2.6. SN = Student nurse

Dear Student Nurse,

Today is the first clinical day of the rest of your life.

You're probably nervous; you might be scared. In fact, you're probably petrified. But remember: you have been prepared. You have practiced your skills, gotten items in your little white book checked off, received 90-100% on your math, and most of all, know how to stay safe to protect you and your patient(s).

You will make mistakes. You will forget things. You may be sentenced to Mandatory Skills Lab of Shame. You will linger in skills lab anyways, with or without sentencing, because you need to practice that urinary catheter insertion for the 50th time on the dismayed mannequin, or practice drawing up with a blunt needle every last drop of fake medicine in a leaky 1ml vial without getting bubbles, no flicking allowed. You may cry at some point (public meltdown in the computer lab; driving down G St.; secretly, at night)--this is normal. Common, even. Don't let things get to you; just do better next time. Practice makes perfect.

Sometimes things happen. It may not be your fault, but remember that when you're a licensed, "real" nurse in less than two years, things will be happening nonstop, and there will be no excuses. You must do all the things, take care of all 4-5 of your patients, and help your colleagues with theirs because one day you'll need their help when all your patients need different things at the same time while you're in the middle of giving an enema in a contact room, your gloved hands full, and soiled.

Be kind to your patients and their families. This could very well be the worst day of their lives. Be kind to yourself. This is certainly not the easiest time for you, either, in sickness or health. You might lose friends while you're in the program. You'll make new ones. You may lose classmates: ones who don't make it, and ones who feel that they are "done." You might think about quitting yourself. That's perfectly normal as well. Your relationships may fall apart. Maybe your marriage. Perhaps you have no income because you gave up your job. Remember that this is an investment; sacrifices have to be made. Try to be the best partner, mother, father, or child you can be with what time and energy you have while being the best student nurse you can be, and remember that this, too, shall pass.

You are in transition. You are speeding through a dark tunnel and sometimes it's difficult to see the light (amidst all the call lights, beeping IV poles and wonky vitals machines) on the other end, but at some point, after you have studied more than you ever had and been pushed harder than you've ever been in your life, laughed and cried with your classmates, experienced the best and the worst, you will emerge, side by side with your cohort, a newly licensed nurse with your shiny pin and little white outfit.

Meanwhile, here's a game of bingo to remind you that you are not alone.


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