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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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Jennifer Barnes

It is 7 o’clock in the morning on the 1st clinical day of the semester. I am about to take care of a man admitted to the hospital for anemia with a history of multiple myeloma and dysphagia. As I enter the patient’s room, I notice him lying in the hospital bed. He is pale and his silvery gray hair unkempt. I reach out to shake his hand. “Hi Mr. J, I’m a student nurse and will be helping to take care of you today.” We make small conversation and I ask him if he is ready to eat breakfast since his tray has been delivered. He agrees to eat.

“Here’s a spoonful of oatmeal Mr. J.” I see a look of frustration upon his face and he mumbles under his breath. By the third spoonful he said, “This tastes like nothing. It’s the same food over and over, day after day,” he said. “Would you like me to order something that we could add to the oatmeal like a banana or some other kind of fruit,” I reply. “No don’t bother, it will probably still taste like nothing” he said. Next I give him a bite of his pancakes and he groans in disgust. “I wish I had real food,” he said. “It must be frustrating but it’s important that you eat soft foods to decrease your risk of choking due to your difficulty swallowing.”

I try to think of anything that will cheer up Mr. J. “Would you like me to open the blinds so you can see what a beautiful day it is?” I asked. “No, leave them shut,” he replied. Just as the room felt dark and closed off by the blinds, so did the patient. I realized at that moment that the emotion the patient was expressing was much more than just hating the food. This man was frustrated and depressed about his condition.

After he finished his breakfast, I asked him if he wanted me to brush his teeth or if I should do it. He replied, “No. I’ll do it. I can do it better.” It reminded me of a song so I sang to him, “I can do anything you can do better.” He knew the song and quickly replied, “I can do anything better than that.” I sang, “No you can’t” and he sang back to me, “Yes I can.” We immediately burst into laughter and developed a wonderful nurse-patient relationship.

Later that afternoon around 1 pm, I checked on him and noticed he had tears in his eyes. It was then that he broke down crying and began talking with me concerning his fears of having only a few months to live. He was also afraid to leave his wife alone and have her manage financially. I held his hand as he shared with me for over an hour. During this time, I provided him with compassion, empathy and encouragement. I also gave him direction concerning resources that were available to him to assist him and his family through this time.

Before I left his room, I asked him if he wanted to have the blinds open. To my surprise, he said yes. I went home with such a rewarding feeling knowing that I helped Mr. J. cope with his disease process. As a nurse, it is vital that we not only address the physical condition of the patient but the emotional condition as well.

In this situation, I used The Helping Role domain of Benner by listening to him and providing him with empathy, compassion and encouragement to assist him in the coping process. I used The Teaching Role when I provided Mr. J with information concerning the resources that are available for him in his situation and I also taught him the importance of a soft food diet due to his difficulty swallowing (Benner, 2001).

I thought this day would be an ordinary clinical day; however it will be a day I will never forget because it taught me how vital it is for a nurse to have insight and develop a nurse-patient relationship. If I had not developed this relationship early on, the patient may not have shared his feelings and concerns with me. Talking about his situation assisted Mr. J. in coping. Both physical and emotional attributes are essential to address because they contribute to the overall health and well-being of a patient.