Name: Easter Tamayo
Class Standing: Sophomore
Interviewed by: Andrei Wayne Kyrk Defino
You're in your sophomore year. This is when nursing majors start doing their nursing clinicals, right? What does it take to get to this point in your studies?
First and foremost, they cram everything we need to know for our clinical year in the first two weeks of school so that we can learn the basics of what we need to do in the hospital setting. In these two weeks, the nursing students are basically being prepared for life in the fast lane. We are taught how to take vital signs (quick health screenings such as blood pressure, respirations and pulse) and the basics of nurse-patient interaction and ethics, i.e. introducing ourselves, asking for the patient's name and date of birth and how to approach a patient. Additionally, one week before heading into the hospital we get trained in how to chart patient information into their system. Essentially we are taught how to input and assess patient data and daily activity into a computer system that helps us log the progress or digression of their health and treatment.
After all the training you did prior to entering the hospital, how did it actually feel to finally go into the hospital for your clinical program for the first time?
It was incredibly scary. Even though you already trained and were taught what to do or say in certain circumstances, once you go in there you don't really know what to expect. Each patient is different and unique and brings a new experience with them; they are not the same as the compliant and cooperative ones you see in nursing skills training videos.
That sounds overwhelming. What was your first day like?
It was seven in the morning and my first patient interaction required me to help clean them up because they had just finished passing bowel. That was definitely memorable. If I am being honest, it took everything in my being to control my facial expressions and not to react inappropriately.
Wow, that is definitely a skill set on its own. You said you started the day at seven in the morning. How long is a normal clinical day?
We officially start at seven in the morning, have a one-hour lunch at twelve, and then work again until three. We go to the hospital once a week and then spend the other four days in class lectures.
So you're in about your seventh clinical rotation now; have there been any other memorable events or patient encounters after the one on your first day?
I think one of the most real moments for me was when I saw a procedure done on a patient who needed a hole surgically made so that they could remove drainage in an infected breast area; they stuck sterile gauze inside the hole to prevent the open wound from being infected. Seeing a long strip of gauze being inserted into the human body wasn't necessarily gross, but rather a situation I had never seen before or felt prepared to witness at the moment. It was a lot to take in, and for the patient, that is a literal statement.
I see what you mean by a different experience every day. Despite not being fully prepared to see that one procedure, for the most part, how does it feel knowing that you're putting what you're learning in the classroom into practice?
What we learn in class is definitely sufficient for helping us move onto the real deal, nitty gritty, demands of the hospital. However, I think what we learn in class is really only there to help us not be clueless when we go into the field. I'd have to say the other 50 or rather 60 percent of our learning happens in the hospital.
In-class lectures and textbooks don't teach you interpersonal communication and interaction with a live patient and their families. That is something you learn to be better at the more you are exposed to it in the field; you learn how to make certain calls and judgments based on past experiences with other patients. The field teaches us how to make decisions on our own and how to act in the hospital.
Seeing how challenging it is, why did you choose nursing as a career path?
The job certainly takes a toll on you physically, emotionally and even spiritually. But for me, I think I need nursing more than the field needs me. The things I see and learn help me grow as a person. Let me put it this way: sometimes going to church doesn't really do it for me. I see faith and community but I want to do more; I want to see it in practice; I want my faith to have an impact.
Being in the hospital, seeing how the little things I do actually make a difference in a patient's well-being, no matter how small, solidifies the idea that my calling and God's purpose for me empowers me to be impactful. I get to see my faith put into practice and I can visibly see how that can bear good fruit.
It sounds like faith plays a big role in how you head into your career. Do you find that you rely on faith more or your knowledge more when it comes to working in your field?
It's definitely both, but one thing I remember from my first day of clinicals was what our Health Assessment instructor told the whole class: "Wherever you go, especially in the hospital, don't ever forget to take God with you." She explained to us that keeping that mindset could change our entire day. I've found that it does; I feel that a little prayer a day before heading into clinicals restructures my perspective on the rotation period. When I do bring God to clinicals, someway, somehow, things tend to work out much better than I expected them to.
You are headed into a lifetime of service. You're intimately involved in someone's life and you participate in tasks that not many are willing to do. From saving a life in an emergency situation to feeding a patient and cleaning up after them, it is a daunting and humbling career. Does that scare you or motivate you or generate some other feelings? What drives you to make this your future?
My dad told me that nursing isn't just a job, it's a ministry. I am not eloquent. I get stage fright. I'm not particularly extroverted enough to be good in a crowd. Any other kind of ministry for me would be hard. However, being in the background and in the sidelines helping (even if I'm not being seen by hundreds of people and publically sharing a testimony) is how I feel I do my best ministry. Nursing allows me to be intimate and involved without feeling like I'm in the spotlight; I get to minister, impact a life and ultimately impact my own.