November 7, 2016

Dear Clinical Instructors


Okay, it's 5:30 AM and I'm at the nurse's station. I'm waiting for the nurse, who I will be following for the day, to arrive. Waiting is its own circle of hell, and in that moment, I was sweating. Yes, I’m a sweater. Not the item of clothing, the act of sweating. Now, my professor didn’t make this situation any better. Making threats and being negative doesn't encourage students to learn. I get it. Nursing is a serious profession with many opportunities to kill folks. Putting the fear of God in students seems like a good idea. But, it isn’t! All it does is stress already stressed students out, causing them to mess up. You are not motivating anyone. Fear causes stress, stress causes panic, panic leads to mistakes. Mistakes lead to self-doubt. Self-doubt leads to more fear. I get my assignment and go to meet my nurse. Her name is Marisol, and she was not in the mood to teach that day. Hell, she was not in the mood to work in general. Can someone explain to me why, oh why, instructors assign students to nurses who do not want to teach? It’s a disservice to the student because they will learn NOTHING. It will be a damaging experience and create a culture of negativity.

This happened to me all the time. I’d wake up at the crack of dawn, get organized, drive 45 minutes, arrive ready to learn, and be disappointed upon arrival. All that positivity was thrown out the door the second I saw my nurse's face. Apparently, my mere presence seemed to disgust them. I’m a student, and I don’t mind paying my dues. I want to work hard. I want to learn. I want to sit wide-eyed and bushy tailed while you school me on something. I know my place. I understand that I know nothing. I’m not asking to wear your skin. I just want to watch you do a head-to-toe assessment. Why am I so terrible for wanting to learn? I wish more nurses would understand that students just simply want to learn. Listen, I know being a nurse is tough. The word tough doesn’t truly articulate the struggle nurses face, from violent patients to combative family members to even complex personal beliefs. I get it. Your job has 1,000 tasks for you to accomplish in a 12-hour period. I’m a nurse. I totally get it. But I can be a nurse and still understand the nursing student’s predicament. They are simply students who want to learn and they are often paired with people who aren't properly educated or prepared to teach.

Let’s get back to the clinical day. So, Marisol is ignoring me, and I’m running around looking for her. We had six patients. I don’t doubt she was busy. But often, I felt like she was trying to hide or dodge me. I’d see her, smile, wave, and walk towards her, and she would quickly walk in the opposite direction. I often had questions (as students should), and every time, her head would drop, and she would walk in the other direction. I mean, I know you see me! You know I'm a student, and I'm here to learn, right? I have objectives I must meet during this clinical. I have to complete certain tasks. A few hours later, my instructor finds me and asks, “How is your day going?” I said, “It’s tough. I’m having a hard time learning from my nurse. She’s really busy and…” Before I could say anything else, my instructor said, "These nurses are doing us a favor, just appreciate it."

My first day of clinical was not an event that warmed my heart, and it did not confirm to me why nursing was amazing. Clinicals weren’t created to make you feel good. Clinicals are tools utilized to expose you to the reality of the nursing profession. I learned what nurses are expected to do, the limited resources many institutions have, the workplace violence, and various other things. Clinicals opened my eyes to what nurses go through while working - the long shifts, physical demands, missing lunches and endless tasks. Being a nurse is arduous! I understand the annoyed disposition many nurses display. After clinical that day, I went home, and I told my husband, “Today I saw what a nurse is required to do. It is a tremendous responsibility, it’s intense. Hell, it sucks (at times), but I still want to do it. I will never let a patient or student pay for my decision to be a nurse. Being miserable and bitter only hurts me. I will not spread that type of negativity around.” This is what instructors and nurses must understand. You can be upset about your current situation, but why do other individuals have to pay for the choices you have made voluntarily?

I appreciate individuals who educate me. But, I did pay for this education, and I expect to learn something. Being grateful has no place in the educational process. I’m here to learn. Education is a product, and it's a service provided at a cost. I paid the price, and now I’m being told, "Eh, it’s not what you need but it’s better than nothing." 

We all have shitty days, but even when I’m getting yelled at, patients are hitting me, I’m sweaty, and I haven’t eaten in 10 hours… I love my job! I love being a nurse. Students are going to have those “real” days - a day with a nurse who either confirms that being a nurse was the right choice or a nurse who makes you second guess your decision to enter the profession entirely. When you’re faced with a negative person, understand they are a human simply reacting to the current situation. Please don’t assume nursing is terrible and that you’re going to be in the same boat as said individual. You can’t allow someone’s experience to alter your viewpoint. If it’s love, a real love for nursing, no one can mess with it.

When I opened the door and saw my husband for the first time, I knew this man would change my life. Either we were going to get married and live happily ever after or I’d secretly love him forever, William Gardner style (The Good Wife), Adele style, and never forget this man. Either way, it was going to be an adventure, and I was all about it. I feel that way about nursing. It’s a love so strong, I’m okay if it doesn’t love me back. It's okay if I interact with people who dislike the profession. It's okay if I care for patients who don't appreciate my hard work or efforts. I don't need affirmation, but I do need to learn. I do need to be surrounded by professionals who value the learning process and want to contribute in a positive way.