A week in the life of a first semester CNL student at UMBÖ
Monday: My alarm goes off at 5:30 am. I leave my house to catch the train at 7:00 so that I can be downtown and ready to go when class starts at 8:00. Monday is health assessment. This class goes through each body system and you learn how to do literally do an assessment to make sure the personís body is functioning properly. For example, this past Monday we learned how to do an abdominal assessment. The lecture first had a brief review of GI anatomy and physiology, and then you learn how to assess the patientís subjective symptoms and the objective findings from the abdominal physical exam in order to formulate a nursing diagnosis and a nursing care plan. Health assessment ends at 11:00 am. For four consecutive weeks toward the beginning of the first semester, we also had a communication module on Mondays. This module met from 2:00 to 5:00 pm and focused on how to use communication in a therapeutic setting.
Tuesday: My alarm goes off at 6:00 am, I leave my house at 7:30, and class meets from 8:30-10:30. Tuesday is intro to professional nursing practice, otherwise known as fundamentals of nursing, or ďfundiesĒ for short. This class teaches you the ďmeat and potatoĒ nursing skills. You learn everything from medication administration to wound care to patient hygiene to nurse and patient safety to patient mobility. This class literally gives you all of the basic skills that nurses use every day. Both fundies and health assessment have a clinical simulation lab (CSL) components built into the course (more on this later). Tuesday afternoon I take context of healthcare delivery and intro to the CNL role from 11:00-2:00. This is more of a theory class and you learn about some key issues such as legal, ethical and economical issues that effect nursing practice today. You also learn a little about the history of nursing in this class as well.
This semester you are off either Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the CSL lab group you are in. I decided to take Wednesday off because itís a nice way to break up the week.
Thursday: I have both fundies and health assessment CSL on Thursday. In the morning I have fundies lab from 9:30-11:30 and in the afternoon I have health assessment lab from 12:30-2:30. I love CSL because it actually allows you to put all of the didactic information you have learned in to practice. If you go to one of the information sessions, they might give you a tour of the CSLs. They are set up just like any hospital, with real hospital beds, monitors, etc. Even the mannequins that we practice on are very similar to a real patient. Some of the more expensive ones even have actual physiologic functions and vital signs that you can program. For example, you can listen to abnormal heart murmurs or abnormal lung sounds with your stethoscope.
Friday: One word: PATHOPHARMOCOLGY! This is probably one of your hardest classes first semester. It starts at 8:30 am and ends at 3:00 pm with a break for lunch between 11:00 am and 12:30 pm. This is where all of your A & P and microbiology comes into play. Again this class takes a systems approach. You learn about the pathophysiology and disease processes that can occur in each system and then learn which drugs are used to ameliorate these problems. Since this class meets for 5 hours each week, you cover an incredible amount of information in a very short amount of time.
As far as assignments go, you have your traditional tests and quizzes. Context of healthcare delivery has 2 papers (I have only done one so far), pathopharmacology has a 10 page case study, and fundies has a CNL leadership paper at the end of the semester. I am in the 21 month extended track so I am not taking systems in health population this semester. The 16 monthers are taking this an online course and they have a few papers for that as well.
Then there is something called validation. This is how you are tested on all of your skills in CSL. Basically you are handed a scenario instructing you to perform a variety of nursing tasks you have been practicing. While you are performing your scenario, you are being videotaped. Then, your instructor watches back the video and grades you on your performance. This can be an incredibly stressful type of testing situation if you are not adequately prepared. That is why you spend a lot of your free time during the course of the first semester in open lab. The few hours you have to practice your skills during your scheduled lab session is not nearly enough time to properly master all of these skills. This is why open lab is a necessity. I canít stress this point enough.
Lastly, I want to openly state that you have to be extremely committed in order to do well in this program. This program places high importance on critical thinking, integration of information, and independent learning. Besides for the routine assignments, you spend a lot of time reading the textbooks and applying the didactic theory to real world nursing practice. Evidence based practice is a concept that will be continually used throughout your nursing career. So you canít just know how to do something, you have to know WHY you are doing something and how it will effect your patient in both the short and long term.
If I anyone has more questions about the CNL program please donít hesitate to ask!