A Father’s Encouragement

Reflection: A Difficult Preceptor

I attended an ICU clinical rotation yesterday and experienced my most difficult nurse “preceptor” I’ve ever had. A preceptor is a nurse to whom you are assigned during your clinical rotation that serves as a teacher/mentor of sorts. I used quotes because technically during clinical rotations, you are assigned a nurse to follow/shadow/help but not all are “preceptors” or teachers. Even though this particular rotation is one that is directly tied to my Advanced Med-Surge Lab (we have been going to this hospital pre-pandemic and go to this hospital as students as part of our course requirements), the nurse to which I was assigned didn’t want the role of preceptor. The other nurses were already assigned students, clinic nurses, or had COVID cases, so this was the nurse they assigned to me.

My nurse was in a room with a patient when my instructor announced to her from across the patient’s room that I would be the student with her that day. After my instructor left, I entered the room to introduce myself to her and the patient, and the nurse “shushed” me. The nurse whispered she didn’t want me to agitate the patient as her heart rate goes up whenever she interacts with her. Ok. I wasn’t there earlier. Maybe she just spent all this time getting this patient’s heart rate under control. I didn’t want to undo that.

After we left the room, my nurse asked me to be completely transparent if I’m uncomfortable about performing any skills. She asked me to perform a number of tasks, including Foley care. I shared with her I had never performed Foley care on a live patient. I peformed the skill first semester (last summer) on mannequins. I’ve never had a patient that required me or my nurses to do this for a patient. (Not that Foley care didn’t occur when a Foley was present – CNA’s can peform Foley care. Also, many hospitals avoid the use of in-dwelling catheters due to risk of infection). While I go to open skills lab to continue to practice my skills, skills lab access has been suspended due to the pandemic. Even though I hadn’t practiced in a while, I knew I could do the skill and wanted to do it. However, because I shared I never did it on a live patient and wanted her to watch me to make sure I was doing it right, she did the task herself and declared, “I am not your teacher. I am not here to supervise you. YOU are here to help ME.”

Wow. Uh, ok. This is a great way for me to start my morning. I know how to do a lot of things, but I don’t get tons of experience doing certain skills on live patients. I’ve practiced numerous times on mannequins, read instructions, and watched videos. I’ve done lots of skills once or twice before on patients with a nurse or instructor present. However, I’m not super confident in all my nursing skills yet – even though I passed all my skills exams. I recognize that getting a pass in skills lab doesn’t necessarily translate to being flawless in doing the skill with real-life patients. I don’t want to do anything that could jeopardize a patient, which is why I just wanted to her to briefly oversee me.

Shortly after she performed Foley care, my nurse asked if could spike a bag and hang a Lactated Ringer’s (LR) solution. I said, “Yes, ” but as I was preparing and doing it, she stopped me and asked me to talk her through the process. I hadn’t even finished explaining when she stopped me again and took the bag and just did it herself. I was a little stunned as I’ve hung a number of IV’s already. She said I should hang the bag first before spiking it. I was used to spiking a bag before hanging it. I’m short and don’t want to have to reach up to the IV pole or adjust and readjust a pole every time I hang a bag. I am also used to checking an IV line and flushing it before connecting anything to it, but my nurse did not do this. She connected the line to the patient after priming it with LR and flushed it from a port upstream. I had never seen this before. As I was trying to assess the IV sites, my nurse motioned me to leave the patient alone, again with the intention of not wanting to bother the patient, I suppose.

Maybe half an hour later, the patient seemed agitated and kept raising her arm. It turns out the chuck (an absorbant pad typically placed underneath a patient’s hips) was wet by her left side. She had a Jackson-Pratt (JP) wound drain, so my nurse figured the drain was leaking, added a dry chuck on top of the wet one, and re-positioned the drain and patient. A little while later, when I was alone with the patient, the patient was agitated again. The chuck was wet again with clear liquid. I tried to find the leak. It couldn’t have been urine because she was connected to a Foley, and the patient’s urine was dark yellow. I couldn’t see a leak from the JP, and the liquid in the JP drain was red and serosanguinous. She had three IV sites on her left side, by where the leak was: her hand, her wrist, and her forearm. Two were running and one was on saline lock. Which one was leaking? I couldn’t find the leak so I placed a towel underneath her left hand to keep her dry and determine if the towel would get wet. If the towel would get wet, it was one way to confirm and isolate the leak to the IV sites. I couldn’t see where the drops of fluid coming directly from any line, but because of the pattern of the leak and where it was wet, I determined the leak was from IV site where my nurse connnected the LR.

