Why I’ll Always Be a Student

After I graduated in 2020, a friend once asked me if I would change my blog’s name since I was no longer a nursing student. I explained that while I’m no longer in nursing school, nurses must constantly learn and seek information like students. Nurses must update their license by taking continuing education courses and obtain or maintain certifications by regularly taking classes. Nursing processes or protocols are derived from evidence-based practices, which result from studies and research. With innovation and advancing technology, employers will require additional training or buy new equipment or software that nurses must learn how to use. There will always be something new to learn as a nurse.

I’m grateful for the classes during my orientation and training in my new grad program. My employer is taking the time to teach me and build my skills and knowledge by offering classes to supplement my preceptorship. My orientation classes are online (asynchronous or synchronous) or in-person. Often, the live, synchronous classes require pre-work before meeting with the instructor. However, we had a real-time virtual simulation earlier this week without pre-work requirements. There was no homework, but my takeaway from simulation this week is that I should review some of our policies or algorithms for specific situations. Taking classes does not make me an expert, and I’d rather be familiar with equipment and policies than floundering and doubting my actions in actual emergencies.

Overall, my new grad program classes are a good review and make me feel more confident and prepared as I shift and work with patients. Another resident in my cohort joked that we didn’t have to go to nursing school because our program taught everything we need to know as nurses! Regardless, I appreciate the review and the thoroughness of my training.

As healthcare providers, it is essential to remain curious and acknowledge we do not know everything. No one is perfect, and there is something to learn from mistakes and failures. Being a student implies a commitment to learning and continued growth and development. May we all be open to discovery and education regardless of one’s industry, profession, or age. Take on the mind of a student!

Photo by Samson Katt on Pexels.com

Juggling My Nurse Residency Schedule

If you wondered what my calendar is like as a new graduate RN in a hospital residency program, this post provides some insight. I have classroom and skill sessions (didactic content) interspersed between 12-hour shifts at my hospital with a preceptor. The classroom sessions are more frequent at the beginning of the one-year residency. After the first month, there are fewer classroom and skills sessions and more shifts with a preceptor. Depending on the unit, a resident may have more or less didactic learning and preceptor shifts than other residents. For example, residents in the Emergency Department require more hours of didactic content and preceptor shifts than Med-Surge residents. I have 28 preceptor shifts for my particular unit and about 36 hours scheduled for didactic and hands-on skills sessions. The extensive orientation and formal training program are what attracted me to my hospital.

After the first 1.5 months, it seems the didactic portions take place about once or twice a month. My hospital hired me to work the night shift, and my preceptor works the night shift. During preceptorship, the resident’s schedule matches that of their preceptor. Some of my cohort-mates were hired into the night shift but have had day shift preceptors. It has been a new challenge for me, balancing working the night shift while trying to sleep and meet other obligations during the day, like spending time with my family or attending my daytime didactic sessions.

A pic of me during my online classroom session from home this past Tuesday. Pre-pandemic, I’m told classroom sessions were in-person. I attend online classroom in my daughter’s room while my husband works in another part of the house (still working from home, thanks to the pandemic). Even though I’m not at the hospital, I still have to wear scrubs and prepare to be on camera for my online sessions! And of course, gotta have my coffee – looks like I’m due for a refill!

As a resident still on preceptorship, we’re not allowed to work overtime or during the holidays. This past week, I was unable to work Monday due to the Memorial Day holiday. However, I had work scheduled Tuesday through Friday morning and Saturday through Tuesday in addition to homework and exams I needed to finish. Sprinkled in my calendar are preschool pickups or drop-offs, grocery shopping, family outings, and other life events like my dear friend’s funeral. My schedule was as follows:

Sunday: complete homework/assignments
Monday: Memorial Day holiday (not allowed to work)
Tuesday: 8a-2:30p daytime classroom session (online)
Wednesday: [7p-7:30a] night shift with preceptor A
Thursday: night shift with preceptor A
Friday: 10a – funeral/celebration of life mass
Saturday: 4a-8a phlebotomy shadow
Sunday: night shift with preceptor B
Monday: night shift with preceptor B
Tuesday: night shift with preceptor B

I mentioned my friend’s memorial mass to my preceptor Wednesday night only to ask where I might be able to shower or nap since the mass was at a church just down the street from the hospital. It wouldn’t be worth it to go home after my Thursday night shift and turn back around during rush hour traffic to attend my friend’s mass. After hearing my schedule, she offered to have me take Thursday off and reschedule that shift with her for another time. Initially, I refused, thinking it would reflect poorly on me not to work my total hours. Plus, I like my preceptor and did not want to reduce my shifts with her in the “shadowing” stage of my preceptorship. Yet, altering the rest of my schedule was impossible. I was determined to attend my friend’s mass in person Friday morning. I could not reschedule my Saturday shift since work already rescheduled it from the prior month due to the phlebotomist’s schedule. If I wanted to work the week of June 6, preceptor B was the only one available since my regular preceptor (preceptor A) would be on vacation that week for a family wedding.

