I can’t describe my third semester Psychiatric Nursing Labs without first introducing my lab instructor, Anne Burlington. Anne is a smiling, welcoming and funny person who loves to teach. She’s a world traveller with great stories about her adventures, and she made learning fun by putting together amazing presentations. With a medical surgical lab it’s easy to get caught up worrying about all the minute details of medical procedures to the point where it quickly becomes stressful. However, Anne made sure to inject humour into our day and make learning more enjoyable than nerve-racking. Anne is one of those instructors whose words and kindness will stay in my mind long after I graduate from Stenberg.
Medical surgical nursing is introduced in third semester and carried through into fourth semester courses as well. During our lab we practiced tracheostomy care, where I learned how to remove, clean, and replace a tracheostomy tube. We also covered chest tubes, and the technology used to support patients with chest tubes.
One brand new skill for me at the Psychiatric Nursing Labs was the use of IVs and IV tubing. The trick with IV tubing is to close all of the clamps before hooking up any bags of liquid to it. If I had a dollar for every time I was reminded to “close the clamp” I would have enough money to buy myself a dry pair of pants!
Overall, Anne created a low-stress environment so that we could repeatedly practice setting up and using an IV system. I left the lab feeling confident in my ability to run an IV line. It’s a good thing too, because my practicum in fourth semester required a lot of IV use!
Medical surgical nursing is technical and detail oriented, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring and monotonous. This lab definitely demonstrated to me what a difference an instructor can make when it comes to decreasing stress and increasing confidence.
Now that I am a Registered Psychiatric Nurse (RPN), how much medical-surgical nursing do I see? Some units require an RPN to use their full scope of practice while others focus primarily on psychosocial interventions and medication administration. A few RPNs even opted for further education to learn how to start an IV site.
One of the units that I will work on requires me to use IV medication and IV pumps. I will have to perform wound care independently or assist other nurses with their patient’s wound care. Consequently, I am expected to demonstrate skills I learned almost two years ago. A wise nurse once told me (actually, she told me at least 50 times), “If you haven’t practiced a skill in six months then you need a refresher.” That’s exactly what I did.
I approached the unit’s clinical educator and asked where I could find courses on wound care. I signed up for a course and scheduled some private training with the clinical educator, who generously offered to go over the skills with me.
I know that it’s my responsibility as an RPN to practice within my scope and my abilities. Part of that is taking charge of my education, and ensuring that my skills are up to the challenge of working on a busy unit full of patients with medical needs.
I can’t wait to put my skills to the test and keep them at the forefront of my practice.