When my nurse entered the room, I shared with her the site was leaking and asked if we could switch sites. She switched the LR to the other IV site not being used and then gave me a tip not to use a towel for a patient because it can cause skin breakdown versus a chuck. I silently wondered, “If she had flushed the line before connecting the LR, could we have discovered the leak sooner?” I asked if we should DC (discontinue) the IV site that was leaking and she said why would she if she could save it? When I later told my instructor about the leak and wondered how it could be saved, she said maybe it was kinked or not hooked up correctly. A leaking IV could be saved if the hub was replaced or reattached. I clarified with my instructor if I could do skills on patients, even though I’ve never before done it beyond skills lab. She said I could and shouldn’t need any supervision. With that assurance, I knew I had to give myself a pep talk to be more confident in my own skills and just do things I know how to do, even though I haven’t had a lot of practice doing it in real life.

I also clarified with my instructor if my process for hanging a bag (spiking before hanging) is acceptable – it was. I followed up with the my preceptor and asked, “Why did you stop me from hanging that LR bag?” The nurse shared I was talking too much and not “doing” enough, and she didn’t see me do an assessment. I was frustrated because this nurse asked me to talk her through things, didn’t allow me to do things I normally do, and kept discouraging me from interacting with the patient. I had an entire day in front of me, and I needed to find a way to ensure I was able to do things. So I talked less, did assessments without my nurse present, and eventually got to push IV meds, administer oral meds, empty urinal bags, colostomy bags, and JD drain, witness a CVAD (central venous accesss device) placement, and spike and prepare an NS bag. It didn’t feel good, but I fought to have a day where I could practice my skills and learn.

Around two in the afternoon, my nurse asked if I wanted to eat. She had kept offering me to go on break and eat all morning, but I kept turning her down. I finally agreed I should probably eat as it was now 2pm. She said I could leave early if I wanted and not return from lunch. I was leaving the floor around 3:30pm, so if I was gone one hour, I could just leave. However, I wasn’t planning to be gone an entire hour since most nurses get only half an hour. When I asked to verify if her lunch was only half an hour and how I wanted to match that (how else am I going to get used to the work schedule of a nurse?) she replied saying someting about time management and how she doesn’t know me or my schedule but that I should do what I need to do to manage my time. I explained I would return from my lunch and that I still wanted to learn and do things. We had a patient that had urinary retention so I anticipated needing to do a straight cath (in & out catheter) on the patient. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to insert the catheter; I had never done this on a live patient.

I ate lunch and returned to the floor. The patient who was unable to pee refused the catheter. However, the same patient needed to have a CVAD inserted so we helped prepare the patient for the procedure and monitored him while the doctors inserted the device into a jugular vein. I held the patient’s hand, helped monitor him, and used therapeutic communication to keep the patient still and reassure the patient throughout the procedure.

I had to reflect on the day because while it was rough, I fought to have a valuable clinical experience, and I got it. It’s not often that students get to see a CVAD inserted and sutured to a patient. I wouldn’t have seen that if I left early, as my nurse seemed to encourage me to do. I also got to practice adjusting to different personalities. As a nurse, I’ll need to adapt and adjust to different conditions and personalities. My nurse kept saying multiple times throughout the day, “I am not your instructor”, but I took that in stride, accepted her feedback, adjusted, and performed more and more skills that day. I also learned I need to have more confidence in my own abilities.

My experience reminded me of a Winnie the Pooh quote from a book I’ve been reading my daughter “Pooh’s Grand Adventure”. Christopher Robin tells Pooh, “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” I have to remind myself of this. No growth is without challenges. I have to think that my difficult preceptorship experience just helped me to be stronger and forced me to reflect and be more confident in my abilities. Whether she wanted to teach me or not, I learned something.

