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Summer Exemplar

Nursing graduates share significant clinical experiences

"The following exemplars offer a peek into the moments of life as a nursing student that shape and help inform who they become as professional nurses. The exemplar writing assignment is to "describe a significant moment in practice where the student had an impact on the patient or the patient had an impact on the student." One of the prompts is to "write about a time when you knew you had become a nurse". These stories from practice describe pain and pain relief, fear and courage, despair and hope and the search for health that defines the journey of all nurses and patients. The faculty of the Cedar Crest College Nursing Department are so proud of our students and all that they do in the name of healing. We hope you enjoy their stories."
~Professor Amy Edgar

These are the stories written by the July 2013 nursing graduates.
*please note that the names of all patients have been changed for confidentiality.

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Noell Artin

Walking onto the unit one morning, half way through my clinical rotation I was thinking to myself what my plan of care would be for each patient I had that day. As with every other clinical experience I went in, reintroduced myself, explained that I am a student nurse working with the regular nurse that day and if they needed anything I would be here until 3pm. I did my morning assessments, gathered vital signs and helped both patients with their baths. My one patient did not need very much help as she was independent and being discharged that day. Therefore I spent most of my time with my other patient. She was a petite, elderly woman who was very friendly. I will call her *Sue to protect her privacy. Sue was scheduled for whirlpool therapy in the late morning for the multiple leg wounds she had bilaterally. This therapy was not new to her. She goes several times a week, unaccompanied. The nurse I was working with that day suggested I take a walk with her since I was unsure what happens during whirlpool therapy. I took this opportunity to relate to Benner’s domain of nursing practice in the helping role by being with the patient during her session. I took advantage of this time to get to know Sue better.

Sue had mentioned to me earlier that morning how cold she gets when she is down there, so before we left I grabbed a small blanket and tucked it under my arm in case she needed it when we were down in therapy. We waited patiently for our transport, which arrived promptly at 11:30am. Sue was taken by stretcher and I walked along side of her down to the therapy unit. We made small talk with the transport aide and each other. Sue and I found out the aide was starting college in the spring for nursing and she was very excited. I wished her luck and said it will not be easy, but it will be worth it. Sue wished her good luck as well.

The transport aide dropped Sue and I off in the therapy department where we met *Megan. Megan was the therapist that would perform the whirlpool therapy for Sue. Sue and Megan were already acquainted from previous sessions. Megan was happy to see me and that I was there to help. She explained that normally there is a therapist and an aide on the unit but the aide had called off that day so she was by herself. I offered to help in any way that I could. The first thing we did was transfer Sue from the stretcher to the therapy bed which was right next to the whirlpool tub. Megan gave directions to both Sue and myself, “Ok Sue, are you ready? On the count of three we will move you from the stretcher to the bed, one, two, three”. “That was easy”, I said and Sue just smiled and thanked us. I asked Sue if she was in any pain, and she said no. I asked her if she was cold and she said she was so I draped the blanket across her shoulders. Sue looked at me and smiled. I could tell that little gesture meant a lot to her. Megan proceeded to explain to Sue and myself what the procedure was. Sue already knew what to expect so it was more for my knowledge. The first thing Megan did was turning the water on and make sure the temperature was an appropriate 94 degrees. She explained that the temperature helps to increase blood flow to the limbs, which in turn promotes healing. The next step was for Sue to bring both legs over and place them into the tub. Sue was not one to complain but I could see with her facial expressions that it hurt. At this moment I can relate to the helping role as described by Benner, in providing comfort and communication through touch. I immediately gave her my hand to hold and said “please, squeeze as hard as you want if it hurts”. Sue smiled and thanked me and took my hand. She would squeeze it gently and not say a word. I took this opportunity to start asking questions to try and take her mind off the treatment. We talked about how long she had the wounds on her legs. She explained that they have been there for months and it is due to the poor circulation she has in her legs. As she talked, I watched her expressions and could see that she was still in pain. I felt myself squeezing Sue’s hand more than she squeezed mine. I had to urge her to keep her legs in the tub and not raise them, that the water therapy was helping her legs. At one point I told her “It seems like I am squeezing your hand harder than you are mine. Let me know if I am squeezing too hard”. All three of us laughed about that.

After 20 minutes, the whirlpool was over and sue had both legs back up on the bed awaiting the wound doctor’s arrival. He would come once a week to examine the wounds and debride if necessary. *Dr. Bob was prompt with his arrival and got right to work. He explained to Sue and the therapist that the legs are healing slowly, but they are healing. He grabbed a chair, a pair of gloves and his scalpel and started mechanically debriding her leg wounds. I could see this was just as painful as the whirlpool therapy, and yet Sue kept quiet not making a sound. I went back to her side offering my right hand to squeeze while I rubbed her back with my left hand. She smiled and said “thank you”. We started talking about her family again and before you knew it, the debridement was over. Dr. Bob made his notes and suggestions and was off to see his next patient. Megan made a phone call requesting a transport for Sue back to her unit. Megan thanked me again for all of my help and said she would see Sue in a couple of days.

Having this experience I can relate to the helping role as described in the book written by Patricia Benner. Looking back at this experience I understand the helping role better. I can see how my presence during Sue’s therapy session helped more than I realized. Prior to this day, Sue mentioned that she made the trips to the therapy department by herself, accompanied by a transport aide that dropped her off and went on to the next patient. She mentioned that each time she went, she never remembered to bring a blanket with her and how cold it gets down there. Sue was very appreciative of the fact that I listened to her and remembered a blanket. I could tell she had a better experience that time as I helped to distract her during therapy with conversation of her family and life. Later I realized how much she appreciated the small gesture of my offering to hold her hand when she said, “thank you that helped a lot”. I knew at that moment I touched her life as much as she touched mine. Reasons like this, the patient - nurse interaction, showing compassion and caring, are why I became a nurse.