Millikin nursing students learn the realities of clinical work and case studies
Throughout the academic year, many nursing activities and courses at Millikin University happen on the first floor of the Leighty-Tabor Science Center. However, when summer makes its way to central Illinois, the first floor can be a quiet spot, except for one class centered on the nursing profession called Summer Nursing Experience.
Sounds of activity and engagement took over the Summer Nursing Experience classroom on June 25 as students were tasked with trying to read and write using impaired vision glasses and performing other duties with taped fingers. The purpose of the activity was to put the students in the patients' position.
Addressing the class, Dr. Charlotte Bivens, instructor of nursing at Millikin said, "Perhaps the patients have general arthritis, vision difficulties, or maybe they have hearing difficulties as well. You have all of those things that you have to take into consideration in trying to teach the patients and getting them ready for appointments. It may take the patient a little longer – it's important to think about those timings."
The activity was just a small piece of the six-week course designed to help student nurses to "think like a nurse." Throughout the experience, students are involved in case studies and simulations where they work with nursing mannequins. The students are able to practice and think through scenarios that could potentially be life-threatening for the patient.
"Case studies and simulations are a 'safe' learning environment," said Bivens. "We can pause, think, and discuss various options and pros and cons where that probably won't be the case in a clinical setting. I want them to be able to pull from that information when faced with the same or similar situation in the actual clinical environment."
During the simulations, students practice taking and implementing physician orders, administering high-risk medications, initiating nursing care protocols and prioritizing care. As some of the students describe it, it's a "confidence builder."
The course also includes clinical experience were students work 32-40 hours a week with local area hospitals and agencies. Students explore specialty units that they may not have been exposed to during their other clinical courses. Students are also able to develop mentor relationships with experienced nurses and develop a professional network.
"The simulations are great because we integrate scenarios and things that we wouldn't see every day during clinical," said Jessica DeLaVergne, a senior nursing major from Plainfield, Ill. "During the simulations, it's up to us to diagnose what we think the patient has. It's a really good exercise to help us recognize what we're looking at and what we're working with."
DeLaVergne says the students are paired with preceptors as part of their clinical experience where they work the same schedule. "Recently I was involved with a code blue (medical emergency) and it was a situation where I didn't have the opportunity to learn about it during class, but I was able to experience it in a real-life clinical situation. The class is helping me become more confident in myself."
Dr. Bivens also invites guest speakers to talk with the class on topics such as building a resume and understanding the legal aspects of nursing.
"I want them to see the 'real world' even though the real world may not be as good as we wish it would be," said Bivens. "Hopefully this will cut down on some reality shock when they get their first registered nurse job. I also want them to gain skills both in critical thinking, priority setting and communication as well as the 'hands-on' skills of IV start, wound care and use of various pieces of equipment. They should also be meeting some excellent persons to be mentors and resources as they continue through life."
Senior nursing major R'Riel Johnson, of Willowbrook, Ill., says the class is a big learning opportunity for her because she wants to build confidence in her clinical work.
"It helps me build confidence by being with an actual nurse in the field and having the same schedule," said Johnson. "The simulations help us learn different types of things that can happen with patients, help us learn the information and become advocates for patients."
Johnson, a first-generation college student, decided to become a nurse because she loves the atmosphere and wants to help others. Johnson will graduate from Millikin in May 2019.
"I love the patient care interaction and I want to let patients know that they have a voice and we are listening," said Johnson. "The Millikin School of Nursing is a wonderful program, but it's a challenging program, and who wouldn't want a nurse that's not working hard. The faculty care and they want you to succeed."