One last thing my nurse told me before I left the floor. “Be kind when you’re preceptor. Always be kind”. Okay, I’ll remember that.

Return to the Hospital Setting

This past week, I returned to the hospital setting with my cohort after nearly a month being off the floor, away from any direct patient care. We were at a hospital to volunteer and support various departments in whatever capacity they needed. Eagerly and without knowing much detail, we got assigned to various units that day, attended a brief orientation, and assigned ourselves to numerous 12-hour shifts through mid-May.

Wearing the hospital-provided surgical mask over my personal cloth mask and glasses for some eye protection.

To give some background, all my clinical rotations were indefinitely suspended on March, Friday the 13th, due to the global pandemic. I would have never imagined that the pandemic would cause life-altering changes here in the United States for so many. For me, I still wanted to be nurse, but without the patient-interaction provided by my clinicals, my ability to graduate from nursing school was threatened . (The California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) requires at least 75% of clinical hours to be with patients). As news of the pandemic began to worsen, however, I was relieved to be able to stay safe at home and not have to be in the hospital setting.

Honestly, during the first couple weeks of “stay-at-home” orders, I couldn’t prioritize school or graduation requirements when I felt like I was scrambling to survive and keep my family safe. After the orders were announced, my daughter had come down with a high fever (105 degrees) and started vomiting on an evening my husband was asked to go into work. My husband was sent home, thankfully, and my daugher seemed to gradually improve. A couple afternoons later, however, my daughter’s fever spiked again to 104/105 and she began coughing in her sleep. I listened to her lung sounds with my stethoscope, and I was convinced I heard wheezing in her upper lobes. Her fever broke early that morning, before dawn. I was still worried, so I reached out to her pediatrician. We were able to conduct a tele-visit with her doctor’s office who wrote a prescription, and my daughter has been well the past three weeks. The week after my daughter got sick, I took my 77 year old father to urgent care (for completely separate symptoms). In those first couple weeks, I used my nursing skills and tools to take care of my family. I prioritized family over school or studying for my future career. I was happy to use my nursing knowledge to focus on my family because I did not want to jump back into clinicals with all the uncertainty and seemingly unsafe conditions.

There was so much unknown about the virus and what was required to keep people safe. Should droplet precautions or airborne precautions be used? Even if the type of protection needed was consistently defined, personal protective equipment (PPE) was not readily available. A month before my cohort was called off the floor, hospitals were already asking their staff (and nursing students) to reuse their N95 respirators when dealing with airborne precaution patients. I preferred not to work with these patients because it made me uncomfortable to see a piece of intended-for-single-use equipment used repeatedly. I didn’t want to have to re-use a mask and increase my chances of contamination. With the pandemic, it has unfortunately become normal practice to re-use a mask or have a single mask in a 12+ hour shift because of the PPE shortage.

With what I was witnessing, hearing from the news, and learning from personal accounts and advice of nurses, it seemed best to stay away from direct patient care. I was willing to accept that it might take me longer to get my BSN than I planned. The health and safety of my family is more important than graduating with a BSN on an earlier timeframe. I was okay with taking classes online and patiently waiting when we could safely return to the hospital.

Then, at the end of March, the governer of California called for student nurses to join the Health Corp. I felt compelled to join and signed up. While I’m not a licensed RN, I am a nursing student about to graduate this year. I recognize I have a special set of skills and training that can be useful in caring for patients compared to someone without healthcare experience or education. I signed up with the comfort of knowing I could turn down a deployment. I also signed up because my school (and the BRN) said the volunteer hours could count towards the required direct-patient care clinical hours. I reasoned, “They wouldn’t put student nurses in unsafe conditions, would they?” In reality, the BRN is not set up to protect nurses; The BRN exists to protect patients. Ultimately, I know I need to rely on myself to be protected and safe.

I want to keep my family safe and not expose them to this virus or other illness because of my chosen line of work. Being a nurse lends itself to some risk, however. Nurses and other healthcare professionals are exposed to patients with communicable diseases. Before, the level or risk was acceptable because we had proper PPE available, vaccinations for most things we could be exposed to were offered, and effective treatments known. With COVID-19, the safety measures that made the risk acceptable of working with contagiously ill patients were diminished. After serious thought, I determined I still wanted to be a nurse; I hope that once I’m an RN, conditions are greatly improved.

