What’s it like to tend to your first terminally ill patient? To care for children living with incurable disease? How do you manage the euphoria and tension of helping a woman give birth? And when someone dies, how do you grieve?
Ask a nursing student.
With a $3,000 grant from the University of Virginia Project in the Arts, the School of Nursing Class of 2013 has compiled a book of essays, poems and journal entries that offer a snapshot of nursing students’ experiences during their third- and fourth-year clinicals – the most challenging years.
Fourth-year nursing student Monika Criman served as editor of the book – titled “This Journal Belongs to a Nursing Student” – and Alexa Vasiliadis, an English and studio art major sketched the original illustrations. Nearly three dozen fellow nursing students contributed.
Born out of discussions with faculty adviser and nursing professor Jeanne Erickson, who oversees the School of Nursing’s annual writing contest and teaches a “Nursing Care for Chronically Ill Adults” course, the book often brought Criman to tears as she reviewed, compiled and edited submissions.
“I think I have learned the value of reflection and the need for more opportunities for nurses and other health care providers to reflect on experiences with patient care,” Criman said. “It’s given me a fuller sense of being a nursing student, but more than that, I think it has given me a fuller sense of what it means to be a nurse; these emotions and lessons are learned continually in the setting of health care, no matter how long you have been in it.”
Criman said she appreciated the way in which patients were at the center of each piece. The editing process also gave her a window to nursing experiences different from her own.
“It’s our hope that these reflections can encourage current nursing students that all of the work is not in vain,” Criman said, and “remind experienced nurses of the raw emotions experienced when seeing patients for the first time, and to enlighten others on the experiences that, to us, are ‘just another day at clinical.’”
Nursing Dean Dorrie Fontaine offered the foreword to “This Journal Belongs to a Nursing Student” – a nod to nursing students’ narrative writing requirements during their clinical rotations. In her remarks, Fontaine urges students to care for themselves and remain resilient so they can offer the best, most compassionate care to their patients.
“In an airplane, those seated next to children must put on their own oxygen masks before assisting kids,” Fontaine writes. “If there is one thing you remember from this book beyond the stories of hilarity and pain, heavy hearts and transcendence, it’s this: Care best for others by remaining resilient yourself.”
Peppered with grief and triumph, compassion and empathy, stories run the gamut, from childbirth to aging, cancer to chemo. And like the health care professionals who care for patients at every stage of life and death, the student writers note how they are changed by those they meet, those they care for, those who get better – and those who do not.
The book is available for purchase in the Claude Moore Nursing Education Building lobby for a suggested donation of $10 to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing class fund.