My last quarter of MEPN was split into two rotations: Pediatrics and Psychiatric Nursing. My Peds rotation was at Children's Hospital Oakland on a surgical unit. I was very happy with that clinical placement because I've spent my whole life driving by that hospital, and as a kid I really liked the huge blow up rubber ducky they had on top of it to advertise for one of their annual fundraising events. Plus, since going into it I was fairly confident I won't be devoting my nursing career to working with children, it seemed cool to me to be getting my experience with that population in a hospital devoted entirely to it. Note that now, a few months later, I remain confident I will not be devoting my nursing career to working with children :).
Our rotation included both clinical days on the floor (where I saw everything from kids involved in major motor vehicle accidents to dog maulings to complicated congenital conditions) and also observation days (where I saw everything from MRIs/CTs to palliative/respite care patients at The George Mark Children's Home to completely healthy/happy/carefree-minus-a-knee-boo-boo kiddos at play during "water day" at their daycare). Definitely a valuable experience, but it was difficult to transition from the exciting pace of MedSurg that I am so drawn to. Plus - and this may or may not go without saying - but it's not usually the kids who are the difficult part of pediatric nursing... it's the parents ;). BUT I embraced the rotation nonetheless, as evidenced by my FLOWER AND BEE ID BADGE HOLDER bought especially for the kiddos. It was a real hit.
On to psych... Psych was a four week intensive (although I think it's safe to say the whole year was intense!) and my placement was at an outpatient clinic in the Tenderloin that serves mentally ill clients who are considered "high users" of inpatient/emergency psychiatric services. They are eligible for the clinic's services because they have been stabilized enough to live safely in the community provided they are given ongoing (usually daily) attention by their case managers at the clinic to manage their medications, finances, and other daily life-type things.
My experience through the psych rotation was transforming for me in intensely personal ways. I was given the freedom to interact with and observe any client who was "available" (emotionally, conversationally, what have you) in the milieu - which in this case is a common area that includes a cafe where the regulars drift in and out of all day everyday. I went into the rotation with fears for my safety (irrational, yes) and concerns for my ability to be a professional in an erratic and unpredictable environment given my personal history. I left having developed sincere compassion for my clients, a skill set on how to assess/manage psychiatric and/or substance addicted individuals, and an overwhelming understanding that mental illness leaves people extremely vulnerable.... and I as a provider MUST advocate for their protection and defense. It's all very serious of course, and I mean what I say and then some... but I would be totally remiss not to include the fact that Adam stepped on human feces (which is a constant sidewalk hazard in the TL!) on one of our last days there and his otherwise wearable shoes became casualties. Understandably.
In early June, we actually crossed the MEPN finish line and got PINNED! The pinning ceremony is an old-school nursey tradition. It was a culmination of a long year of hard work that included everyone out of their scrubs and all gussied up with family, friends, and faculty present. There is no question that we all looked AMAZING for once that night, but of COURSE this is the ONLY PICTURE I have to show for it. What to say?
All year it felt like we JUST HAD TO MAKE IT TO JUNE. But then we got to June. And we quickly realized how NOT done we were. Enter the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses aka NCLEX-RN. Studying for NCLEX looked like this:
And got sick and neurotic like this:
And absolutely HAD to sometimes look like this:
And it even went to extremes like this:
But I got through it thanks to encouragement from my roommates like this:
And because of try-to-be-a-normal-human study breaks with LB, Saro, Lo, H&J like this:
And indeed at the end of the three weeks of studying, I knew the core content for the test without a doubt and without hesitation y'all (that's a free tidbit for your enjoyment from the Alabama-based test prep class). My palms were sweaty for the first time in my life as I scanned my hand in to take the test at the scary high tech center. But I was shoulder to shoulder with about ten other MEPNs who had by chance signed up for the same test location and time. And just as we had done for the entirety of the last year, we got through it together... And celebrated with drinks afterwards :).
Last week I woke up to a text that proclaimed me an official RN per the CA Board of Registered Nursing website. Go ahead and look for yourself and enter my name into the "license verification" search if you want... it is OFFICIAL! Carrie Elizabeth Shaffer, RN. I'm not going to lie... I really. really. really. love those two little letters.