As I sat there re-considering my preceptor’s offer to reschedule our Thursday shift together, I realized her offer was grace not often granted. As a resident tied to my preceptor, I’m not really on the schedule yet. My assigned preceptor is the only nurse listed on the roster for our shifts. Once I start working independently, it won’t be easy to take time off, especially since I’m only in my first year and have little paid time off accrued. I knew if I worked Thursday night, I would be drained and unable to rest Friday morning, which would add to me being an emotional wreck during my friend’s memorial mass. I returned to my preceptor and let her know I would take her up on her offer. I took Thursday night off.

I was grateful to be able to be present at my friend’s celebration of life mass. It was a blessing to be surrounded by those who loved her on Friday and remember her together. Unfortunately, not all those who lost loved ones during the pandemic had such an opportunity to gather in person. I was lucky that the pandemic death rate has slowed in our area, and churches loosened restrictions.

Part of the reason I became a nurse was to spend more time with my loved ones. I already worked 10-12 hour days in my previous job, but I worked five days a week. This past week’s events reminded me of how much I valued my loved ones and allowed me to create space for them and my well-being. I appreciate being a nurse, but I do not want work to come before loved ones (or my health) in my life.

It is Sunday afternoon. I need to be sleeping for my first three-sequential-night-shifts block, but I cannot sleep because I slept last night and have difficulty sleeping again during the day after a whole night’s sleep. I’m still figuring out a sleep schedule that works with my body. I’ve tried laying in bed, meditation, and prayer so I’ve given up sleeping today and figured I’d finish this blog post. I have never worked three shifts in a row before, let alone with the assigned preceptor (preceptor B) for the next three nights. I am nervous but excited to get a better sense of what it will be like to work three shifts per week as an independent nurse.

Wish me luck!

Never Give Up: My New Grad RN Job Search Experience

I am happy to announce that I got a job as an acute care RN and started my new grad program at a hospital! I did not post last week because I was in orientation all week and transitioning into my new role. I am thrilled to be part of my program since it is at my top choice hospital and provides comprehensive training. While I’m excited to share my good news, I wanted to discuss what led me to land a spot in my new grad program. I share my job search experience to offer encouragement, hope, and advice to future new grad nurses.

I applied to the same program after getting rejected the first time.

I got rejected the first time I applied to my program last Fall. The hospital did not even invite me to interview. I applied a second time to the new grad program in January, interviewed in March, and got an offer two weeks later. Some differences when I applied the second time:

  • I had gained several months of experience as an RN (COVID tester),
  • I had earned additional certifications to add to my resume,
  • I finally knew a couple of nurses working in the hospital, one of whom put in a good word for me to their manager,
  • I tweaked my application based on what I heard about the need and availability of positions; I emphasized wanting acute care experience instead of working in a specialty.

I applied to 74 RN positions before I got my offer at my hospital.

The new grad program at my hospital was the very first RN job to which I applied. I continued to apply to other positions, but I was narrow in my search. I focused on the specialty I was interested in and expressed this in my new grad program personal statements. After months of submitting applications and not getting any interviews, I expanded my job search to include Med-Surge/Telemetry positions. I finally landed my first acute care RN interview in a Telemetry unit. In the interview, I expressed strong interest in eventually transferring to a specialty unit within five years. I learned they were interested in me but concerned I wouldn’t be happy in the department and abandon them. They did not give me the job offer. 

As my search continued, I learned not to narrow my focus to a specialty unit when I had no hospital experience. Once hired, it’s much easier to switch positions internally than to be an external hire. I still have a strong interest in the specialty unit. However, my priority as a new grad is to gain acute care experience and develop my nursing practice in a supportive and safe environment. In my new grad program, no specialty unit positions were available where I initially focused my search. Still, I applied and was determined to have a spot in the program because of the training and development I knew it would provide me. So far, I’ve been happy with my choice and have been learning a lot!

