My experience in nursing has been one to remember, for not only myself and my fellow classmates, but for all our professors and clinical preceptors as well.
Four years ago, before I was in upper-division nursing and when I was still taking prerequisite courses, the thought of wearing a mask wasn’t in anybody’s mind. Now, we wear masks all day at clinical along with a face shield or goggles.
When COVID-19 hit, I was in the middle of my sophomore year, about to enter upper-division nursing and preparing to go to advanced camp for ROTC. Within two weeks, everything was canceled — classes were online, camp was canceled and the future was unknown to everybody.
My first semester of clinical experience was fall of 2020. Classes were still online, but we were allowed back in the hospitals as long as we wore the proper PPE. The college was still learning how to navigate through these times, and since classes were online, we did not have the experience of simulation labs, as the cohorts before us did.
We had only one simulation lab and then went into clinical, whereas in the past they had more simulation experiences before their first day.
My first day of clinical was scary — it felt like I didn’t know anything and hadn’t really practiced basic skills or even just communicating with patients.
I’ll never forget the first manual blood pressure I took, I was so nervous to talk to the patient and touch his arm. Now I go into patient rooms three times a week and do a full head-to-toe assessment on them with confidence.
The cohorts before us didn’t have to worry about missing clinical due to potential exposures or quarantines. They didn’t have to wear PPE all day. They didn’t have to worry about patient assignments and the potential of caring for a COVID-19 patient.
Since we are not allowed to care for COVID-19 patients as students, clinical would sometimes feel like it dragged on if there were a lot of COVID-19 positive patients on the floor that day. There were times when even in my third semester of clinical, I would be with a partner just because there weren't enough patients for us all to care for.
Clinical was not the only challenge that semester: I struggled in my online classes too. While I learned a lot and did well, it was tough mentally to be doing work inside my apartment all day. As we eased our way back in person that next semester, I found myself more focused and applying my knowledge to clinical more.
While completing my clinical in the ICU this semester, I have seen more COVID-19 patients than I have ever seen before. It has been eye-opening to see these critically ill patients up close and personal and see first-hand the pandemic’s effect on everyday people, not just reading it in the news.
I have definitely had days, especially at the beginning of clinicals, where I thought “I’m not good at this; why am I even doing nursing?” But now when I leave the hospital, I am content every day knowing that I at least helped one other person that day.
Even with the pandemic and all of the changes the university has had to make to accommodate COVID-19, I feel more than prepared to go out into the “real world,” pass my NCLEX and work as a registered nurse. Of course, I still have so much to learn, but the beautiful thing about life is that we are all constantly learning, especially in the medical field.
I am so proud of my cohort, especially all of my clinical groups these past two years, for finishing strong — it is so crazy to think that we have made it through all of these difficult classes and are finally at this stage. To all the underclassmen, my best advice is to study early and avoid cramming, and to make time for yourself! You will drive yourself crazy if you don’t.
While I am sad to be leaving Carolina and moving on, I am also so excited for the future. I’m excited to be an Army officer, to be a registered nurse and most of all, I am excited to use my gift and help others.