Clinicals: the grime and the glory

December 16, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Bethel nursing students offer perspective on their clinical experiences

Culture | Rachel Wilson

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At Bethel, it seems the word clinical is heard regularly, if not daily. Many have an idea of what a clinical entails, but few know the ins and outs—the grime and glory that come along with it.

A clinical functions as first-hand experience in the hospital setting for junior and senior nursing students. Each student is assigned a location for the semester. Nursing students are assigned a single floor or unit for the entire semester of clinical and receive a new patient each week.

During their eight-hour shift, the student works intensively just as a nurse would, performing basic health functions, such as bathing or changing sheets, giving injections and other medications, in addition to numerous other personal care needs, all under the supervision of a clinical director. Originally from the Chicago area, junior Hannah Russell is a nursing major with a psychology minor. This fall she was placed at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale for her first semester of clinicals.

Russell is currently on a neurological and renal floor at the hospital. She handles a wide range of patients on the job, typically those recovering from a stroke, kidney failure or a sickness of the like.

During her time at North Memorial, Russell has relished the intimacy she’s gained with various patients. Russell explained a recent interaction she had with a patient.

“All the other nurses said she was nonverbal…but when it was just her and I, she began talking to me,” Russell stated. “That trust and relationship you have with your patient… it’s real, you know?”

Russell’s most challenging patient experience in the clinical setting thus far was caring for a patient who had been in a vegetative state for half his life. “We’ve always learned about life and death, but when are you extending life or prolonging death? It causes you to really think,” Russell explained.

Breanna Fuller, a junior in the nursing program, offers a unique and personal perspective. From a young age, Fuller knew she wanted to be in the medical field. However, it was when her younger brother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma six years ago that she knew she was called to be a nurse.

“I saw how much interaction the nurses had with him and our family and how compassionate they were,” Fuller explained. “By the way, my brother survived and is, so far, cancer free,” she added with a smile.

Today, Fuller is confident in her calling to be a nurse, embracing each and every varying situation.

“I feel like as a nurse you have this really special opportunity to come alongside a person when they’re at some of the most dark and hard parts of their life… and you just get to shine the light of Jesus into their life through helping them with the most practical of things (i.e. going to the bathroom or changing their sheets),” Fuller explained. “It’s a special opportunity to be with someone during that and experience their pain and their joy.”

Senior nursing major Hannah Ash sheds light on the difficulties of the profession. “The most difficult part for me has been not being able to freely talk spiritually with my patients. Because my faith influences the way I think about, care for, and interact with patients, it is difficult as a care provider to not be allowed to talk openly about it with patients.”

However, by caring for physical needs, Bethel nurses are able to display their faith through and through.

“As nurses, we get to work with people when they are at a low, often in valley moments of life. Dirty work is an expected and accepted part of our job,” Ash explained. “We overcome gruesome sites, smells and bodily fluids to care for the person. I get to be the hands and feet of Jesus, caring for the sick and those in need.”

For Ash, the patient interaction has proved nothing short of rewarding, from listening to an elderly man discuss how much he missed his recently diseased wife, to making a non-verbal 18-year-old laugh and smile.

“I love being present with my patients," Ash said. "I love providing them with hope in the midst of a difficult situation, giving them a reason to smile.”

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