Common Student Nurse Questions by Joana
Hello SNP community! My name is Joana and I am a critical care RN at a medical center in the bay area, California. And I am also an employee here at RekMed, hoping to help you learn and succeed! I have precepted all kinds of nurses, from new grads to experienced nurses new to the ICU and new hires. Educating is easily one of my favorite parts of the job. It’s fun and ultimately having confident and competent co-workers make everyone’s life easier because nursing is TEAMWORK. So let’s talk about some of the most common questions I get when I have a preceptee. How did you study for school/the NCLEX? Well of course this depends on what kind of learner you are- audio, visual, didactic, etc. I’m willing to bet a large portion of us learn best with hands on. Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do in a lecture… so usually I would just rewrite the slides in my own handwriting to help imprint the info and stay awake somehow. This is where I would’ve REALLY appreciated something like the SNP that I could’ve colored and cross referenced with my own notes. It’s about staying engaged any way you can and so I would’ve loved this planner as a student. Next, you know I have to say it, practice questions. Schools and testing are constantly evolving so always follow your professor’s guidance. But in general, this is my experience. Nursing school feels like a mountain of info but what they really want is to make you think like a nurse. What does that mean? Assess your patient, don’t be reactive to monitors, be preventative. For example, a question may say you walk into a room for an alarm and notice the patient’s oxygen sat is reading 88%, what is your first action? Responses may include, call a code blue, assess the patient’s respiratory status, prepare for emergent intubation, or increase supplemental O2. Usually, one or two of the answers are throwaways- in this case code blue and intubation seem aggressive. Increase supplemental O2 seems reasonable. But what if we jumped straight to that before assessing the patient and failed to notice the nasal cannula had simply slid off her face? What if she just reached for water and took off “that annoying” probe (the sat monitor)? Barring obvious life-threatening issues, strongly consider assessment choices as your answer for “first-action” type of questions. Same applies for calling an MD- if you’re relaying an abnormal finding, be prepared to state any relevant symptoms. WBC count is high- are they febrile, chills, etc? Once again, that takes assessment. Truly, this is real life too- you are the doc’s eyes and ears, so be prepared to provide facts! Lastly, don’t get hung up on exact numbers and ranges. The test isn’t hyper focused on lab values and it isn’t worth the stress over learning concepts. I promise these numbers will become ingrained in you once you start working and see them over and over and over again. Next question I get a lot is how did you get into ICU? Well my path was a journey. New grad ICU positions are few and competitive but always try!! If you don’t get in, don’t lose hope! ALL experience is valuable. My tip is let your leadership know your goals. I was hired into ICU by my nursing director who became CNO at a different hospital, remembered me, then hired me into the job I wanted. Partially luck, partially persistence! A lot of it is who you know, so if your hospital offers job shadowing, take the opportunity and introduce yourself to their staff & leadership. Be patient and remember everything you’re doing is experience and therefore valuable. My last piece of advice (for now!), is exposure, exposure, exposure! Every interaction normalizes patient care which in turn builds confidence. Once you can manage that natural shyness that comes with being a student nurse, you can focus on building more complex skills. So, flush IV’s and check blood sugars if that’s what you can do. If that starts to feel routine and easy- good! One day managing a critically ill ventilated patient will feel the same. So, in review, find a way to stay engaged- write notes in different colors, use SNP, ask questions! Second, approach test questions like an RN. You have nursing judgement and the power of assessment! Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help if you need it, but do your due diligence. Doc’s, RRT teams and ancillary staff will rely on your information to make decisions. Don’t stress out about exact numbers over concepts unless specified to do so. You will always have references IRL and over time when you review patient info every day, it will just naturally stick. No matter what department or specialty is your goal, apply and try! Introduce yourself to leadership and make your goals known. Remember all experience is valuable and job shadow if possible. Take advantage of any and every opportunity in nursing school. Build confidence in the small stuff so you can progress to the bigger things. It’s not impossible that your initiative as a student can catch the eye of a manager and lead to some connections. I sincerely hope you found some of this information helpful and thanks for tuning in! Comment some questions you’d like to discuss, any feedback or thoughts and we’ll see you again soon! Happy studying!