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A week in the life of a nursing student: junior Ashleigh Holden documents the ups and downs of a week of clinicals, tests, and college life

A week in the life of a nursing student: junior Ashleigh Holden documents the ups and downs of a week of clinicals, tests, and college life

By Ashleigh Holden ’13
I have wanted to work in the medical field ever since I was a little girl. I considered being a doctor, but decided to major in nursing instead because so often it is the nurses who really get to form relationships with patients and their families. It is hard to believe that in only three short semesters my days as a college student will be over. My days at UMHB will one day come to an end, but the lessons and education learned will stay with me forever. Here is a glimpse into a week in my life:

Sunday, October 16
My school week really begins Sunday around 2 o’clock, when I head over to my friend Corbin’s apartment for my weekly Sunday afternoon study session with Nicki, Corbin, Molly, and Danica. These study groups help tremendously! We study on our own, then meet to discuss what we’ve learned. Each of us often have information others do not have, so it’s good to hear other thoughts and opinions. Tomorrow is the last day of 3610 Nursing of Adults I, so tonight we are preparing for our final exam.

The course takes place during the first half of the semester. Then Nursing of Adults II begins and will last until the end of the fall semester. 3610 consisted of basic nursing care such as bed baths, administering meds, and nurse/client interaction; perioperative care; hygiene; the urinary system; nutrition; and the GI system. It sounds like a lot of information to learn in seven weeks, and it was!

It’s surreal to reflect upon the last month and a half and realize the amount of information learned will (hopefully) stick with us for the rest of our lives. While cramming in a last few hours of studying for the final exam tomorrow morning, I couldn’t help but look around at my study group. The Lord has blessed me with four incredible friends. They are the ones I turn to for comfort and condolence when I feel overwhelmed (which, as a nursing student, is a feeling I’ve become accustomed to lately!)

I normally try to make it to bed before midnight the night before an exam, but my mind was going full-speed tonight. I was pretty nervous about the exam and had a difficult time relaxing. I eventually fell asleep, but not before a lot of prayer. I prayed that God would relieve my anxiety and help me recall the information we studied.

Monday, October 17
After four hand slaps to the snooze button, I finally forced myself out of the bed to get ready for the day. On my way out, I grabbed a homemade cranberry orange muffin and a Diet Coke (because let’s face it, there’s no way I’m getting through this exam without a few sips of liquid heaven—aka Diet Coke).

The final exam took place at 7:30 this morning. It was obvious the entire class was a bundle of nerves, but thankfully Mrs. Beamon blessed us with her words of wisdom as she prayed over each student. The faculty in the College of Nursing do not receive enough recognition for everything they do for us. They genuinely care about each and every student and spend countless hours (that often go unnoticed) preparing for class and lab. I am so appreciative of all they do!

Once I finished the final exam, I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief—3610 is officially over. Did you hear that? OVER! To say I’m excited would be an understatement.

After making a quick lunch at my apartment (a honey wheat bagel with peanut butter), I headed out to work a golf tournament for UMHB alumni and donors. As a member of Student Foundation, I get the opportunity to work at many fun university events like this. Once the last golf cart drove by, I quickly took off to make it to class in time.

On my way back to campus I made a quick stop at Taco Bell for dinner. I was able to pay for my taco using the new CruCard system. Students are now able to use their reloadable CruCards at several restaurants in Belton, such as Bodega Bean, Taco Bell, and Schlotzsky’s. I’m loving the convenience of this new system!

I made it on to campus just in time for my 7 p.m. Pharmacology lecture. Tonight we thoroughly discussed a case study which dealt with a patient experiencing chest pain and heart issues. We talked about different drug choices, nursing care plans, and interventions the nurse would need to make, depending on the severity of the situation.

After class, I always try to wind down by taking a nightly jog. This is my favorite part of the day. As soon as I take the first leap onto the paved road and turn my music up loud, the world disappears. During this time, I do not think about nursing, I do not think about my schedule, and I do not think about everything I must finish that day. I simply focus on the music blaring in my ears and listen to the synchronized thudding of my feet as they hit the pavement.

Tuesday, October 18
I wake up at 8 a.m. and start my day by reading Philippians 4:4-7. Lately, nursing has created a lot of anxiety and apprehension in my life, causing me to doubt the Lord’s plan. I know that He knows best, but giving up control terrifies me. At the end of the day, however, He remains faithful, and His divinity remains true.

Armed with this reassurance, I head over to Wells Nursing and Science Hall for lab. Today we got to learn how to start an IV! I have learned so many skills since August, but this is my favorite so far. For some reason, this made me feel like an actual nurse. We learned on a mannequin arm but were given the clear to practice on each other. Whether or not I will allow myself to practice on a fellow student and vice versa is still up for debate.

After a quick lunch at the apartment, I head to class. Today, we learned about the respiratory system and disorders that go along with it. A guest speaker came and talked to us about the life of a respiratory therapist. She brought a lot of equipment she uses at her job, as well as pig lungs covered in cancer. We were able to feel the lungs and see firsthand the effects of smoking.

After class, I rushed home to cook dinner before heading out to a babysitting job. Tonight’s menu included sweet potato fries and edamame. Random, I know, but I am trying to eat all of my food before going grocery shopping. Such is the life of a college student!

I drive over to babysit Ella, who is two years old, while her siblings are at soccer practice. I love babysitting for this family. The parents have shown me such encouragement throughout nursing school. Both parents are doctors, so they understand the demands of school. Tonight, Ella and I go on a long walk. The beautiful weather and setting sun definitely helped me relax and clear my head. I must say, taking care of one child is so much easier than four!

