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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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Tabitha Weaver

I have always had a heart for children. Their innocence and spitfire personalities have always amazed me and reminded me that life is about simple pleasures. According to Patricia Benner and her stages of clinical competence, I would say that I am pretty proficient in dealing with children. I not only have years of training and personal experience, but I also always taken the holistic approach to children; viewing them not only in one aspect of development, but rather in all areas. However, in terms of dealing with parents, I would have to say that I am quite the novice. I have always struggled with not wanting to say or do the wrong thing for fear of upsetting or offending a parent. Nevertheless, as I entered the pediatric unit at a local hospital one my first clinical experience of the semester, I learned that I can identify with Benner’s “helping role” and provide comfort not only to the patient, but also the parent.

It was early Saturday morning as I walked onto the pediatric floor for the first time that semester. As I headed down the hallway, I heard a faint cry. Normally this wouldn’t be unusual for a pediatric floor, but this cry was different. As I got closer, it was definitely much louder than the weak cry I originally thought I heard. This sound was that of a child in agonizing pain. I looked over at the darkened room and then over at the nurse. She indicated that this had been going on all night. This wasn’t my assigned patient for the day, but I was still concerned and intrigued. What had this child in so much pain?

I attended to my patient for the morning, but she was quickly discharged home. Meanwhile, I continued to hear the heart-wrenching sobbing and moaning of the child in the room a few doors down. I approached the nurse and asked what was wrong. Two and a half year old *Ava had been watched by her mother’s aunt and uncle while she went to work. While under their care, Ava had “fallen” into a sink of hot water. She suffered third degree burns to both hands. However, upon clinical examination, Ava presented with no splash marks, but instead clear demarcation lines showing the burned from unburned skin on her wrists and arms. The nurse informed me that Ava was allowed no visitors except her mother, as this was deemed a possible child abuse case. I couldn’t help but close my eyes for a brief moment as my heart sank.

At that very moment I realized I no longer heard Ava’s voice and her mother stepped out of the room. She said that she wanted to quickly run down to the cafeteria to grab something to eat, but wondered if someone could sit with Ava, who had since fallen asleep. I immediately volunteered. I introduced myself and walked with Ava’s mother back to her room. I pulled a chair up to the side of her bed and sat there, watching as she slept. Her hands were elaborately bandaged and propped up on pillows at her sides. The television above played Toy Story 2, her favorite, her mother told me. I assured her mother everything would be ok. She said she would hurry back. I told her to take her time and relax. She thanked me for sitting with Ava.

After a few minutes, Ava began to stir. She realized her hands were bandaged and she began to whimper as the pain medication was wearing off. I started to run my fingers through her dark curls and hush her back to sleep. She fell in and out of sleep for a few minutes. Her mother returned, relieved to see that everything was ok. She asked if it was ok if she showered since Ava seemed content. I told her to “absolutely go ahead”. Ava and I are hanging out I told her. She smiled and thanked me again.

Ava slowly started to become a little more alert. She looked up at me and then at the television, which still played Toy Story 2. Having seen the movie, I immediately asked her who her favorite character was. Slowly she responded with “Jessie”. I would ask her questions about the movie and she would nod her head. Soon her mother returned from the shower and Ava was awake, but not crying as she had been earlier. She wanted a snack and so I checked with the nurse to make sure she was ok to eat. As I returned, her mother looked at me and thanked me again for taking the time not only to sit with Ava, but also to engage with her. I told her what a beautiful daughter she had and that I would be back tomorrow if she needed another break. She smiled and I returned the next day to sit with Ava.

It was that day that I realized I could relate to what Benner meant when she talked about knowing how involved one should be with parents and families during different situations. Skills of involvement, as she termed them, help nurses not only deal with patients and their families, but also helps these same nurses to cope with their own daily stressors. That day Ava showed me that it is the little things that can mean the most to someone and I never want to lose sight of that.