As a student nurse, I’m fortunate to have the choice to stay home and not go into the hospitals. Because I’m not yet an RN, I’m privileged: I can’t lose a license I don’t yet have, and I can’t lose a job by refusing to work with patients at this time. I figured, if I’m truly uncomfortable and feel compromised, I can walk away from a volunteer position. My school isn’t forcing us to return to the hospital but explained that if we do, we can have our hours count towards our missed clinical hours. They presented us an opportunity to return to the hospital setting, separate from the California Health Corp. We were told we would have PPE provided for us, and we would not be on the COVID units. With all of that under consideration, most of the students in my cohort (including myself) decided to return to the hospital setting last week.

I was conflicted; I cried and prayed over my decision to return to the hospital setting. I love my family and want to do what I can to protect them. I have a husband with diabetes and a preschooler. I have parents over 65 for whom I’ve become their personal shopper to enable them to stay in their home. People for whom I am responsible and love dearly are considered vulnerable populations for COVID-19. I also feel strongly that I am supposed to be a nurse, despite the risks involved. God put in my heart a desire to help people and this is the best way I know how at this point. I am not yet a nurse, but I’m asked to use my training and nursing skills I’ve learned to help others. I don’t want to do it foolishly, and I take this opportunity to serve very seriously. I pondered over this opportunity with my husband and parents. Nurses are short-staffed and could use help. My classmates and I can offer that.

I miss working with patients; I am simultaneously excited and scared. I am anxious about the chaos I might encounter, but also hopeful to help fight this pandemic and support healthcare workers and other patients. At times, I get a little panicked, but mostly, I’m at peace with the choice I made to return to the hospital setting and continue with my pursuit of becoming a nurse.

These are such extraordinary times. The news and what we know about the corona virus keeps changing. I have additional training this week and will start my first shift later this week. The opportunity to be in the hospital gives me more reason to focus on assignments and overall learning to be more prepared once I’m on the floor. Who knows if I will change my mind and want to leave the hospital setting as a volunteer student nurse? A fundamental part of the nursing process is asseessment, and I’m constantly assessing my situation. Either way, I will continue to proceed with caution, but also with the confidence that I have skills and training that can help other nurses and patients.

If you pray, I would appreciate prayers for me, my classmates, and my family’s continued protection and safety. Also pray for guidance for nursing students as we apply our training into practice to support the current workforce. Thank you, be safe, and please continue doing what you can to flatten the curve!

Milestone: My first IV Blood Draw on a Patient

My major milestone this past week was completing my first IV blood draw on a patient, during my ICU rotation. My nurse guided me. I stuck the patient with a butterfly needle and was able to draw blood on my FIRST try! 💉(Luckily, my patient had a really nice big, palpable vein).

My nurse and I walked into the patient room, she handed me the supplies, told me to go ahead, and began charting. I was lost and told her I needed her supervision. I had seen a nurse draw blood from a patient line the week before, so I thought I was going to take blood from an existing IV line. My nurse stopped me when she saw that I was about to sanitize a peripheral IV port. My nurse looked at me like I had three heads 🤔. I worried I wasn’t going to be allowed to do the skill anymore! She explained blood is never drawn from a PIV. The blood draw I saw was from an arterial blood line. I hadn’t realized blood draws are not taken from PIV lines; in retrospect, it makes sense not to draw from a line where a patient received meds.

Photo by Pranidchakan Boonrom on Pexels.com

Despite my nurse’s obviously concerned look, my nurse patiently guided me and let me continue. She repeatedly commented how she was astonished I hadn’t done an IV needle stick on a patient before. I was totally nervous and felt judged, but I knew I had to take my opportunity to practice such an essential skill of getting a needle into a vein. I’ve practiced many times using IV catheters in the skills lab on mannequins, but it’s not the same as inserting IV needles into humans.

LESSON 1: Speak up when uncertain about how to do something. At the very least, talk through the steps BEFORE walking into the room. While our patient’s primary language was not English, it would have been better to have the conversation that I had never drawn blood on a human and discuss the expected process OUTSIDE the patient room. It’s stressful enough being a patient in a hospital; I don’t want to raise a patient’s concerns about me or my abilities with the procedures I’m about to perform.

