The Day Nursing Student Apathy Got to Me

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    I love nursing students! I love their enthusiasm and nervous excitement when they walk into the emergency department for their specialty experience day. Most students are afraid that the nursing staff will avoid them. Every once in a while, though, it's the other way around and the staff nurse is the one who is being avoided.

    The Day Nursing Student Apathy Got to Me

    When I first started in our emergency department night shift, I noticed that the 2-3 students were largely ignored for the first half hour or so during shift change. They stood nervously by the desks, repeatedly adjusting their coats and book bags with a look of "please tell me what to do!" on their faces.

    I looked around at the day shift staff, busily getting report on the sick, critical, violent, or the repeat pts that they will be taking over on, so busy that having to explain things to students was just not possible at that moment.

    So I took over and made a whole structure for them which was heartily accepted by my coworkers. On student days, I try to wrap things up early and give a quick orientation. I give a few tips on NCLEX, on how to stay cool in crazy situations, and what to expect for the day, and what to do when an ambulance arrives with a pt. Then I pair people up with the most patient, coolest and toughest 20+ year vets and go home. I usually get told how the students did when I get back to work that night. It's almost always great news. The evening students are always paired with me.

    When it hits the fan at the wrong moment, I still have been able to get them in on mega-codes, help ortho MDs reset bones, start CPR, explain the critical nature of XYZ patient, and why that walking/talking pt will be sent to the ICU. Even with varying degrees of receptiveness, students have almost always been amazingly well mannered and willing to dig in. Except once.

    One day last semester, a pair of students came down and I noticed increasing amounts of boredom/irritation as I went through my (now well practiced and tailored) orientation when I was interrupted in my talk about megacodes.

    "I don't want to see that, and I definitely don't want to DO that. Just tell me where to stand while they do whatever they have to do and I'll wait until it's all over," she said dismissively.

    I was floored. I asked her if she had intention to work as a nurse. She answered that she did, but not in any situation where she would have to do anything dirty or see blood. In fact, she planned to get her NP as soon as possible so she could just write orders and walk away. Her friend agreed.

    When I asked her why she was in the E.R. rotation, she said that it was only because she had been assigned to it. I could only think about the other students who would have loved to be there and what a waste of everyone's time it was for her to have even been there at all. I couldn't help but think of what a waste of time it was for me to have just spent the last 20 minutes telling them anything at all since it had clearly been thrown away before I even spoke.

    To tell you the truth, I was completely upset. I remained upset for almost a week. I spoke to my coworkers who said that many times they will avoid having a student because of that very attitude. I ended up going home and thinking that I didn't know if all students secretly felt that way. If so, why was I putting so much effort into them?

    Just before the winter break, I spoke to an instructor and asked her opinion. She gave me great news. It was this, "Just send them back to their instructors and pop an email to the school."

    Huh. So with the semester ending, I dug back into work and stopped thinking about it.

    This semester the students started to arrive again. I watched them stand a fidget for a moment before my instincts took over and I started to cautiously orient them. My fears were immediately dissolved when one asked "Do you think we might get to do CPR?"

    Thank God for the kind of students I look forward to seeing in my department.
    Last edit by Joe V on Feb 8, '14
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  3. by   Julesmama28
    I hope I get a nurse like you! I will be in the ER in a few months and I can't wait. I have been around enough to know what nursing school clinicals entail and also how to spot a great learning opportunity when I get there. I'm up for doing even the most mundane tasks, I don't care what it is. I know that as long as I'm at clinical my job is to learn as much as possible because all too soon I'll be on my own. Thank you for being willing to teach student nurses like me!
  4. by   seconddegreebsn
    You sound like a truly excellent preceptor, I'd feel lucky to have such great opportunities.