I worked as a COVID tester and vaccinator while applying to new grad programs and acute RN positions.

One of the 74 positions I applied for was a contract RN supporting studios as a COVID tester. Thankfully, I got the job. It was a great way to get experience working as an RN while still having enough flexibility to apply to hospital RN jobs and interview. More recruiters were interested in me once I became a working RN. Also, after working several months, my employer wrote a lovely reference letter for me that I submitted with my applications and included in my portfolio. A handful of positions required an employer reference. It was nice to be able to provide an employer reference from the healthcare industry.

I interviewed at five hospitals before I accepted an offer to join my program.

I applied to many acute care RN positions, with numerous ones at the same hospital or same unit but day and night shift positions. After applying, working, and networking, I eventually got invited to interview for some hospitals. However, most of these interviews took place only because I knew someone internally who advocated for me. 

After unsuccessfully job searching on my own, I began to reach out to friends and family members in healthcare to let them know I was searching for hospital RN jobs. I also spoke with other nurses I met in my per diem job about their hospital jobs or connections. One of my coworkers got me an interview at her hospital! Most of the hospital interviews I had were because someone I knew convinced a hiring manager or director to interview me. 

If you don’t know someone, it’s not impossible to get an interview. One of the interviews I had where I knew no one in the organization resulted in an on-the-spot job offer. I eventually turned it down and accepted a spot in my current new grad program instead.

I persevered after rejections or no feedback.

I applied to many programs or positions where I received no feedback for months or not at all – I would be listed as “under consideration” several months after applying. The first time I applied to my program in September, I didn’t receive my official rejection until November, months after my application submission. I tried contacting and leaving messages with some of the recruiters for other job submissions but would still get little to no response.

It was frustrating to hear people’s surprise at my difficulty finding a job: “Isn’t there a shortage of nurses? We’re in a pandemic – don’t they need nurses?” I had to explain that organizations need experienced nurses, and I had no experience. 

My lack of experience working in healthcare was a disadvantage for me. I knew many of my classmates that quickly found jobs had prior healthcare experience working as surgical technicians, CNAs, Patient Care Associates (PCA), EMTs, or nurse extenders. The majority of my cohort completed their preceptorships at a hospital that used them after completing their clinical hours as nurse extenders or surge nurses in preparation for and during the COVID surge. I’ve learned if you can work in healthcare before you graduate, it’s much easier to find a job as a nurse.

Additionally, new grad programs were difficult to find or were highly competitive since many had been canceled or delayed. While I was disappointed at not getting accepted into programs earlier or not having acute care RN offers to consider sooner, I wonder if the rejections were God’s grace saving me from starting a job amid a COVID surge. A former classmate shared she cried before most of her shifts due to the deaths she witnessed. Another friend shared that many new grads in her unit were pulled off orientation less than two weeks into their training to help with the surge. In various ways, new and veteran nurses that worked during the surges were traumatized by the pandemic. If I had started working in a hospital sooner, COVID would have impacted my nursing experience in a much different way. In retrospect, I’m thankful for the rejections and disappointments in my life that led me to where I am today.

Never Give Up

I did not envision starting a job in a hospital almost nine months after graduating from nursing school. However, I trusted in my skills and abilities and knew that I had something to offer and had to keep trying. I was unsure of when or where I would work as an acute care RN, but I was confident in eventually getting a job somewhere and remained passionate about wanting to help people. 

If you have a calling, go for it. If it’s truly your calling, opportunities will present themselves to you to lead you to your vocation, no matter how much you try to ignore it. The road may not be easy and may come with disappointments and rejections, but it might be what you need to direct you to your ultimate calling. Good luck on your journey!

Spring Blooms and Cultivation

Last Tuesday, I had the good fortune of spending time with a good friend from Nursing School and enjoying some Spring blooms. We went to an outdoor cafe and visited a botanic garden afterward. If we had not chosen Nursing as our second career, we would have never met, nor would we be able to take a mid-week lunch across town with our previous Monday – Friday jobs. We also likely would not be fully vaccinated at this point to spend time together comfortably. Our mini outing is one of the many reasons I am happy to have chosen Nursing as a career.

My Rainbow Latte I had during brunch with my friend – I enjoyed all the colors of the day!

