By Catherine Mazenko
Hey guys! My name is Catherine, and I’m entering my J2 semester this fall. I spent my summer as a nurse extern at St. David’s Medical Center on the neurology unit. Although my externship will continue part-time during the school year, being able to work full-time this summer has given me invaluable experiences and taught me more than I ever imagined it would.
As externs at St. David’s, we work as Patient Care Techs with a few added privileges that other techs don’t have, like being allowed to start IVs. As a tech, my day started at 6:40am, along with everyone else, in a huddle meeting before we got the report. I had anywhere between 8-14 patients each day (although anything over 10 meant a crazy day). My responsibilities each day included 8AM, 12PM, and 4PM vital signs and blood sugars, giving baths or getting people in the shower, changing linens, keeping trash cans relatively empty, feeding people if they were 1:1, changing any patients who were in diapers regularly, and anything else that might come up that a nurse needed assistance with. I learned how to use a bladder scanner, took out a lot of Foley’s, and even put a few in.
Although I had already learned how to theoretically do all the skills in school, working this summer taught me a lot of little things that I would never have thought of before I got to the hospital. I learned that when you need to be in the shower with someone, you can put large gloves over your shoes to keep them dry on top. I quickly found out that having someone urinate into a bare bedpan is almost always a recipe for disaster – you should always line it with chucks to absorb the urine and prevent it from spilling all over the bed when you take it out from underneath them. I now know that if someone’s SP02 is below 90%, it’s probably because their hands are cold and just need to be warmed up. You can always try the ear if the fingers just won’t work. Just yesterday, I found out that the best way to get feces from beneath someone’s fingernails is to use a toothbrush (and then slather them and yourself in hand sanitizer). If someone is cold, offering them a blanket from the toaster will get you infinitely more brownie points with them than just bringing them a normal blanket will.
I learned a lot of practical knowledge about how to function and survive at a hospital, but more importantly, I learned how incredibly important it is to have a good relationship with your coworkers. I have been absolutely blown away by the caring atmosphere, kindness, teamwork, and support that hovers around St. David’s (particularly our unit). From day one, everyone was so welcoming and excited for me to be there. The woman who primarily trained me was always patient with me, and gave me every tip she could think of to help me succeed (not to mention she brought me an apple to have as an afternoon snack everyday!). The charge nurses always take a moment to ask how your day is going and if you need any help with anything. My director brought me into his office after a few weeks of working to check up and see how I was doing since I had a rough few days being floated to med-surg when I was very new and very afraid. When the nurses knew the techs were having busier days than usual due to short-staffing, every single one of them always asked if they could do anything to help me out with our shared patients. We have tech jobs and nursing jobs, but everyone is willing to help everyone out with any of those jobs if they need a hand.
I really feel like I found the perfect unit to be lucky enough to work on. I can’t say enough about how much I loved working with and getting to know everyone on our team. It’s really nice to have people you can vent to when things get crazy and to laugh with when things get ridiculous. My director has already offered me a position when I graduate and there is no doubt in my mind that I am going to take him up on that offer in a few semesters. I’ll be able to have my first job as a nurse surrounded by people who I already know and love. Because of that, and being able to learn from each of them, I know I will become a great nurse.