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Here’s the thing about nursing: You’ll get out of it what you put into it. This holds true for the entire lifespan of your career.
As a nursing student, you have to want to contribute to your learning process. You can’t expect the information to be shovel-fed to you and—poof!—you’re a nurse. It takes a bit of effort, skill, curiosity and good ol’ passion.
Didactic learning is one thing. Everyone has to attend the formal classroom and learn the basics. This is where you learn the “why,” the “when” and the “where.” How are you supposed to care for and treat a patient with a certain illness if you don’t know how the human body is supposed to work when it’s healthy? Yeah, take it from me. Pay attention in your classrooms. You’ll be thankful for it later.
But here’s the message I want to convey to all my nursing students out there:
I know the show The Walking Dead is quite popular these days (sorry, I’ve never watched it)—I would just like the nursing students to not take that show so literally. Lately, more often than I’d like to admit, the nursing students out there have become zombies.
They are just standing on the clinical floors, just existing. Putting in their time. Everyone has a certain amount of “clinical hours” they have to fulfill before they can graduate and eventually go on to sit for their NCLEX national certification exam, but maybe you need to do more than just “fulfill” your required hours.
And as a side note, I also remember quite well what senioritis is like. I get it, I really do.
But stop being a fly on the wall. Stop being lifeless. Stop staring off in the distance. Get off your cell phone. Stop being a “mindless corpse” and join the living.
It’s your education; you paid for it. Now get the most out of it. For all my students out there:
- Ask questions. Introduce yourself to the first doctor who walks into your patient’s room. Make it known you’re there to learn.
- Volunteer for every piece of action happening on the unit.
- You will be astonished and amazed at how much you can learn just by changing bed linen.
- Just because you got to place one Foley doesn’t mean you shouldn’t volunteer for the next 10.
- Just because you’ve seen one arrhythmia doesn’t mean you shouldn’t glue yourself to the monitor when you see it again.
- Just because you’ve seen it on TV doesn’t mean your bedside nurse can’t teach you something. Hollywood medicine is just that—a story.
- Did I mention ask questions? In fact, question everything.
- Talk to the charge nurse and find out what’s going on during your shift. Is there a procedure you can help with or watch? Is there an operation you could observe? Is there an illness you haven’t seen before?
- Pick your bedside nurse’s brain about all things nursing. Become a sponge.
- Find the youngest nurse on the unit and burn their ear off about their experiences. Then find the most seasoned nurse and do the same thing.
Get out there and learn, ladies and gentlemen! The clinical floor is where you learn the “how.” It’s the bridge between what you learn in the classroom and how it is applied in everyday practice.
Don’t slide through your nursing school years just to “get through it.” Grab that bull by the horns and make your own path. Find the passion to learn. That passion to learn will spill over into the compassion your patients so greatly deserve when you care for them.