At the end of the first semester, Psychiatric Nursing students shadow care aids as part of their clinical experience to learn the basics of patient care…or so I thought. I can confidently say my experience at practicum expanded way beyond the basic of patient care. Although my first Psychiatric Nursing clinical experience cannot easily be summarized into a single page, there are a few major components I would like to share.
My Psychiatric Nursing practicum was at a locked-down residential care facility for patients who require significant support due to dementia, brain injury, and other causes. Since I don’t come from a healthcare background, I felt pretty out of place standing outside the facility at 8 a.m. waiting for my first day to start. My clinical instructor warmly greeted myself and two other students in my group. We were given a full day of orientation and were introduced to the residents and staff. Over the next few days, we began shadowing care aids and learning about their different roles. We worked side by side with them, learning, practicing, and applying the skills we learned in school. I soon found out how resourceful and creative care aids have to be! Between convincing residents to come for breakfast, performing care, organizing baths, and feeding meals, residential care aids have a lot to do in a day.
Another huge learning curve was taking in all of the data from interacting with the environment and residents. Not only did I learn about skin care, cognitive disorders, and lifts, I was also privileged to see the residents in a new light – as people who are coping with their challenging situations. Living in a care facility is an adjustment for families and residents. It was heartwarming to see how many family members came in to visit their loved ones.
One of the greatest influences on my Psychiatric Nursing experience was my clinical supervisor. She was kind, warm, and full of knowledge. Her mannerism reflected thoughtfulness towards students, staff members, and residents. It is easy to see her passion for what she does. To her, nursing is not just as a profession but also as a way of life. She often eloquently explained how nursing skills translate into non-work situations. For example, in life, there will always be moral dilemmas, and as nurses, we are often called upon to make choices requiring integrity. I am thankful to have her as a role model as I consider weighty decisions in the future.
Overall, my experience was definitely greater than only basic patient care. I learned about my peers, the facility staff, my clinical supervisor, and myself. It was a gratifying experience that had a few speed bumps pushing me to become more patient, aware, and thoughtful. I had excellent mentors who were incredibly kind and patient with me. I look forward to my next practicum shadowing Licensed Practical Nurses at the same location in my third semester.