Imagine waking up twice a week at 4:30 a.m., attempting to memorize countless patient medications, driving 30 minutes or more to a hospital and spending the rest of your day taking care of a patient and learning about hospital procedures.
Such is the life of a TCU nursing student during a clinical, a real world experience designed to facilitate the acquisition of practical knowledge and skills. While enrolled in a clinical, nursing students wake up while most of their peers are still sound asleep.
“My day starts about 4:30, my alarm goes off, I wake up, I walk my dog, feed my dog, and feed myself because I’m in maternity and labor and delivery this semester. So if you don’t eat you’ll probably faint and you can get in trouble,” senior nursing major Kalekia Adams said.
“I wake up around 5 a.m. for my clinical at 6:30 a.m.,” junior nursing major Grace Hallums said.
Upon arriving at the hospital, Hallums and her nursing instructor establish a game plan for how she will spend her day with a patient.
“We pretty much do anything from entertaining patients, helping patients to the bathroom or even cleaning up messes,” Hallums said.
“Try to follow a nurse. Hopefully you’ve gotten a nice nurse that actually wants a student who isn’t overwhelmed,” Adams said. “If not, your 12 hour shift is really long because they don’t want you to be with them and you have no choice but to try and follow along.”
Afterward, the nursing students spend two hours writing down information about their assigned patient, including his or her diagnosis and medications. Hallums said nursing students are expected to know what types of medications their patients need and how to administer those medications.
“You want to try and see as much as you can, “ Adams said.
“But maybe that day you’re in labor and delivery and there’s only one mom and she’s not advancing in her labor.”
Adams said the nurses are required to get as much hands on experience as they can throughout the day.
“So you probably gone though the whole day just sitting there trying to complete the eight pages of paper work that you have due at the end of clinical that day, or hopefully you’ve gotten a chance to get some hands on experiences,” Adams said.
FIRST BREAK OF THE DAY
Around 11 p.m. Adams said the nursing students go for a lunch break during which they ask their professor any questions they may have about their patients.
Jennifer Johnson, an adjunct clinical instructor, said she expects a lot from her students in order to ensure they are well prepared.
“They need to make sure they know what they’re doing,” she said.
The students are closely observed by their clinical instructor and are not allowed to provide care unless an instructor is present.
“The students are very strong and I expect a lot from them at the beginning, and they are very stressed and think I’m pushing them too hard,” Johnson said. “But by the end of the semester, they are so happy that I was so strict.”
Adams said more paperwork is successfully finished after lunch before they continue to shadow a nurse of their choice.
During the student’s shift, Adams said that some days it’s difficult to find hospital staff members that that have the tolerance to teach the nursing students.
“It seems like a lot of people have forgotten what it feels like to be in nursing school so they don’t necessarily have the patience with you,” Adams said. “If you’re not naturally someone who seeks out opportunities, your day will be spent sitting.”
Around 4 p.m. the nursing students will meet in a conference room where they will have a group discussion about their day.
Tired from a long day of hospital procedures, Adams said the nursing students manage to muster up the last of their energy and make the hour and a half commute back to Fort Worth while “enjoying” traffic in between Grapevine and Fort Worth.
At this time the day has past and Adams said she typically gets home around 7:15 p.m.
After her shift at the hospital, Hallums returns home to spend four to five hours on homework and preparing for the next day.
“And this is all for one class,” she said.
With little time for leisure, Adams said she gets home, walks her dog Earl, feeds him, feeds herself, showers and then hits the books.
“And probably by 9 p.m. I’ll have to sit and read 4 chapters for class the next day, and do any kind of homework and study if I have a test,” Adams said. “I’ll probably end up staying up the whole night.”
Adams goes to sleep for maybe three or four hours and will wake up to study a few more hours before her exam.
“And that’s a day that I don’t even work,” she said.
Along with being a full time nursing student Adams is one of few students also working at a hospital outside of class.
Adams smiled as she said she worked 12-hour shifts at Harris hospital in downtown Fort Worth in orthopedics on top of being a student.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Chassity Peyton, a 2013 alumna of the nursing program, said. “But now that I look back, I would go back and do it again because of the outcome.”
Peyton, now a registered nurse, said she appreciated the “challenging” TCU nursing program.
“I credit TCU for making the program so rigorous, because being in the hospital and being in the real world is pretty serious. I don’t want to kill anyone,” Peyton said.
Peyton said nursing students have to endure a great deal to obtain their degrees.
“That’s exactly why we go crazy at graduation – people don’t understand that we have been through hell and we deserve a d*** celebration,” she said.