Tag: Clinicals

Nursing Nuggets: Allison’s Advice for Nursing Newbies

Clinicals are a key component of any nursing program. students will spend as much as 180 hours in a healthcare setting like a hospital, urgent care, or long-term care facility, getting hands-on experience. We spoke with Allison Cooper, who talked about her clinical experience. She also discussed the benefits of academic families, a key way incoming nursing students are supported by their peers. Allison also offers advice to students interested in pursuing this degree.

Allison Cooper
Allison Cooper

Why did you choose to go into nursing? Was there a life experience you had?

My mother was a nurse before she got chronically sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) when I was about two years old. Originally I thought I wanted to go into nursing because of her being a nurse. However, that was not the case. What drew me to nursing was my love for science but with a human twist. I remember always looking up CFS to learn more about something that still does not have a cure. I also was able to watch my own surgery and thought that it was the coolest thing ever to see my tendons and how they move.

I also love the direct patient contact nursing has to offer. Nurses are one of the biggest support persons for patients who are, sometimes, at the lowest part of their lives because of being sick. For me specifically, I wanted to be able to give back to the men and women in the military and work as a nurse within the military.

The concept of an academic family enhances the learning experience. How did your academic family help you in your first years in the program?

The first year of the nursing program can be difficult because of learning how to balance school, work, and social life. My academic family was not only a mentor but a massive support system when figuring this out. I was able to go to them with any questions I had about classes and how to time manage everything. They were also my family away from home, and I was able to do non-nursing activities and build lasting friendships with them!

Two women in masks and blue shirts serving pancakes and sausage
Serving pancakes at the Student Nurses Association benefit breakfast for Omega House

In what way did the academic family concept help you as an upperclassman mentoring newer students?

I loved the academic family even more as an upperclassman. I actually found a passion for teaching, which is something I never saw myself doing. It was a great way to ease the sophomores’ nerves as they went through their first year in the program. It was also a great refresher for information as I began studying for the NCLEX!

Where did you complete the majority of your clinical hours?

We completed the majority of the clinical hours at the local hospitals- Portage and Aspirus. But, we had a lot of different experiences. We went to the local clinics. We went to Marquette for more specialty areas, such as psychiatric and neonatal intensive care nursing.

I had the opportunity to visit many settings. The majority of it was in the hospital setting between medical-surgical, emergency room, intensive care unit, surgery, and labor and delivery. But, I was able to go to Marquette for more critical care in their intensive care and emergency room. I also did a couple semesters with rotations in hospice, oncology, pediatrics clinic, and pediatric cardiology, and family practice clinics!

My favorite clinical experience was in the emergency room in Marquette. I was able to see a trauma in the ER which I always thought would be a setting I’d like. So, it was great to be able to be in the midst of it helping. It definitely solidified that as an area I could see myself in! I also really enjoyed labor and delivery because it was something that I didn’t think I’d have an interest in. But, with that rotation, I was able to see and do the nursing care for deliveries of newborns. That was when I realized that I also enjoyed that area of nursing as well.

Woman sitting on a Jeep with cloudy skies
Cliff Drive views during the color change in October

What are some of the things you did during nursing clinicals? What did you enjoy the most about the experience?

Throughout my three years of clinical experience, I was able to practice many nursing skills, like IV inserts, inserting Foley catheters, and suctioning! I feel going through the clinical rotations, a student learns the fundamentals of nursing and how to be a nurse. I learned how to effectively communicate with patients therapeutically and how to put into practice the concepts we learned in the classroom. What I enjoyed the most about my clinical experience was being able to physically be in the different specialties. This helped me narrow down the things that I liked and did not like. I also really enjoyed being able to practice my skills in a real-life setting.

What did you learn about yourself from the clinical experience?

The clinical experience allowed my passion for nursing and compassion for people to really shine through. It made me realize nursing was the best choice I could have chosen for myself! In addition, I learned that I am able to persevere through challenges and problem-solve.

How do you think the clinical experience has set you up for success in your after-graduation plans?

The program has us go through a detailed clinical. We spent 180 hours a semester at sites and had paperwork to fill out for the rotations. I feel this prepared me very well for life after graduation because of all the in-person time I had in a setting where I would be working while practicing my skills. The paperwork, although sometimes tedious, was well worth it. As I filled it out, it made me think about diseases and how it affects a person. It made me feel comfortable and confident going into my career.

Woman and dog sitting on rocks at the bottom of a waterfall
Allison and her dog, Whealer, Hiking Douglas Houghton Falls

What advice do you have for students getting ready to go through clinical?

The biggest advice I have for students going through clinicals is to always ask questions and get involved in as much as possible. This is the only way you will get the most out of your experience and benefit your education. It was what I did, and I felt I got more out of the clinicals, enhanced my knowledge bank, and practiced skills I know I will need when I graduate.

