Whenever someone hears I am studying to be a nurse, the first topic they poach me with is ‘clinicals’. To quickly clarify what exactly nursing clinicals are, it is important to note how essential this practice is to any nursing school curriculum. Upon graduating from a four-year accredited nursing school and the passage of your licensure exam, a newly registered nurse is able to obtain employment to practice professionally in a healthcare setting. This rapid transition is made almost entirely legitimately possible through clinicals. Clinicals are when students, usually in groups of 6 or 7, go to a professional nursing setting and work with an employee instructor in order to learn about a specific area of care. Through this experience under the guidance of licensed and working nurses, students can take the knowledge they are tested on in the classroom and now apply it in real situations with real patients.
Depending on how far you are within the program, clinicals vary greatly in the number of days a week they take place with each shift ranging from 8 to 12 hours. They require both early and late hours, some starting at 7:00 am (meaning you have to wake up at 5:00 am to get ready for the day and be at your site in proper time before your shift starts) and others ending at 11:00 pm at sites a bit of a distance from Penn’s main campus. My Sunday shift has honestly been a little hard as I don’t get a typical restful Sunday and instead have to plan my time correctly in order to have a low-key day another time during the week. However, through Penn’s longstanding relationships with so many renowned hospitals, clinics, or research facilities, no matter what the sacrifice may be for the students, personally the rewards completely outweigh them in the end.
My first clinical was on Sundays from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm at the Einstein Hospital system up in northern Philadelphia. Not my first choice, having to wake up at 5:30 am to be at the site on time at 6:30 am for the change of shift, but alas not everyone can get the Hospital of Pennsylvania 7:00 am to 3:00 pm shift on Tuesdays. Eventually, students are rotated through various sites so they can see and feel the difference among the different types of care.
So far, I have been through three clinical rotations and I have already learned so much. From being in the neonatal intensive care unit with little infants to being on the postpartum floor with new mothers, to finally experiencing a live birth in the labor and delivery unit, it has been quite the first few shifts. The most exciting rotation by far has been my most recent shift, on the labor and delivery floor. Here, the nurses on duty were so amazing at explaining everything going around us. I learned all about the pathophysiology of my patient with gestational diabetes and had the opportunity to see the documentation aspect that is so critical to the proper care of all patients. This particular Sunday began rather slow and at first, my nurse was worried I wouldn't see much that day. However, just as she was saying this, the operating room needed to be prepared for a mother about to deliver twins. My nurse immediately had me follow her and scrub up to help prepare the operating room with other nurses. The mother was soon brought in by the physician and everything that followed happened smoothly and swiftly. Without any complications, the young mother soon had two baby girls and I was in awe of all that occurred. As my first live birth experience, it was truly breathtaking.
Out of everything that was happening simultaneously, the thing I was impressed with the most was the professionalism and care in each of the nurses and physicians in the room. From the moment the mother’s bed was rolled into the room, the staff was there for her to make her feel comfortable and to give her a sense of security. She was about to give birth to twins and there is so much stress and anxiety that comes along with giving birth to one child, not to mention two. The nurses, physicians, and techs were there for her the whole time. Words of encouragement and inspiration were given. The tone of voice was authoritative but also kind and caring. I could tell the number one thing on everyone’s mind was a safe and happy delivery, the professionalism was breathtaking and really captivated my attention as the day continued. This experience was unlike any health experience I had been a part of before and it's one I will never forget. I can only hope to one day emulate those nurses and be as that present and of a comforting spirit as they were for that young mother.