Welcome to the last semester of nursing school! I never thought I would actually make it to this point. I’ve never been the type of person that had a lot of confidence in what I was doing. The last two years of my journey in nursing school have completely changed that. I’m no longer the student who was frightened by sophomore midterms where we had to master putting on a contact precaution gown. I probably put on 100 of these a week now. At the beginning of this spring semester my class began getting our preceptorship assignments. We were all sporadically finding out where we would be for the next two months where we would transform from student nurses into baby nurses.
The first six weeks of our final semester were spent speeding through our last three classes. Policy, Leadership and Quality, and Senior Seminar. At around the fifth week, we spent a class period of Senior Seminar registering for the NCLEX. I think this moment was where it finally hit a lot of us that this was it. We are in the final stretch. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and that tunnel leads to our licensure. A few of us already have jobs lined up at this point as well. I applied and interviewed for several positions over the first two weeks of winter break and I accepted a position on a surgical-orthopedic unit in the same hospital as my preceptorship placement.
The last week of classes came and went so quickly that I barely even noticed that is was my last true week of undergrad classes until after I drove home for my internship. To me, this is the best part about our internships. We were able to request placement wherever we wanted. For many of us, that was wherever we called home. We gave our professor our top three choices last spring and around November of this past fall was when we were being assigned facilities and units. I chose three hospitals back home in Hampton Roads/Williamsburg area where I’m from. Some of us are placed in Northern Virginia and some decided to stay in Farmville, while the rest of us are scattered around the state.
I had two days to move a majority of my belongings from my house in Farmville back to my home in Williamsburg. My first shift was first thing Monday morning. I was lucky enough to already know my preceptor. When I interviewed for several positions in this hospital back in December, I was offered shadow opportunities on each unit. When I got around to the unit I was placed on for my internship, I shadowed with a nurse named Megan. She mentioned during that time that she was taking a preceptor course very soon. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if she were my preceptor?” Lo and behold, she is! I got an email telling me who she was about two weeks before starting and I was so happy to see her name. We got along very well when I shadowed her in December so it made going into the two months a lot less nerve racking.
I have worked 10 shifts so far. We are assigned 270 hours, which works out to around 23 shifts total. I am enjoying every minute of it. I’m sure to some people this internship was very scary to think about. I will admit I was slightly nervous, however, I was eager to start my journey. These last three weeks have afforded my so many more opportunities to use my skills and nursing knowledge than I have been afforded in past clinical experiences, which is understandable considering there aren’t 10 other students on the floor at the same time and I’m there for a far longer amount of time.
Starting off on your own for the first time without a professor to guide you when you need help is daunting. The one thing I think that has prepared me the most for being on my own was participating in a nurse externship last summer. During that time I was able to be on the floor working alongside the nurses without being under the name of my school. There were no assignments and no professors. This gave me the perfect opportunity to use what they had spent the last 3 years teaching me to good use without being fully on my own because I still didn’t have a license.
This preceptorship/internship has been so incredible up to this point. It’s almost like being a fly on the wall at some points. I’m watching the day go by and observing how each nurse does her work. I’ve been able to observe how this unit functions and I’ve also really gotten to know a lot of the people who work on the unit and their relationships with each other. As far as the work I’m completing with my preceptor, we used the first two shifts as observation days. I followed her as she performed her tasks through the day. After that, I took on one of her patients. I took report from the night shift nurse and studied the patient’s chart. Since I don’t have access to the medication rooms and I can’t chart without having my preceptor co-sign my charting, she went with me everywhere and I used her computer to chart on the patient. When medications are due, my preceptor logs into the Omnicell and allows me to pull medications with her watching behind. I’m perfectly okay with being watched, considering I am working under her license and the last thing I want to do is cause issues for her. At this point, I’m assessing and monitoring all of her patients and administering medications for all of them as well. I’m also performing skills like starting IVs, getting blood draws, and inserting catheters. Another nurse also took the time to explain heart rhythms to me in a way that feels like it has finally clicked which has helped when I practice reading telemetry strips.
Honestly, I’m really soaking in as much as I can with this preceptorship because I’m treating it like my pre-orientation to working there. Granted, I won’t be on the same unit, but the protocols and expectations are the same so it’s as if I’m getting a sneak peek into my actual job that I’ll start later this summer after I pass my NCLEX. I hope all of my classmates are enjoying their placements as much as I am. I know a lot of nurses I’ve talked to have had very different experiences with their preceptorships when they speak to me about them so I’m very lucky to have one that works so well for me.
Sara Kendle, Class of 2018