Making the Best of a Bad Clinical Day

Have you ever had the kind of day when the dog pees on the carpet right before you have to walk out the door, that annoying classmate is rubbing your last nerve, your head is pounding, your feet hurt, and you just don’t want to be at your clinical rotation?

Yeah, I’ve been there, too.  In fact, that’s the kind of day I was having when I discovered that the nursing job of my dreams actually existed.  Here’s how it went down…

nurse_pulling_hairI’ve written before about how I fell in love with the Operating Room (OR) during a clinical rotation.  At the time, I didn’t think it was possible to get a nursing position in the OR as a new graduate.  I knew that OR nursing was a highly specialized field that required 6+ months of training and that most hospitals wanted their OR nurses to have extensive nursing experience…or so I thought.

Then I started my pediatric clinical rotation, and my entire class had an opportunity to observe in the pediatric OR one day.  And that experience changed everything I thought I knew about getting an OR job.

Back to my really bad day.  I was already in a bad mood, and one of my classmates was getting on my nerves more than usual.  I did my absolute best to be polite and keep my mouth shut, but was in serious danger of losing it at any minute.  When I discovered that we would be spending the day in the OR, I was hopeful that my day was taking a positive turn.  That is, until we received our assignments.

Let me give you a little background about ORs.  Depending on the size of the OR unit, there can be a dozen or more different OR rooms.  Usually, each room is designated for a certain type of surgery.  For example, in the hospital I was at that day, they had a Cardiac Room, a Urology room, Dental, Neurology, General Surgery, etc.  So whichever room you were assigned to would only have surgeries from that particular “category.”

Now it just so happened that there was an incredibly cool Cranio-Facial Surgery scheduled in the Neuro room that day…and we ALL wanted to see it.  Can you imagine seeing somebody’s skin and skull peeled back (on purpose!) so that a surgeon can reshape somebody’s head?  Cool stuff!  Since we all wanted to be in that OR, the nurse educator decided that the only fair way to decide would be to pick a number from 1-10.  Can you guess which student in my class guessed her number? Hint:  it wasn’t me.

It was my classmate who was currently on my list of least favorite people.  Of course.

I, on the other hand, got the Urology room.  And the first surgery of the day was hypospadias repair for a 2-year old.  Remember what a hypospadias repair involves?  Well, I immediately realized that a 2-year-old does not have much of a “pee-pee” to look at during surgery, especially when compared to a super cool cranio-facial surgery!

I started preparing myself for a very boring day.  I was right in the middle of throwing a full-blown internal pity party, when I suddenly realized that it wasn’t going to do me any good.  If I wanted to be a great nurse, there were going to be some days when things weren’t ideal, and I was going to have to learn to make the best of it.  So I said a quick prayer asking God to keep my heart and mind open to whatever it was that he wanted me to learn in the Urology room that day, and I chose to have a positive attitude despite my circumstances.  After all, there was a bright side:  at least I wasn’t going to be around my annoying classmate for the rest of the day!

When I arrived in the Urology room, full of positive attitude, I discovered that there was a new OR nurse training there.  What I was REALLY surprised to discover was that this nurse trainee was also a recent graduate from nursing school!  Up until that day, I never imagined that hospitals were willing to hire and train brand new nurse graduates into the OR.

Being so new to the OR herself, she was more than happy to explain what she was doing and why, as well as to chat with me about how she had gotten her OR job straight out of nursing school.  In fact, she was so excited that I was interested in becoming an OR nurse that she even walked me down to the nurse recruiter’s office during her break in order to introduce me!  Talk about a great networking opportunity.

Not only was it great to learn from a brand new OR nurse, but the preceptor that was training her was also sitting in the room supervising.  Normally, there is only one very busy circulating nurse in an OR.  But since there were two circulating nurses in this room, the preceptor had plenty of time to talk to me and explain what was going on during the surgery.  It was also really nice to get a different perspective on OR nursing from someone who had been doing it for decades.

operating_room_nurseAt the end of the day when my classmates and I regrouped to discuss our clinical experiences, I was more than happy that I had been placed in the Urology room.  I was excited at the prospect that it was possible to become an OR nurse immediately after graduating, I had networked with some key people that could help me get a job, and I had even learned a thing or two about hypospadias repairs.  Yes, my classmate also shared about her awesome day in the Neuro room.  She was full of interesting stories about what goes on during a cranio-facial surgery…and I was happy that she had a good experience.

You never know what experiences you’ll be presented with during a clinical day, so make sure that you always choose to keep an open mind!  And try to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to you, as much as it is in your power to do so.  A patient or specialty area that seems boring on the surface might turn out to be a key turning point in your nursing career, but only if you choose to look for learning opportunities in every situation.

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2 Comments

  1. Felicia Cirlos

    I appreciate your positive outlook on what you imagined would be a not so great clinical experience. I’m starting clinicals at the hospital and this is something great that we can take with us because in reality were always learning something new as nurses and every assignment were given, no matter how small, can present a learning opportunity. My first day at clinicals at the hospital we had to move medical equipment all day, fun day your thinking, but it turned out to be a great opportunity to get familiar with the hospital and get to know the nurses and staff members we are going to work with. So it’s all about your mindset and having a positive approach that will determine what you will get out of your day.

    • What a great example of turning a seemingly boring experience into something very useful! I bet the staff will all appreciate that you know your way around (and know where equipment is stored!) as you continue your clinical rotation. And that will probably make them more friendly and helpful to you when you ask questions. Awesome!

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