Allison, what advice do you have for high schoolers who are considering getting a bachelor’s of science in nursing?

Deciding whether or not you want to pursue a BSN can be difficult. I feel shadowing nurses or becoming a certified nursing assistant can really help you decide if it would be a good fit. I did both of these, and it really showed me that I had a passion for nursing and solidified my choice. If that isn’t a doable option if you really enjoy science and anatomy and physiology, this could be a great fit, and I would suggest you give it a try! A BSN also gives you many leadership experiences! It allows you to go into management and other avenues that nursing has to offer other than bedside in hospitals!

NOTE: Allison Cooper received her BSN from Finlandia University in May of 2023. Finlandia University closed in June 2023. The Nursing program (including most faculty and staff) moved to Michigan Technological University shortly thereafter. Tech will incorporate many of the same components Allison mentions in the interview, including clinicals, academic families, coursework, and NCLEX prep. As of the date of this post, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is in the process of obtaining accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and The Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The program has been approved by the Michigan State Board of Nursing. Check back this fall for more detailed information on this exciting new program coming to Michigan Tech.

Nursing Student Advice from Sarah Kuiper

Baby on sled, Sarah holding a large dog
Exploring the Keweenaw winters!

Sarah Kuiper is a fourth-year nursing student, getting her bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) who found that nursing is much more than taking vitals and giving shots. Sarah recounts her experiences as a BSN student and her advice for nursing students.

Why did you choose to go into nursing? Was there a life experience you had? Tell me about it.

I decided to go into nursing after the birth of my first child. Before that experience, I thought a nurse was just someone who gave shots and took vitals. After my daughter’s birth, I learned that nursing is really so much more than that. They are not only caregivers but teachers and advocates. That encounter not only taught me that nursing was in my future but also the significant positive impact that one person can have on the healthcare experience.

The concept of an academic family enhances the learning experience for nursing students. How did your academic family help you in your first years in the program?

My academic family helped me during the first few years by providing study tips, a listening ear, and by giving me a great understanding of what it would take to be successful. They checked in on us to see how we were doing and were always our biggest cheerleaders.

In what way did the academic family concept help you as an upperclassman mentoring and giving advice to newer nursing students?

By providing tutoring and helping our “kids” in the skills lab, I gained confidence in my own skills and knowledge. It also helped me retain what I learned during the first years in the program.

Sarah Kuiper standing with a camera next to a river
Sarah Kuiper, Senior

Where did/will you complete the majority of your clinical hours?

We have a huge variety of clinical locations. I spent a significant amount of time at both hospitals, as well as various local clinics, schools, long-term care, and hospice facilities. Our mental health clinicals included hours at a residential substance abuse house. We also helped to teach life skills to those with developmental disabilities. My most memorable experiences have been when we traveled to Marquette for clinical rotations in intensive care, NICU, and behavioral health units. Each clinical site has a different focus, and the places we are sent depend on what classes we are taking that semester.

What are some of the things you do during clinicals? What do you enjoy the most about the experience?

The things we get to do in clinical progress throughout the program. Only once we have been checked off on a skill in the lab can we do it in the clinical setting. We started doing basic care such as providing hygiene, transfers, and taking vitals. We do patient assessments and learn to document according to the facility that we are at. Skills progress to the point where we start IVs, insert catheters and NG tubes, and even pass medications alongside an RN. In addition to skills, I have gotten to observe multiple surgeries and even a few births! The part I enjoy most is working alongside nurses in our community.

What have you learned about yourself from the clinical experience?

Sarah with baby on her back walking outside in the winter
Sarah enjoying the outdoors

I’ve learned I will never stop learning. Nursing education goes far beyond the classroom, and I have only scratched the surface of all there is to know. Clinicals keep me humble and focused on the main goal of providing the best care possible. Also, the great variety of clinical locations helped me learn where I love to be and want to work in the future.

How do you think the clinical experience has set you up for success in your after-graduation plans?

The clinical experience gives me the opportunity to practice skills in a real nursing setting. As someone who plans to work locally after graduation, each clinical site could be a future place of employment. In addition to getting a basic understanding of the job at that facility, clinical is a chance to network with future co-workers and employers.

What advice do you have for nursing students getting ready to go through clinical?

Study up for your clinical day in order to come prepared. If you know you are going to work with a particular diagnosis, see a specific procedure, or pass a certain medication, look up everything you can on it the night before. Write your self notes on the topic and write down any questions you may have. Be prepared to DO things, seek out opportunities to practice skills, and take the initiative to give yourself the best possible learning experience.

What advice do you have for high schoolers who are considering getting a BSN?

Remember WHY you want to be a nurse and be prepared to work hard. Use all the resources available to you, and reach out for help when you need it.