Pursuing a Practicum in a Pandemic

Nursing Students

September 3, 2020

Meet Brittany and Nicole

As told to Ben Surby

Student placements play an important role in the development of healthcare professionals, providing first-hand training and real-life experience. We spoke to Brittany and Nicole about their experience in the University of Alberta Hospital’s emergency department during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What has your placement at AHS been like for you?

Brittany: I completed my nursing clinical placements with Alberta Health Services (AHS), including an in-hospital and leadership placement with Health Professions Strategy and Practice (HPSP) Nursing Professional Practice. I found my practicum at AHS to be a very enjoyable experience as I believe we are at an advantage in this province, having everything under a single health system.

I learned the most about AHS through my leadership placement, as I was given the opportunity to work with a very knowledgeable team that invested a lot of time and effort into ensuring I gained a holistic understanding of its role within the greater organization. Through this placement, I was also able to interact with interdisciplinary teams, which provided me with a new perspective on AHS and the span of its reach in improving healthcare in this province.

Nicole: My placement at AHS has been like working with my family every day. I have found that the staff are welcoming and always willing to go above and beyond to help their patients. As a student, AHS developed a safe place for students to learn and grow their practice, and I have become a better nurse within these hospitals.

The staff are mentors and leaders in compassionate care, and I am excited to begin work as a registered nurse. Working within AHS has been a wonderful experience! - Nicole

What do you do in your role on a daily basis?

Nicole: As a graduate from the University of Alberta’s after degree nursing program, I am a new grad registered nurse, beginning my practice in acute care, and caring for those who are in some of the most vulnerable states of their life. From start to finish, I provide compassionate and empathetic care pre-operatively, post-operatively and everything in between.

Brittany: During my clinical placements, I was able to interact with patients, and with intra- and inter-professional team members. Day-by-day, I learned from my buddy and preceptor nurses the expectations of what I would be doing once I graduated. After my preceptorship in the emergency department, I now understood that my role is fluid. I must adapt to work with the patient and interdisciplinary team. Each individual is different and I need to have the knowledge to care for people across a spectrum, from bandaging up road rash, to helping a family cope with the last few moments of their loved one’s life.

Being a registered nurse in an emergency department means approaching care with knowledge, understanding, compassion and a plan of action. - Brittany
Student Nurse
Student Nurse

Why did you choose to work in healthcare?

Nicole: I come from a family of medicine, where almost all the women in my life are nurses. Growing up, medicine was our everyday life. Nurses were the heroes I dreamt of being when I grew up. Throughout university, I knew there was nothing I would rather do with my life than care for others and help improve their health. I loved the pathophysiology of disease and health, and I was always trying to learn more about how to help those who were sick.

I chose to become a registered nurse because I could be an innovative leader in a changing healthcare world, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else than with patients when they need care. - Nicole

Brittany: I went into healthcare because I found myself wanting to find a profession that would allow me to help others. I had a career before pursuing nursing school but, each and every day that I’ve been on this journey, I’ve felt more and more like I am finally on the correct path for my life. I look forward to my shifts and going into the hospital. I look forward to meeting and interacting with new patients each and every day. Working in healthcare has encouraged me to be confident. I am helping others when they need support, and providing compassion when they need a listening ear.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned in this role?

Brittany: I am meant to be a registered nurse; everything in my life has led up to this place where I feel I can make a difference. I finally have a sense of fulfillment in the work that I do on a daily basis.

Nicole: Being at someone’s side when they are at their most vulnerable is an honour and a privilege. Patients put their trust and hope in me as their nurse, and I am honoured to be their advocate in their time of need. The smallest of compassions can improve the lives of my patients in ways which are incomparable. Being a nurse means more than providing care; it means creating a safe place without judgment, a hand to hold, and a friend to those who need it. It takes a team to provide care and, even though I’m now graduated, I accept that I will always have lessons to learn throughout my practice.

Student Nurse
Student Nurse

What’s the most impactful experience you’ve had in this role?

Nicole: My most impactful experience has been working in the emergency department during a pandemic. It is a challenge to provide care through all the regulations and personal protective equipment (PPE). Patients in emergency are often at their sickest and it can be scary for them; they may be alone and without visitors. They may feel separated and as though they have no one around to hear their fears.

As nurses, even under all the PPE, it is our job to provide reassurance and be the family they need in those situations. Our glasses and visors are foggy, we are sweating underneath our gowns and gloves, but we are still determined to give the best care we can to our patients.

Brittany: I have not had one single impactful experience but many experiences that have shaped me as a registered nurse. I find when I have a patient or a patient family member thank me for the care I am providing, I am reassured I am pursuing the correct profession. It is my nature to help others, and it is so very reassuring when others recognize that in my interactions with them. I have also found working within the interdisciplinary team to be very rewarding as I have gained perspective on the importance of working as a team and utilizing each and every person’s expertise. We all have our own knowledge and are most successful when we work together.

Taking all these factors into account, what I found most reassuring and impactful was being told by my mentoring nurses that they would love to work with me in the future, and to consider applying to work on their unit or with their team upon graduation. - Brittany

They felt I would be an asset to the overall team and it allows me to state with confidence that I am meant to be a registered nurse.

What would you say to other people considering a career in healthcare?

Brittany: Do not let anything hold you back from pursuing your goals. I had a whole career before entering nursing school but it was the best decision for me to take that leap of faith into what I felt would finally provide me with fulfillment. You never know what impact you can have on others, or the self-confidence you can gain by finding your niche and feeling like you are where you are meant to be.

Nicole: I would say absolutely they should! If I could go back and tell myself what I know now about healthcare, I know I would never change my mind about my decision to work in it. It takes a special person to dedicate your life to helping others. But if you want a career which will challenge you and offer the opportunity to change someone’s life, healthcare is where you should be. It can be incredibly challenging, but it’s also one of the most rewarding and beautiful professions there is. The opportunities for learning in healthcare are endless, and there are many paths you can take to grow and learn as a healthcare provider.

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