
I probably tell my students ten times a day that patients are just people. Just talk to them like they are people! They aren't animals in a zoo. They are a lot more rationale than you think. Unless of course they are 85 and demented and think that you're trying to kill them...but they'll learn that communication too.
It's been an incredible job to read my students' journals each week and see them progress from questioning what in the world they were thinking entering nursing to now being confident that they are right where they are supposed to be. Affirmation is such a vital part of moving forward. Their patients, their peers and hopefully their clinical instructor have helped them to see what it's like to work among the nakedness.
I know it's cliche to say that my students have taught me more than I have taught them...it's probably not even true. But they have reminded me what it's like to care in a different way. To be touched by a patient's....a person's thankfulness and to be moved by their pain. To take time to listen without looking at your watch. To approach their nakedness with a heart that still feels something.
Nurses need to be reminded of these things often. Maybe we all do. I'm glad my students have reminded me.