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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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Abigail Hogue

One clinical day, early in my nursing education I decided to venture out from the normal population of the unit, which was mostly those with congestive heart failure or diabetes, and find a patient with a unique diagnosis. I came upon a man who was struggling with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He was 62 years old. He had been admitted for fever and neutropenia.

I came onto the unit and began to plan my care around my professor who had a lot of medications to administer and reports to hear. In the meantime, I spent quite a bit of time in my patient’s room. The two of us hit if off right away talking about his service in the Navy. And he went on to describe his life. He spoke of the jobs he had worked: he was particularly proud of his work broadcasting the Olympics in Japan. We talked about his family: his grown children and how proud he was of them, of all the times he missed with them. He spoke of everything he wished he had done differently. We talked as I washed him and rubbed lotion on his skin. While we were chatting and I was focused on care, my professor came in to give him his medications. I fumbled my way through the actions and side effects and breathed a sigh of relief. Then we prepared to do a dressing change on simple wounds on his legs. All the time my patient kept talking to me. We just chatted away while I focused on keeping my “clean” hand clean and my dirty hand out of the way. Especially with a patient who was at risk for infection and also with my professor watching over my shoulder.

As the professor and I exited the room she made a comment that hit me like a lead brick. She said, “He really opened up to you. You are exactly what he needed today.” Such simple words had a profound meaning. I was really what he needed today? All I could focus on was remembering my knowledge and completing my dressing change. I did not do anything extraordinary for him. I talked with him. And that was exactly what he needed.
But as a novice student nurse, very early in my education, I missed the meaning in the situation. And it is the meaning that Benner (2001, p. 48) points out as the essence of the helping role of the nurse. It was my professor, as the expert, who immediately saw the meaning behind his words and made it apparent to me.

I had learned while talking with him that he was being transferred from the hospital directly to hospice care. The officials from the hospice center were scheduled to arrive that afternoon to speak with him. I did not realize the implications of that information immediately. And it was not until my professor’s comment hit me that I realized, truly, my patient’s needs. So I finished up my charting, and all my loose ends and returned to his room. As soon as I walked in he unloaded in one breath: his wife was running late and would miss the meeting with the hospice officials. His calm and easy going demeanor had changed to mild panic. And so I sat with him. And we talked. He talked about all his regrets and all his accomplishments. He talked at length about his fears. I put my best therapeutic communication skills to work, feeling they were horribly inadequate but I was determined to give it my best. I was able to coach him, as Benner (2001, p.89) describes by making this aspect of his illness more approachable. Because now I knew. I knew what he needed. The officials from hospice came, and he asked me to sit with him. I never said a word, but I sat there with him. His wife did make it to his bedside before hospice left. And when she walked into the room, he was composed and under control, which was important to him. We had found a way to muster the courage to face the hospice officials with dignity and pride. She smiled at him as he spoke with the hospice nurse and I quietly exited the room.

There may not have been much I could do to change his outcome, but I could help him through it just by lending an ear. I was honored to be able to go through his life review with him. I was privileged to help him come to terms with the events of the day, to quietly support him while he discussed options with the hospice facility. I was able to help him find his courage to face this one day, this one aspect of his illness.