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5 things I’ve learned as an NP student


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I recently completed my first senior practicum clinical experience–just shy of 200 clinical hours giving direct patient care in the environment/specialty of your choosing. I, of course, chose Critical Care (are you surprised?). My time as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner student on a busy trauma ICU was full of “absorbable information.” Heck, 3+ weeks later and I’m still absorbing it! Here are a couple of “non-traditional” things I’ve learned so far:

You don’t know jack

  • I don’t care how many years you’ve been a bedside nurse, nothing can prepare you. You go from “Let’s ask the doctor for those orders” to being asked, “What do you want to order?” When the direction of care is dependent on your decisions, your brain somehow freezes. I still remember asking myself, “What’s bradycardia, again?” Yeah, not my finest moment.

Most physicians still don’t know what you do

  • Now, once again, there are many who do have a great understanding of the function, capability and importance that Nurse Practitioners bring to the health care team, but some are sort of stuck. Stuck in a different millennium, or just aren’t paying attention to the sign of the times. I lost count of the number times I was asked, “What is it you do again?”

There will always be that nurse who has a problem with you

  • Some bedside nurses have this virtual chip on their shoulders when they see you. I’m not sure if it’s spite or just plain ignorance, but they act as if you are offending them and their practice. They not only question your knowledge and ability, but they can go out of their way to impugn your position.

There really is no easy way to introduce yourself

This is an awkward one:

  • The bedside nurse will say, “Hi, I’m _____. I’ll be your nurse.”
  • The physician/resident/fellow will say, “Hi, I’m doctor ____.”
  • As a Nurse Practitioner student, saying “Hi, I’m Nurse Practitioner student ____” just doesn’t roll off the tongue well. You usually have to give a 2-3 sentence explanation of who you are and your function within the team.

Get used to the magnifying glass

  • EVERYONE is watching you. Everyone is judging you. All walks of life and all disciplines of care are analyzing your every movement. The physician team wants to see if you are transitioning into the medical model well. The nursing staff wants to see if you are transitioning well, but not forgetting where you came from. The patients are sizing up your worth and knowledge.

In the end, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s amazing how much I have learned, how much I am learning and how much I still have to learn. Not only about my new professional role, but about myself.

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