I took photos of the colorful flowers I saw in the garden, and I noticed some had not yet fully bloomed – they were still buds. It reminded me of us and our careers since we are only at the beginning of our nursing careers. We are both working nurses (COVID testers) but start our new grad programs at our respective hospitals in a couple of weeks.

I may feel like a “late in life bloomer,” but I look forward to what’s to come. It took patience and persistence to get where I am. I continue to be cultivated and hope I have chosen an environment that allows me to grow and thrive. I had multiple opportunities to work at different hospitals – I accepted the offer at the hospital that didn’t offer the highest pay but had the most extensive training program. I think a general life lesson I’ve learned is: Nourish yourself whenever possible and try placing yourself in conditions that enable you to develop and “bloom.”

After the lovely garden outing with my friend, I came across an old journal I had. In it, I wrote, “What friendships or relationships are restorative or allow you to grow? Cultivate those.” My “nursing school friend” has become one of my best friends. It’s hard to imagine my surviving my nursing school journey (or brutal new grad job search) without her encouragement, support, or commiseration. She is also a mom and knows what it’s like to balance family with work or school. Nursing school is over, but our friendship is not. Our friendship continues to thrive. I don’t think it’s an accident that I came across this quote this week. I think it’s an affirmation and reminder of how lucky I am to have my friend and others like her in my life. May it serve as an affirmation for you as well.

Enjoy this Spring season! Cultivate the relationships in your life, whether it be professional or personal, that nourish you and allow you to grow. Take time to appreciate the blooms and what’s about to blossom in your own life!

Life is hard, but you can do hard things

I was inspired by a quote I saw in a post about life not being easy:

“Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard.

Obesity is hard. Being fit is hard. Choose your hard.

Being in debt is hard. Being financially disciplined is hard. Choose your hard.

Communication is hard. Not communicating is hard. Choose your hard.

Life will never be easy. It will always be hard. But we can choose our hard. Choose wisely”

-Author unknown

I don’t know who authored the original quote, but I thought I’d add my own spin on it.

Also, I want to tell you something I tell my daughter (and myself) : “YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS”.

I am my daughter’s first and foremost female role model. How she sees me react to struggle or hard things makes an impression on her.  I am not perfect. I struggle and often make mistakes. However, I want my daughter to see me handle difficult things and be resilient. She needs to know it’s okay to try again after failure or to continuously attempt hard things. The best way to teach her that is through my own actions.

Life isn’t easy. We don’t always have easy or favorable choices. We often have hard choices. But our resiliency and how we handle hard choices is what shapes us and makes us stronger. Know you’re not alone.

Why I Blog – Reflections of a Mature/Mom Student Nurse

It is surreal how my and my daughter’s lives have been paralleling one another throughout my nursing journey. When I applied to colleges to complete my nursing pre-requisites, I also submitted preschool applications for my daughter. I was shocked to learn that preschool wait-list applications cost more than college applications. Some preschool application fees/deposits were 1.5 times more than the application fee for our local community college! This week, I had a significant job interview with my top choice employer. In the same afternoon, I received a call to schedule an interview for my daughter for a language-immersion kindergarten. We’re both interviewing for something that sets the foundation and determines how our lives will be for years to come. If I get into my desired new graduate nursing program, I can see myself staying at that hospital until retirement. If she gets into this language-immersion program and accepts the spot, she commits to attending the school for the next six years. 

Most of my other nursing school classmates did not have to contend with commandeering significant change in one’s own life while being responsible for someone else’s life and wellbeing or a family budget. You may be the only parent in your class. Or, like me, you may be older than every student in your classrooms. You are not alone. Other people have been in that situation before or are in that situation currently, perhaps at another school. I write this blog because I want you to know it’s possible to earn a college degree later in life, even with kids. It’s possible to start over with a nursing career, even after a lifetime in another role. Everyone has their unique struggles or responsibilities, and while you might feel alone in yours, know that you are not. There are registered nurses who have had to repeat a semester or more of nursing school. Some nurses I know were pregnant or dealing with a loved one’s death during nursing school. I’ve read stories of students getting cancer treatments during their nursing program or single moms balancing working and nursing school with their family life. If nursing is your calling, you will find your way, as countless others have. 

Your career path may not look like the paths of other nurses or nursing students you currently know. Your burdens or responsibilities may not be the same as your classmates’. For instance, my classmates did not struggle to potty-train their child while studying for finals, as I did. However, I assure you that there is a nurse with a story similar to yours. Whether you are in nursing school or already a nurse, I invite you to share your story. There’s likely something in your nursing journey that others may find relatable or inspiring. A future nurse might need your encouragement.

