Student in Cath lab- struggling, thinking of quitting

Specialties Cardiac


I am a student in the Cardiovascular Technology program studying in the invasive track, so I work in the Cath lab as a scrub, monitor and circulator tech, alternating roles each case. I am currently doing my clinicals and struggling. My proctors are very nice and supportive, and overall my skills are more advanced than what they have seen in past students according to them. 

However after every night of clinicals, I have crushing anxiety. I do not feel entirely welcomed by the staff, I feel like an outsider... which I know I am as a student. I work hard by always helping set the sterile table and field, prepping the patient pre and post case, stocking the rooms, studying angio films and ECG etc. But yet I still have other staff and doctors making comments to me. I know I am there to learn and improve but sometimes it feels as if everyone has a comment and criticism to make to me. Everyday, all day, each case, before and after each case... someone is telling me that I am doing something wrong or ways to do it better, even if my proctor has no problems with how I am doing and fully trusts me to scrub a left heart by myself, which I have many times. I over analyze every conversation that was had after each day and fear that I am making a bad impression or that people are gossiping about me after I leave. I want to make a good impression and learn as much as I can but I worry that I am too sensitive. I dread going to clinicals every night before I go, up until the moment I am there and frequently during the day. I have cried in the bathroom, in my car, on my way home, after I get home. I feel incompetent and sensitive, and I am not sure I can handle another year of clinicals while feeling this way. The site I am assigned to is very gossipy and cliquey. I also have guilt because there are a few people who are very nice and helpful, so I beat myself up that I am not as grateful for the experience as I should be. There is also a student from my school who graduated this year (2021) who is now a new hire, and she makes comments about me to everyone around me. She points out everything I do wrong and tells everyone about it, making it seem like I am a poor student.  She also mocks me for then trying to be a good student... like studying stroke codes when JHCO was at our hospital; with her I am damned if I do and damned if I don't. She is still an orientee, and its like her days mission to make me look like a fool in front of everyone. This week was my breaking point and I said something to my proctor who agreed with me that her actions and words were not called for, and told me to not listen to her but now I wonder if he will say something to her and she will make my life more miserable after the fact.

Has anyone else felt this way about clincials? About dreading it, and being new, and dealing with catty people in their lab? Does it get better? Am I being overly sensitive? And any tips on how to navigate this is appreciated.

Specializes in CCL RCIS.

Here's my opinion for what it's worth: 

The cath lab is a cliquey place by its very nature.  We work on a very close level with our colleagues, the good teams are tight and seamless.  The goal during a case is to be thinking what everyone else is thinking all at the same time, often with out saying any words, anticipating needs and thinking 3 steps ahead at all times. Depending on how supportive your team is will determine your experience.  If they are not supportive it will SUCK!  If they are supportive it will be so much fun!  

So just know that there are some great labs out there with cool people, but there will always be someone who is competitive and dominant and trying to be the best in the group. Heck there might be 2 or 3 of them.  This is the nature of the beast. Your goal is to learn as much as you can, be humble and study study study!  Observe how everyone else does things and ask people, who are nice, for help. Don't ask the shark in the grotto l group for help they will eat you!


The lab tends to weed out the weak links. Why, do you ask?  Well, because if your lacking knowledge or skill, you are a LIABILITY not an asset.  So under high stress circumstances we want to be able to trust that you will be cool, competent, and skilled and to know what the heck is going on and how to fix what ever needs to be fixed without having to ask someone else for help.  

So my advice is this keep studying, keep learning, stay humble, don't take things personally, don't worry what people think about you,  have grace for yourself, do your best and forget the rest.  Just remind yourself that when you finish you're geting the Eff out of that lab and finding a more supportive lab with a more fun and supportive crew. 

It sounds like your doing great,  and you just have some lame people bullying you a little bit, it's all good, don't trip chocolate chip!  Getting bullied is a thing that can happen and it's an opportunity for you to grow and get tough.  You will toughen up and you will get better!

Let me know if you have any thoughts or opinions on what I have said or if you have any specific questions about the lab or anything related to cath! Your safe with me ?


4 Posts

Specializes in CVT.

Thank you Wedgepressure (love the name by the way) I think your advice is helpful. I hope I can "toughen up" and make it through this next year at this site. I guess I am having a hard time taking things personally right now.

Specializes in CCL RCIS.
4 hours ago, RCISDogMom5 said:

Thank you Wedgepressure (love the name by the way) I think your advice is helpful. I hope I can "toughen up" and make it through this next year at this site. I guess I am having a hard time taking things personally right now.

Yeah I can understand that.  This may be a struggle that you have to work through for the rest of your career.  I think how often you take things personally has a lot to do with personality and temperament.  Everyone has a hot button and for me, the goal has always been to cool my hot buttons down so that I'm not overly sensitive if someone speaks rudely or questions me. 

Also one other thing regarding this social dynamic,  if someone in ther group finds out that something  specifically bothers you that's like throwing chum for the sharks.  Try to take every comment with a grain of salt and just try not to take life to seriously.  You gotta be your own best cheerleader and send yourself positive thoughts and encouragement before during and after your shift. 