LESSON 2: Talk out loud while completing steps in a process. While I’m still new and learning, talking out loud helps to reinforce what I’ve learned and the expected process. This applies to any skill, even medication administration (i.e. “…clamp the NG tube…insert syringe…unclamp…push syringe…clamp, etc). Verbalizing steps helps me confirm what I should do or stop myself when something sounds incorrect or strange. Also, my nurse or instructor can hear me as I do things, and guide or interrupt me as needed.

Last week, I also spent more time in my Pediatric rotation. 🧸I’m really loving my Pediatric (Peds) clinical rotation and feel drawn to the particular hospital and patient population. However, I recognize I need more practice feeling baby pulses, particularly pedal ones 🦶. I can usually find pulses quickly on adults, but I find babies’ pulses harder to palpate. I eventually felt the pulses on my infant patients, but it took me a long time. My nurse would feel a pulse and point me to where “it’s a good pulse”. I’d put my finger on the location, and feel hardly anything. I may have been pressing too hard in trying to feel a pulse. I gotta ask my mom friends if I can feel their baby’s pulses to practice this skill – at least it’s not invasive so it should be relatively easy to practice. I often practice assessments on my family and myself, but my daughter is now a toddler – I just need access to more BABIES!

Called to a New Plan

I went to church Sunday morning with my family and saw the devotional booklet “Our Daily Bread” offered in the vestibule. I hadn’t seen one in a while, but became familiar with them through my mother and relatives from the Philippines, who used them regularly as a daily devotional. The booklet highlights a bible scripture each day and provides a reflection based on that reading. Feeling like I needed to focus more on my spirituality beyond church (it’s so hard sometimes to focus in mass with a rambunctious defiant toddler!), I grabbed one. The bible passage and reflection for that day (April 28, 2019) spoke to me. Because of that, I wanted to share it and invite you to read it at https://odb.org/2019/04/28/gods-retirement-plan/# .

At this moment in your life, what might God be calling you to do for His greater purpose? What new plans has He placed in your path?

Our Daily Bread (April 28, 2019)

The reflection was a great reminder of my second-career journey. Becoming a nurse is the new plan God has placed in my path. I feel I am called to become a nurse to better utilize my talents for His greater purpose. Do you ever feel like you’re on the right path because of the all the “signs” God places before you? You may not have the sign of a burning bush like Moses, but do you feel called to do something, even though you’re uncertain of how exactly you’ll accomplish what you sense you must do? Are you continuously driven towards a vocation without knowing how or if you can really make it happen? And, somehow, a path reveals itself? I feel this way about Nursing – really, I do!

Every step of the way, I feel like God has aligned things for me to allow me to get into Nursing school. If I had waited even one month to look into pre-requisites, I wouldn’t have been able to take the classes I did or complete them before the application cycle. If I had waited one week before researching how to get volunteer clinical experiences, I wouldn’t have become a COPE Health Scholar in a local hospital. If I were in a different volunteer program, I wouldn’t have been able to take patients’ vitals, witness biopsies, circumcisions, C-sections, vaginal deliveries, or perform chest compressions on patients who have coded. God placed people and experiences in my life, to allow me to grow in my compassion, abilities, and skills as a future nurse. Somehow, things aligned or confirmed and re-affirmed my choice to purse a career change. God placed the desire in my heart to consider nursing years ago, but He did not call me into action until now -when I have the social, emotional, and financial support I didn’t have before. His timing was perfect. I prayed to be able to serve God in whichever way He willed, and nursing is where I have now been lead. I have a peace and joy in my heart when I think about my [future] career, but I am still open to God’s vocational plans for me in my life.

Are you called to something new or to continue when you were about to quit? I encourage you to be open to new possibilities or to where God might be calling you. Explore what or where that is, and if you’re called to act, pursue it whole-heartedly. Like Dr. Warwick Rodwell discovering the ancient statue in the Lichfield Cathedral in the “Our Daily Bread” reflection, you could be surprised with the treasure you uncover.