Jumping out of bed at five in the morning on Mondays and Fridays was the best way to both start and end my week. On those days, I would grab my clinical bag, catch the bus to the hospital, and feel the excitement and rush of what was to come at clinic that day!
Tuesdays and Thursdays I listen to lectures and take exams from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., but at 5 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays I get to help save someone’s life. I was living my dream - getting to "be a nurse," a student nurse, in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab (cath lab) at the local hospital. I was living my dream - drawing up medications, providing comfort, and performing patient assessments during life-saving cardiac procedures.
No one was prepared for what came next. The Thursday of spring break, our college announced that our classes would be held online for the next two weeks. We were also told that we should plan on gathering anything we needed from campus that we might need in the next couple of weeks, as we were instructed to stay at home. The following day, Friday, the hospital announced to our nursing school that it would no longer be allowing nursing students to enter the hospital to log clinical hours due to the coronavirus pandemic.
No, I won’t tell you that "my dreams got crushed," mainly because I am still able to live that dream and become a nurse in the cath lab, some day when I have some more nursing experience under my belt. However, my Mondays and Fridays are no longer filled with as much excitement or fire under my feet, as I would have liked.
I am still fortunate enough to have online "live" classes through a video chat format, which brings some normalcy into what seems to be a crazy world now. Now, I am able to sit outdoors (to keep my social distance) while utilizing my grandparents' internet to attend my classes for the day. Of course, technical difficulties do arise with this form of class delivery every now and then.
As for logging clinical hours? We now log hours doing case studies from online resources and our textbooks, which is definitely NOT the same as performing nursing assessments and interventions on an actual human being. Yet, I am grateful for the clinical hours I did get to log during my time as a nursing student. I will never forget the first time I inserted a Foley catheter, the first time I inserted an IV, the first time I performed CPR, the first time I ran down the hall with a team of nurses and our patient, so the patient wouldn’t code during transport, the first time I was a nurse in a heart valve transplant procedure, or the first time I was a nurse in a cardiac catheterization procedure that saved someone’s life!
As of Friday, March 27th, along with many students across the nation, I was told that I would no longer be returning to campus for classes, or returning to the hospital for clinicals. I won’t get pinned at the nurse pinning ceremony the night before graduation with my nursing colleagues, and I won’t walk across the stage to receive my diploma or turn my tassel that next day.
As much as these circumstances beg me to think about the bittersweet lasts that I will be missing out on, my last day of school, last nursing school exam, last Bible study in the basement of my dorm building, my last finals week, all-nighter, midnight breakfast, and last moments with my friends before some move across the country, I am trying to focus on my firsts.
It brings me joy knowing I will still get to do the things that I love so much, the things that bring me excitement, and the things that put the fire under my feet at 5 a.m. And while it is helpful to acknowledge your feelings and talk to people about your lasts, I also urge you to think about your firsts in your journey so far, and feel the joy, excitement, and fire under your feet for the things to come!
About the Author: Haley Bielenberg
Haley Bielenberg is a senior at St. Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa and will graduate this May with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Haley currently works at a local long-term-care facility where she assists residents with their activities of daily living. Haley’s plans after graduation are to work as a nurse at Genesis Medical Center on the Cardiac Stepdown Unit.