An open thank you from a medical student to nursing staff (everywhere):
When I started as a nursing assistant, I had three goals: gaining clinical experience, seeing what doctors do on a day-to-day basis, and paying rent. While I did gain invaluable clinical experience, the revelation I had would shape me as a physician forever: nurses run the world. More specifically, nurses run the hospital floor. I very rarely had interactions with the physicians, but the knowledge that I gleaned from my nursing staff has benefited me as a medical student and I am confident that it will help me in the future as a physician.
The first thing that I learned was the value of a nurse (and all clinical staff). You know the stereotype: women with white caps that follow doctors’ orders, nurturing patients and administering medicine and bed baths. Reality check: nurses are strong women AND men, working 12+ hour shifts while taking on 5+ patients. They provide care plans and do the bulk of the clinical treatment. Fun fact- you never see physicians walking patients or transporting them to their tests like you see on Grey’s Anatomy or Scrubs. Nurses run codes and keep people alive. They laugh and cry with patients and families, even at the sacrifice of spending time with their own. They are the first and last encounter that patients have in the hospital, and the face that patients see most often. I learned that nursing staff, as well as any type of clinical staff, deserve the utmost respect.
The second thing I learned was that teamwork is key in health care. While I learned the technical necessities of teamwork, such as bedside rounding and continuity of care, I also learned what it meant to be part of a support team for each other. There were many times that I stood with a group of nurses, soles deep in C-diff, holding down a psych patient at 3 AM, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. These are the times that you realize how much you need a team. The team that you work with will serve as your emotional support, companions, and consultants, and cry with you when your patient hits the call light for the 37th time this hour.
The last thing that being a nursing assistant taught me was the value of hard work. From double shifts to being short-staffed, there are many days that the hospital work environment is flawed. It is a difficult job with high burnout, and it is not easy to come back day after day to a stressful environment. My nurses showed me how to put on my big girl scrubs, suck it up, and get stuff done. And not only get it done, but get it done well. I learned to give the best of care to difficult patients and treat everybody the way that you would want to be treated, even when you really don’t want to get out of bed for your fourth night shift in a row.
When I first started as a CNA, I had no idea how much it would affect me as a future physician. I had no idea that a team of nurses would invest in me, just as much as they invested in their patients. Without them, I would not be where I am today. Thank you, nurses, for your commitment to the people around you. I wish you a day full of alert and oriented x3, independent, and continent x2 patients.
A member of the Class of 2020, Hope Conrad graduated from Anderson University with a degree in biology. She likes to live a curious life through travel, study and service to others.
Copyright 2014 USC School of Medicine Greenville