Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My feelings during clinicals and how I deal with them

I just got my clinical assignment for my final semester of nursing school. When I look back, it seems like I've gone through a lot even though it hasn't even been 2 years yet.

This made me reflect on my previous clinical experiences and how I dealt with some feelings that would arise.

Clinicals can be anywhere from very fun to very stressful. Factors like who your clinical instructor is, the rapport between your peers, patients, the nurse you get assigned with for the day, and just your own personal threshold makes all the difference in the world.

First Semester

This was the semester where we all went to assisted living facilities for our clinical. This was the hard and dirty work for us. No passing medications, no full assessments (although we did some light assessing), and no true collaboration with nurses. It was much more about starting from rock bottom. Nurse aide work. That means building raw skills like feeding, toileting, bed baths, transporting, and light assessing.

How I felt: 

In all honesty, I didn't really feel much of anything besides just wanting to get my assignments done. Our school liked to pile on a lot of assignments for us during this semester's clinicals. I didn't have the best rapport with that particular group partially because it was the first semester so I didn't know everyone well and partially because of the people I was with.
How I dealt with it:

I focused on completing my assignments for that day. I think I could have done a better job planning things out. When you plan out as much as you can what you will be doing for the day, it makes the experience much less stressful because you know what you will be doing. Then you won't have those awkward moments standing around wondering what you should be doing and then at the end of the day, wish you worked more on that case study that's due in (blank) amount of weeks. You also have more focus and won't think or worry as much about peer relations because you'll be too focused on getting your shit done.

Second Semester

This is where things started to get more serious. We were now placed in hospitals and specialty care settings such as labor and delivery for our clinicals.

How I felt:

This was one of my lonelier semesters. Our peer group was divided because of a clique and mean gossip. My own solace was with two of my peers who also seemed to be ousted from the clique. Not saying all cliques that form are the worst ever, but this one would not let anyone else in. For example, at lunch, it was a known fact that our peers are encouraged to sit with each other. Our instructor was known to not always join us for lunch. What happened was the clique would purposefully get their food and sit at a table that was not easily seen by us. So when the rest of us were going to sit somewhere, we didn't know where they were sitting and would just sit among ourselves. It was kind of awkward, especially because in all of the clinical groups, we are encouraged to be like a team and sit together with our peers at lunch. It's weird because it's like giving a sign that they don't want to sit with us. It would be different if we were not expected to sit with each other but hey, team spirit~! and we were expected to. (-__-)

How I dealt with it:

The best thing I did was to just ignore the clique and stop trying so hard to befriend some of them. There was this one girl in the clique who always gave me negative vibes as if she just didn't like me. She even talked crap about me to someone she was sitting next to in class while I was sitting right across from her and could hear her every word. I tried to talk to her a couple of times during clinical just to be friendly but she never really responded, would give short curt answers and would never try to talk to me. Eventually, I just gave up trying to be friendly with her and only speak to her when necessary. One thing you learn in life is that no matter what you do, some people are just not going to like you, no matter how nice you are to them. It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders after I stopped trying to get on better terms with someone unwilling to try them-self.

Luckily for me, all of the nurses were very nice and I never had a problem with any of them. They were all so helpful and didn't treat me like an outsider. That was a plus since the clinical peer group I was with wasn't so great. My clinical instructor was tough but in a constructive way. Many of the people in our group would complain about our instructor but I liked her and she was nice about trying to help me and I could understand why she was not the easiest.

Third Semester

This semester was better than the last. It wasn't nearly as isolating. One of the groups I was in was the best I ever had and will probably ever have and the other was so so. It's amazing what a difference it makes to your clinical experience when you have good relations with your clinical group. It can really make or break it. The clinical group I had for my mental health rotation got along really well and we had no problem talking with each other when we went to lunch or while we were out with patients. The clinical group for med/surg was okay but I didn't have the best affinity with them. Although they never really formed cliques, I would notice at times that I often ended up being the one who didn't interact as much as the rest of them (I could be wrong though).

How I felt: 

With my mental heath group, I had no problems with them and I really wish we could always be in the same group because we worked so amazing with each other.

With my med/surg group, although I did not have the best flow of conversation with them like my last group, we at least tried to get along with each other as best as we could and our instructor was good at keeping us together at lunch and helping with conversation. The nurses were okay but this time, I got a wider variety of them and they were all quite different. The only negative experience I can recall with a nurse was when she had a nursing student who was precepting (sort of like an intern) which basically made me the third wheel. I also didn't get along the best with this nurse. Sort of like that feeling where you just have different type of energy from that person which makes you kind of repel away from them. Anyway, it really sucked being a third wheel.

How I dealt with it:

In my med/surg peer group, I noticed that I put more effort to speak up during discussions so I would not become isolated and tried to be more involved. I would also try to focus on what I needed to get done for the day and do anything and everything to stay organized. That meant making a good 'brain' for myself when I gathered data on my patients and knowing what and when their medications were due. I would also make sure I had the phone number to the nurse I was assigned to and other useful phone numbers such as room service to help patients order food.

As for being a third wheel, I tried really hard not to get emotionally affected by it. Because even though I tried to think positive thoughts like "It's only because she's precepting, you don't have to feel this way, it's not any of your faults," it still hurt. I was basically ignored for the day and did not get any opportunities from that nurse even though I asked for them because the priority is the precepting student. Unfortunately, it didn't help when I tried to talk to my clinical instructor about it. I also tried and failed to get in on some conversation about dieting with that student and my nurse (my mistake since I honestly wasn't that interested or knowledgeable about the topic). This is not the best analogy but you know that feeling you get when your good friend is getting along better with some other person who is more similar to them in every way compared to you? It was like that. And even though I wasn't best buddies with my assigned nurse, it still hurt because I felt rejected. So what did I do that day? I put my full focus on my patients and doing my best for them. I think feeling connected to my patients helped to fill the void inside me that day.

I know this isn't what most people expect to hear about nursing clinicals. But it's my personal experience and hopefully, this could also help someone going through something similar.

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