Everywhere you go people will be testing your knowledge and questioning your decisions until trust is established. So just expect this to happen in most circumstances.  And do your best to establish competency and trust early in your working relationships. IDK if any of this helped up keep me updated on how things go! 


4 Posts

Specializes in CVT.

Hi again!  Well, I am a close to being done with my fall semester clinicals and somehow things are progressively getting worse in my lab. My female proctor and I have been butting heads lately and I am finding myself being defensive and reacting to her. She is very blunt and rude, says back handed comments frequently and always holds empty threats over me such as "just so you know, everyone notices when you do XYZ and it will be reflected during your hiring process" but this is typically in reference if I take a 10 min break to use the bathroom/eat a snack after scrubbing back to back cases while they eat in the monitor area and mess around on their phones, or something of the equivalent. I have felt like I am not getting enough support; for example I scrub every case but my proctors have not been scrubbing in with me all the time so I do not know what I am doing and get overwhelmed/stressed easily and its hindering my learning; I can only focus on the chaos in the moment VS actually learning. I do excellent if someone is scrubbed in with me and teaching me step by step. I have expressed my concerns and needs to both my proctors. I have also tried to be flexible and adaptable when people make suggestions on how I can do things better. I frequently find myself adapting and taking the suggestions in only to then be criticized when I put it into application, which then makes me second guess myself and I ask questions... which leads my proctors to telling me I am "not getting better, but in fact, getting worse and I do not have any confidence" ... I feel as if I cannot win for losing.


Things came to a head over the last 2 weeks. This past week, my female proctor ignored me the entire day- did not even acknowledge me, and I worked with another team entirely. She was standing feet from me and was joking/laughing with everyone around me but ignored me, because she was upset with me from the previous week when she made a backhanded remark to me and I retorted in return in frustration. A staff member this week told me that everyone in the lab was talking about poorly about me, and everyone is "on board" with what "one person thinks about me"... the entire situation has become escalated to the management. (Not by me, another staff saw/heard this happening and reported it.) 


Now I feel entirely uncomfortable and insecure about being there. I spoke to my male proctor about what had been going on the past few weeks, and I hope that him and I have more of an understanding. He was not entirely aware of what was going on between she and I. My teacher is also aware of what is happening in the lab. I am concerned I am not cut out of for this industry. Or I just need more "hand holding" right now but I fear that is going to make me be perceived as weak. Overall, I am not enjoying this experience. I take my RCIS in April and graduate in May but I am seriously considering withdrawing from the program based on my unhappiness. 


Please advise. ?

Specializes in CCL RCIS.

Oh jeez! That's a lot of stuff to happen!  I'll tell you what,  you're definitley dealing with a toxic person that should not be  percepting.  This is not "the industry" this is a crappy person.  Anytime I have a student or im percepting a new nurse it's always in good faith, there's lots of really nice cath lab peeps.  If your not being treated in good faith you just need to work with a new team or new group that will be OK with you being you and asking questions and not treating you bad because you don't know something.  Don't give up,  this is a test and you will get through it. Talk with your instructor, explain that you are feeling intimidated by your preceptor and see if there's a way you can be reassigned. Do you rotate with other staff in the lab?  Is anyone treating you nicely?  Do you change labs or crews ever?  What about the manager?  Can you write her an email about emsil your going through to set up a meeting?  If you can email the manager cc your instructor and see if you can meet with them to work it out.  

If they are not scrubbing in with you it may be a good sign because that means they aren't scared that you will make a mistake every step of the case.  If they are watching you like a hawk it may be because they don't trust your competency.  If they let you do the case its because they trust you will be OK.   If a student screwed up its on the preceptor to be watching as much as the student.

Also this is temporary, your almost done! You don't have to work in this lab when you graduate and you may never see these people again.   There is so much opportunity once you're out and you can pick where and who you work for.  If you don't like the culture of a lab you can bounce!  It's really fun when you work with a crew you enjoy being around. Honestly it doesn't even feel like work imo Haha!  Do you have a tutor or someone you can talk with outside of this lab to bounce questions off of? If not DM me and I would be happy to chat with you over the phone or discord or something!


4 Posts

Specializes in CVT.

Thanks for your feedback and advise. I actually was not able to send you a DM for some reason; says I have 0 available? Whatever that means haha. 

I did talk to my teacher right now, and he said that they do trust me which is why I am doing things alone, but that my confidence is low and its making them/him disappointed in me. I guess I am just nervous to make a mistake, or get yelled at for doing something wrong, especially if I have never done it before? 


I also did speak with the manager on Friday; she called me in to her office to chat about what was going on. I hope that did not make things worse for myself. But I did tell her about what was being said about me/how people were acting to me and that I think my proctor and I may have personality conflicts but I want to be there and I want to learn and improve. This entire thing has me second guessing myself even further and I feel more awkward to return to the lab. Make me feel as if everyone knows my business and now thinks poorly of me.



Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In

By using the site, you agree with our Policies. X