    I don't know if it makes you feel any better, but these people bother their fellow nursing students as well. Yes, there are a share of, "I don't need to do this, I'm just going to skim right into a NP program!" folks are not fun for us either. I sometimes wonder how it's going to be when they arrive at this NP program and exhibit the same attitude - only here for the paperwork! Good luck with that one!
  5. by   NuGuyNurse2b
    LOL Where are you during my rotations? So far, with a full semester under my belt and currently second semester, no one gives a butt about the SN's at my place. We basically just do bedside care, and if we're lucky enough, we can watch other auxiliary personnel (like X-ray, EEG, etc) do stuff to the patient, all while largely ignoring us too. Sometimes when I ask questions I'll get a simple yes/no response, which tells me they don't want the conversation nor are they there to teach me anything, so then I take the hint and shut my trap.
  6. by   unicoRNurse
    MOST students love and very much appreciate nurses like you. I'm glad you didn't let one bad pair of students cause you to write off the remaining 98% who want to learn, and will one day be good nurses. (As for your colleagues who refuse to work with students based on an experience with a bad apple, well, there are a zillion nursing students; it always floors me when people are so willing to make sweeping generalizations about students based on what must be a small percentage of negative interactions with them. It would be like students making statements about "the attitude of nurses" based on their worst experiences with one or two less than pleasant nurses in clinical. Just sayin'.).

    Anyway, I would kill for an opportunity in the ER like the one you provide for your students. So, on behalf of nursing students everywhere (I don't want to be lumped in with them, but I'm happy to speak for them! ), please accept my admiration and appreciation for the time and effort you put into the education of those students fortunate enough to darken the doors of your ER.
  7. by   sunnybabe
    I would love to shadow in the ER.

    They didn't know what they were missing. Thanks for being so committed to your work!
  8. by   hunnybeeRN
    Nursing students and preceptors share that in common - the potential for one or two bad apples to make you wary of all the others in the barrel. I'm glad that the nursing students have someone who not only spends time to orient them but tries to make their ER experience both interesting and educational for them. As someone who is only a few years out of nursing school myself and still a student in many ways, I can assure you, that what you do is not wasted on the vast majority of your students.

    As for those that behave the way those two did, I agree that the school should be contacted in cases like that. Those students should not be allowed to pass their clinicals with that type of attitude and the reluctance to do their work. If they are receiving passing grades while telling their preceptors that, then the way they are graded may need to be evaluated. I've also yet to see an NP program that would consider accepting anyone without patient care experience. I feel pity for any patient that would have a nurse who is only using them for a stepping stone to something else. =/
  9. by   astratton83
    You sound amazing! I have had horrible nurses and would have killed to be in an ER with a nurse like you since my goal is to be a CCRN. Don't let one bad Apple ruin your ability to be amazing! Most student appreciate you
  10. by   RunBabyRN
    Ack, I hate coming across those students here! I've yet to see them in my class, because, thankfully, the one and only one we had is now gone. I cannot IMAGINE having that attitude, and yes, definitely communicate with the instructor because I can GUARANTEE they have another student that would GLADLY switch with them, and the instructor needs to know about this student (I know our instructors talk to the nurses a lot about how we're doing).
    As students, most of us DEFINITELY appreciate any opportunity to learn something new, get our hands dirty, and stretch the limits of our comfort zone (okay, I suppose I can only speak for myself, but I can't be the only one!!). There's nothing better than a nurse who challenges us, WANTS to teach us, and helps to set us up to be successful nurses. So THANK YOU!
  11. by   ellaballet
    I would do anything for a chance to shadow in an ER at this point, those girls don't know what they're missing!
  12. by   kay.0515
    I'd be thrilled if I was paired with you! I have my ER rotation toward the end of the semester, and I'm both excited and nervous. I refuse to be that negative student you described. You sound like a wonderful teacher. Those students that get to work with you are very, very lucky!
  13. by   sjalv
    I seriously applaud your restraint for not telling those students to get lost.
  14. by   kp1987
    I wish you worked at my hospital. I know us students are always in the way and can't do much but honestly would it hurt people to be like this nurse and teach us a thing or two or at least be kind?

    On behalf of students everywhere thank you so much for giving us your time and energy!