I blog for the possibility that someone is encouraged by my story. I blog for the person doubting their abilities or overwhelmed by their circumstances. I blog for mature students who might recognize themselves in me. You don’t have to be a blogger to share your story. Other ideas include:

  • Accepting career day invitations for schools.
  • Being a guest speaker for after-school programs.
  • Joining your alumni association mentorship program as a mentor or recruiter for future students.
  • Providing helpful or encouraging feedback to communities for nursing students online.

Thank you for reading my blog and allowing me to share. I find when we share ourselves, it permits others to do the same. Good luck on your journey – and share your story!

COVID Mass Vaccination Clinic and Lenten Encouragment

This past week was a little whirlwind filled with holidays, starting with Valentine’s Day, followed by President’s Day, Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday, then Ash Wednesday. I worked the early part of this week at a mass vaccination site in LA County. It was the first time I had the opportunity to administer the COVID vaccine in my job. I was glad to be of service to so many in the community and happy to network with so many nurses.

It was tiring to be out in the sun, on my feet all day, in a stadium parking lot to either observe patients or give vaccines. Despite my achy feet and slight sunburn, I was grateful to contribute to the vaccine clinic. Patients were appreciative to get the vaccine. Amidst the 4,000 people we were vaccinating each day, I saw an old co-worker and friend I hadn’t seen in 3 years since I left my previous career to become a nurse. I took it as assurance that I am where I’m supposed to be, even if I’m still searching for a new grad hospital position. I also met experienced nurses who gave me suggestions and offered help in getting me a hospital job. I took that as a blessing and another sign that I’m where I’m supposed to be. The other nurses and I worked as a team and got to know one another. While supporting the community and each other, we enjoyed the perks of beautiful weather, stadium views over our lunch breaks, and food provided by the event organizers.

Fat Tuesday lunchtime views with my complimentary cheeseburger.

After a long day of work on Wednesday, I attended Ash Wednesday mass virtually at home. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season. In his homily, my pastor exclaimed, “Don’t let a good pandemic go to waste!” It’s a strange thing to say, perhaps, but it offers guidance. Now, more than ever, we can slow down and not lead such hectic lives. I don’t have the excuses I once had about my pre-pandemic schedule being busy. My family and I can’t go to parties, attractions, museums, restaurants, bars, or friend’s homes like we used to. Instead of running around with our schedules filled, we can choose to spend time in meditation, prayer, or reflection. We can (re-)connect with others and build relationships using the technology available to us. (I’ve recently discovered the app, Marco Polo, and highly recommend it for connecting with others via private video messages)! I want to use this pandemic and Lent to re-focus on my spiritual well-being.

One of the things I’ve decided to do for Lent is to meditate or reflect on scripture each day. Luckily, my church is offering a daily devotional for parishioners to use during Lent, “Embrace This Holy Season” by Joseph Sica. I have enjoyed it so far.

On one of the days I had off from the vaccine clinic, I had my car serviced. I decided to pack my Med-Surge review book with me along with my devotional and bible. (I’m reviewing the Med-Surge book to prepare for an upcoming interview). The bible and “Embrace This Holy Season” were for me to complete my daily Lenten commitment. While the dealership serviced my car, I went for a walk, grabbed a coffee, and found an empty bench for me to study and meditate. I hadn’t taken time for myself like that in a very long time; it was glorious!

When I was a younger adult, I disliked the solemnity of the Lenten season. I appreciated the focus of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, but it seemed like such a dark time. Now that I’m older, I appreciate the preparation Lent is for Easter. Lent is like a “time-out” for me to focus on my spiritual practices.

The Lenten reflection from Joseph Sica’s book for the day was about being ourselves and loving ourselves. I found it inspiring and a great reminder. I share parts of the reflection here with you, in case you need to read/hear it, too:

Some of you may not be Christian or observe Lent. Regardless, I encourage you to take time for yourself every once in a while for reflection or meditation. Create time for peace and quiet, if you can. Some of you have gratitude journals or practice hygge. This Lent, I commit to daily meditation and reflection. Even if you don’t observe Lent, maybe consider what you can do to make the most out of this pandemic. “Don’t let a good pandemic go to waste!” Can you use this time apart from others to gain clarity? Can you practice self-acceptance and appreciation? I love to hear how others practice self-care or self-love during this pandemic! Good luck on your journey!