Tales from the Crypt....uh.... I mean Clinicals. Ch 4

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by Julie Reyes Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

Specializes in pediatrics, occupational health. Has 6 years experience.

I have never learned so much in nursing school as I learned my first round of clinicals. I experienced burnt-out and frustrated nurses, Joint Commission questions, bonding with patients, and learning how to stay in professional boundaries as best I could. There are no textbooks out there that can teach a student nurse as much as real life experiences. This is the 4th chapter of my journey through nursing school.

Is nursing school hard to pass?

Tales from the Crypt....uh.... I mean Clinicals.  Ch 4

My scrubs are royal blue. As I walk into the uniform store, I cannot wait to try on the coveted scrubs! The sales lady walks over to me and asks me if I need help. I am bursting with pride as I tell her I need scrubs for my nursing clinicals. She smiles at me and leads me to the rack. Unfortunately, I am tall, and they have to order my pants. I wanted to cry! I go ahead and pay for them and buy the top so that i can sew on the nursing school patch. I am utterly disappointed that I cannot try on my ensemble and look in the mirror. Waiting flat out sucks, but as it turns out, I didn't need things to move along faster anyway.

Since I am an eline student, I have to set up my clinicals by myself. I am required to contact the hospital clinical educator and do all the groundwork for setting up the clinicals at a hospital. I request one of their satellite hospitals nearer to me (30 miles) than the one in the big city an hour away. I did not realize I had to start this at least 8 weeks ahead of time! The school has never used the satellite hospital for nursing students, so there are a lot of formalities to be completed. And because everything was not done by the time clinicals were to start, I had to delay my clinicals for a semester. This was infuriating because it also delayed my graduation by 1 semester! I also don't have the benefit of having other nursing students there or a clinical instructor on campus to monitor me or help me with my questions or concerns, which is the downside of eline. I realize quickly, I am swimming in deep water on my own.

I show up to the unit where I will do my very first set of clinicals about 35 minutes early. I am surprised that the day shift has yet to show up. So I wait. And wait. The day shift rolled in about 2 minutes until 7 am! Is this how they do things here? I used my time to review the patient charts, but as of yet, I have no idea what patients I will get.

The nurses all come to the nurses station and I finally meet the lady who will be my preceptor. She is about a hundred and fifty years old and scowls at me when I am introduced to her. Right off the bat, she said, "I have five patients, you take This One and don't bother me." With a "deer in the headlights" look, I take her report info. "This One" is a 50 year old, 400+ pound patient who was involved in an auto-ped collision fracturing her pelvis, femur, and arm, and has a colostomy. She is in traction, in constant pain, and incontinent (well, I don't know how I could get her on a bedpan!), and I am on my own.

I have never actually seen a 'real' colostomy before, and only through the textbook do I know much about changing or cleaning it out. I actually ask my patient how she takes care of the colostomy, and she is gracious enough to walk me through the process. The worst part of this experience is learning how to reposition her and change the diaper she wears since she has the fractures and is in traction. I learned (the hard way) to premedicate her prior to any of these interventions.

I develop a great relationship with this amazing patient. I am so tempted to give her my telephone number and become lifelong friends with her. My heart really goes out to her because her kids don't live in the area and they are only able to come in on some of the weekends. She does have a lot of church friends who travel to see her, though.

Today The Joint Commission is here for inspection. One of the officers (a retired general) stopped me to ask me some questions about what I am doing in my clinicals there. I tell him and explain exactly what patients I have and my responsibilities for the patients. He asked me about my school, and by this time, my preceptor comes by to listen to the conversation. I tell him that I am an eline student.

My preceptor snaps, "I can't believe that they allow nurses to be taking nursing classes online, they can't be learning anything and it is a disservice to the profession."

I am so shocked that I have no idea how to even respond, but as it turns out, I don't have to.

The retired general responded, "Can you just imagine how hard it is for someone to be doing all of their schooling online and not have the benefit of going to school for face to face learning? And yet, this student nurse must take and pass all of the same exams that the face to face students must pass, and she basically has to be more motivated and focused on the goal."

I smile at him as she huffs off down the hall. "Don't worry about her; some people should have retired a long time ago," he says.

I feel a little lighter, now. Who knew that a face-to-face conversation with TJC could have such heart warming effects?!

One of my elderly patients is due to be taken to a nursing home for the first time in his life. He had lost his wife not long before he came to the hospital. He is a true gentleman, an old cowboy who called me "ma'am" and wears his Stetson (cowboy hat) during the day when he is up in the wheelchair. His hands showed a life of hard work. He tells me stories about his wife and grown children. I talk to him for hours every day, and I hold his hand when he cries during the stories of his wife. I wish I could have met her, she sounds like an amazing woman. He confides in me and gets tearful when he says he doesn't want to go to the nursing home, but I guess that his kids can't or won't take care of him. At the end of every day, I started going by his room to tell him goodbye, and I give him a hug. I tell him I will see him on Monday.

It is Monday. I am happy to be at clinicals and get back to my favorite patients. I get my assignment and notice I am missing a name on my assignment list. I ask the charge nurse about Mr. Cowboy, and if I can be his nurse again today. She looks at me and tells me he passed away Friday night. I stare blankly at her, not quite comprehending, and my heart sinks. He died in his sleep, she said. This is the first patient I have had that has died. I am not even sure how to respond, because I have to go and do morning assessments on my other patients.

...and I realize, this is the life of a nurse. You touch the lives you can, you try to help them get better, you make their time here on earth as comfortable and peaceful as possible. You do the best you can with the skills you have. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

I take in a deep breath and wipe my tears. And smile as I go into the next room.

My journey begins!

For the rest if the story, see

Go to Nursing School? NEVER!! Ch 1

Culture Shock & Big Girl Panties - Ch 2

Pretzels, Puppies, and Physical Assessment Ch 3

Tales from the Crypt....uh.... I mean Clinicals. Ch 4

Give me a BREAK!!!! Ch 5

RN: Judge and Jury Ch 6

Virtual Reality Ch 7

Avoid Kids at ALL Costs! Ch 8

The End of the Tunnel...Holy Cow - is that LIGHT?! Ch 9

Julie Reyes

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

44 Articles   260 Posts

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6 Comment(s)



Specializes in LTC. 177 Posts

This is a very inspiring story. I truly enjoyed reading it!

Julie Reyes

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

Specializes in pediatrics, occupational health. Has 6 years experience. 44 Articles; 260 Posts

LPN709 said:
This is a very inspiring story. I truly enjoyed reading it!


emtb2rn, BSN, RN, EMT-B

Specializes in Emergency. Has 21 years experience. 2,938 Posts

Good read. Glad to know there's at least one other nurse who's had a good interaction with the JC.



22 Posts

I'm so glad I read this article. This gave another perspective of being a nurse. Great job.



14 Posts

Good read. Keep ur head up. The life of a nurse isn't easy but someones gotta do it. Continue to change lives one person at a time.



1,763 Posts

I loved this ?

I definitely think you picked the right profession. Good luck to you!



6 Posts

Beautiful post.