Work That Matters

A Day in the Life of an RN Resident

Written by HIlary Tighe, RN resident, CTICU/CV Acute, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

It’s 7:20 a.m. and the 49 new graduate nurses of the September 2015 cohort trickle into the seventh-floor classroom. We sit in our “houses”—groups made up of new grads from units other than our own. The chatting begins as we compare our shifts on the units, our preceptors, and the procedures or skills we’ve recently practiced. At 7:30 a.m. exactly, Stephanie Brady, RN, the residency curriculum administrator, magically settles the classroom and our first lecture of the day begins.

As we listen to a lecture on acid/base balance, followed by another on the management of seizures, you can feel the room beginning to buzz with excitement because today is peripheral intravenous line (PIV) skills lab day. For some of us, this is a day we have been waiting for, to learn a new skill, and we mentally prepare ourselves to practice on our classmates and successfully start a PIV line. For others, this is a day of confronting a fear of needles and hoping someone brought Pain Ease spray. At each break during the morning lectures, we spend our time looking at each other’s veins, and a few of us share stories of looping with the IV team.

Finally the moment has arrived; we take the elevators down to the third-floor  skills lab with our bags full of IV supplies. Some of us have already placed an IV on a patient but for others, our experience ends with the silicone arm in nursing school.

We sit down at a table with a nurse from our unit and one from IV team. Small-group learning is a fundamental part of this residency. There is no pushing or shoving to get to the front to see, and no one misses the chance to practice.

One of the most-used methods of teaching in this program is the “teach and teach-back.” The experienced nurses teach us how to start an IV and then we demonstrate what we have learned and teach the skill back to them. Now it is our turn to practice. There are few things as exciting as a flash of blood from an IV when you are a new nurse, and perhaps even when you are a seasoned nurse.

After an hour of practicing, we take the elevators back up to the seventh floor with looks of triumph, or perhaps relief. Stephanie can see the excitement written all over our faces as she greets us. Another day has come to a close. Tomorrow, another day awaits us with more classes or a 12-hour shift on our assigned units with our preceptors.

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