I say goodbye to Ella and her family around 8 o’clock and head to the campus library to complete a few tasks. After a couple of hours, I go back to my apartment to get ready for clinicals in the morning. I call it a night around 11 p.m. Thanks to my 5 a.m. wake-up call the next morning, my bedtime is much earlier than it once was!

Wednesday, October 19
My carpool buddies Nicki and Chelsea and I arrive at Scott & White Hospital by 6:45 the next morning. We have clinicals every Wednesday and Thursday. I am on 6 North this semester, which is a basic med-surg floor.

Each week, a different student is chosen to be the charge nurse who assigns patients to each student. After receiving our assignments for the day, we meet in the nurse’s lounge to team up with our nurse mentor. She gives us our patients’ report sheets, which contain the patients’ information and everything we need to know that happened during the night shift. I spend about 15 minutes looking up my patient’s medications and other important information then go to the room to meet the patient.

I have the same routine every day. First, I get a Dinamep, which is the vital signs machine. This machine takes the patient’s blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and oxygen saturation. I talk to the patient and ask basic questions, such as, “How did you sleep?” and “Are you in any pain?” Talking to the patient helps me get an initial assessment. Listening to them gives me a general idea of whether or not they are anxious or depressed, and of any concerns they may have. While in the room, I also perform a physical assessment. I listen to heart, lung, and bowel sounds; assess their skin and limbs; and observe any physical problems. I document everything on the computer, which is located inside the room.

I then go to get medications out of the med room and begin administering the 9 a.m. meds under the supervision of a nurse or faculty supervisor. We are required to know information about each drug given, meaning we have to look up the information either in our drug book or on the computer. After we give meds, we fill out the assessment sheet in our paperwork packets, which are due to our faculty supervisor every Friday.

There isn’t an actual schedule to follow during the day. We just have to give meds at the correct time, take vitals when ordered, and help the nurses with anything they need. The nurses often have at least five patients, so we try to do anything that will make their jobs easier, such as vitals, blood glucose checks, ambulating patients, giving baths, or certain procedures we are allowed to do.

At 11:15, all of the nursing students go to the cafeteria and eat together. This is a fun part of the day! It’s nice to step away from the floor and have different scenery. Once we finish lunch, we must administer afternoon meds, check on patients, and document information in the computer. The afternoons always go by quickly. We get vitals one last time just before 2 p.m. and make sure the patient has everything he or she needs. Then, we say goodbye to our patients and meet in the lobby of 6 North for our “post conference.” Ms. Jordan and Ms. Smalley, the two faculty for 6 North, lead the 15 students in a debriefing of the day where they give us advice and constructive criticism. We are able to ask questions about how we can improve our quality of care and ways in which we can be more efficient with our time. The faculty really utilize this time to help all of us improve our skills and talk about any concerns we may have. We usually are able to leave by 2:30 and, as we do every afternoon after clinicals, Nicki, Chelsea, and I head straight to Sonic Happy Hour. A large Diet Coke is calling my name!

Back at the campus, I quickly jump in the shower to get ready for the night’s events, which include a Student Foundation meeting and Focus, the Wednesday night campus worship service. It is always so refreshing to sit in an auditorium full of students and worship the same God together.

Thursday, October 20
Today begins with another 5 a.m. wake-up call. I drank a lot of water this morning to rehydrate. I’ve learned over the past four weeks of clinicals how crucial it is to keep yourself hydrated, preferably with water. Did you know that you’re supposed to drink eight ounces of water immediately after waking up since you get dehydrated during the night? Just a little fun fact for the day. I grab a muffin for breakfast and leave for clinicals.

Upon arriving at 6 North, I learned my patient went home yesterday so I have a new patient assigned to me. I follow the same routine as yesterday. Thursday clinicals are shorter, so we must work at maximum speed to ensure everything gets accomplished for the day. Most days I don’t sit down for more than five minutes at a time. From bed baths to administering medications to getting to know the patients, the day absolutely flies by!

Instead of going to lunch at 11:15, we begin post conference. We get done very early today and leave the hospital by 11:30. I am thankful for an early day because I have a busy afternoon ahead of me. I have been asked to speak at the dedication for Farris Hall, the new apartment complex that was recently built on campus and opened in August. I am lucky enough to be one of the first residents to enjoy Farris’ single-occupancy bedrooms and beautiful views of Nolan Creek.

After speaking at the dedication, I join the other Student Foundation members at the President’s Home to work at a dinner party for donors and trustees. It is a great opportunity to talk with the donors and trustees about the master plan. I have the opportunity to meet Jane Meyer, who generously donated $5 million for the College of Nursing Education Center. She tells me about her decision to make the donation, and I tell her a bit about my experiences in the nursing program so far. What a privilege!

Friday, October 21
It is finally Friday! I was able to “sleep in” until 7 a.m. and then headed off to open lab, which is an hour of free practice time in the lab giving us the opportunity to practice the skills we learned that week. We sign up for this time a few days before in class. A faculty member is always there in case we have any questions. Today, we practiced nasotracheal suctioning; we have a simulation on Monday and I want to be as prepared as possible.

The lab finishes just in time for the nursing building groundbreaking. This was such a monumental day for the College of Nursing. Every nursing student available gathered in their scrubs and white lab coats to line the street in front of Wells to express our appreciation as the donors and trustees made their way to the ceremony. Our hope is that they understand how much we appreciate their decision to build this nursing facility.

This was a wonderful way to end a busy but productive week. Now I’m looking forward to a few days off where I don’t have to set an alarm or worry too much about school. And then it all starts over again Monday morning!