In follow up to last week’s story, I sat down with 3 of St. Paul’s Employee Student Nurses (ESN's) and chatted about their experience here at St. Paul’s. Chantel Rasmussen is in her 4th year at Douglas College and was hired to work on Medicine 7C. Laura Li, also of Douglas College, goes in to her final preceptorship in September. Laura was hired to work on 10C which deals mostly with infectious diseases. Amber Johnson of Langara College is working on Medicine 8A and is also going in to her final preceptorship in September. 

To start off with, I asked the question, did you want to be a nurse growing up? The response that I got was a unanimous NO!

Chantel: Not initially, I knew I wanted to be a nurse in high school before I graduated.

Laura: My mom is a nurse and there are lots of nurses in my family, so in spite of that I didn’t want to be a nurse. Part way through my education at another university I realized I had to be a nurse.

Amber: I started with Radiation Therapy and it didn’t work out so I came to nursing, I stayed within health care.

We all know that nurses are an essential part of the medical team. What does it mean to each of you to be a nurse?

Laura: The first thing that comes to mind is a way of being, I think, since I am in training and I see the challenges of trying to teach nursing that it is not just imperial knowledge but is a way of being as well, that is all therapeutic for your clients

Amber: It is a way that you see things. There is the way that medicine views things in the doctor’s way but then there is nursing, physiotherapy and occupational therapy that work together to make it happen and get people on their way back to regular health.

Chantel: It is one of the only occupations in the health field where you see the whole person; you see everything about the patient and not specifically one thing. It is cool that we know the most about the patient. The best person to talk to is the nurse.

Laura: I didn’t realize and I don’t know how much the public realizes the full scope of the RN’s knowledge base. I am thinking about the 12 determinants of health, nurses have their hands in all 12 and that’s pretty broad, it’s not just at the bedside in the hospital, it’s very cool.

Chantel: That is something that drew me in to nursing too. There is so much more than what the general public thinks a nurse does and there are so many avenues to go in to with nursing.

There are so many avenues to branch into with nursing. With that in mind, do you three have an area of interest you would like to specialize in?

Amber: Eventually, later on down the road, I would like to do critical care nursing.

Laura: My long term goal, which was a big motivator for going back to school and putting in all that extra additional effort to be a nurse, was to volunteer overseas. Nursing provides a lot of skills to be able to do that. An interest I like is cardiac medicine - cardio pulmonary physiology and that aligns with my long term goal because it is an avenue towards critical care which I have learnt to be a pretty important asset if you want to volunteer. I am thankful this compliments what I am interested in and will get me volunteering.

Chantel: I am one of those people that doesn’t really know, I don’t have a direction yet. I like medicine and I understand why people say it is such a foundation to your nursing and I am open minded. I do want to get my masters eventually and see where that takes me. I haven’t been able to see what a Nurse Practitioner really does till I came to St. Paul’s. In all my clinical experience, I never saw any and there is a couple here. They definitely have an interesting roll and I know there is going to be a greater demand for that so something I would like to work towards. Also, in nursing school, you don’t get to try everything, I haven’t gotten to see what ICU or Emergency are like and I wonder if it is something I might like?

Well Chantel, you definitely have time to figure that out!

As an ESN, what is it like working on the unit?

Laura: I remember in my interview being asked about my understanding of the role and I remember it being clarified that you are part of the team, you are an employee and you contribute but you are a student and you are there to learn and consolidate your skills. In this program there is some workload and you are there to do the work, which is fine because you are getting paid to be there but I feel like I have had a really great experience to learn. The nurses ask “so what do you want to learn today?” which is really great as a learner, and be socialized into nursing and have people to support you in that. To be honest, I have felt really supported, welcomed and wanted on the unit and I feel like people view me as a team member. 

Amber: I am partnered with an RN, there are RN’s and LPN’s on my unit, so I have always had patients within an RN’s assignment, taking 2 or 3 of them and hopefully taking one of the more acute patients to see what complex care looks like and how much acuity can change. It is nice because even if a nurse I am not working with has a very sick patient or something different going on, they will come grab me and show me.  It is really great learning.

Chantel: My experience has been really great! I feel the same way, super welcomed as part of the team. When I am getting my assignments in the morning the nurses are always trying to make sure I have the best learning experience so they are not giving me a patient that is independent and off the unit all the time, they will give me a patient that there is a significant amount of learning that I gain. In rounds I will say to the people I haven’t seen before, because there are so many staff, I will introduce myself and say that if there are any skills to let me know.  I have gotten a couple opportunities through that. I work alongside an RN, sometimes they split me up and I will have 2 RN’s and will take a patient from each assignment, the most I have taken is 3 patients.

Within your nursing education you attend several placements on various units. How does working as an ESN differ from one of your school placements?

Amber: It is different; you don’t have an instructor over your shoulder. You take a lot more responsibility for what you do and there isn’t someone checking to see if you know why you are doing it or the reasoning behind it. You really take ownership of your actions which is something that I have really noticed and also being there for 12 hours, I have not had a 12 hour clinical. Seeing what happens in 12 hours is really eye opening!

Laura: To add to that, because I think you are right Amber, it is a big difference! When you are in clinical the nature of the experience is that you are running on your instructor’s time line and how they would progress through something. They are teaching you how to think critically and to ask why and it is important to bring these skills into your ESN role. I find I am learning how to progress through my day on my own, some trial and error, it’s not perfect, but you don’t have a full patient load so you do have the space to try and work out timing, back up and try things again. Which you don’t have in a placement as the instructor is keeping you on schedule.

Chantel: I totally agree with that, in my experience with instructors, there is one instructor to eight students and you don’t get a lot of time with them. When you do get time to do a skill they want to see, there is a lot of down time and waiting around. Until this experience, I don’t think I really got my time management skills together. I feel like working on your own you take more onus on yourself because you are on the RN’s time and she is very busy so you get your stuff together and you are more organized and more prepared to do things quicker and be ready to do your tasks.

The employed student nursing program each year is a popular one. How did you find out about this opportunity?

Chantel: Everybody knows about it and the grads mention it -”ESN is such a great thing to do! Make sure you apply!”

Laura: At the start, orientation day and the first questions are -”what about ESN’ing?”

Chantel: Everybody knows about it and everyone is really eager to do it.

Laura: Super keen!

Not to put you three in the hot seat but each Health Authority offers their own Employed Student Nurse program. Was there a specific Health Authority you wanted to get in to or did you apply to them all?

Chantel: I applied to every single one because I really wanted to do it and didn’t care where I was going. I just wanted the opportunity. I am so happy I am here and if I could have chosen, my top would have been St. Paul’s.

We talked about how this experience differs from your clinical placements. With that in mind, how valuable is the ESN experience to your upcoming nursing career?

Laura: I would highly recommend it. I think the socializing part into nursing that you get is really important and really helpful and then the obvious consolidation. I think it is a pretty obvious benefit.

Chantel: I think it brings out more confidence in your practice, I haven’t graduated but I can see that this will help me in my entry practice; especially if I came back here to St. Paul’s, it would be an easier transition.

Amber: I also really like this program because it has helped me take things that I have learned in clinical, like when something is wrong with your patient and you need to call the doctors and contact people and I was always shy and timid and not wanting to page someone and wait for their response and talk to them on the phone, I don’t know why but I found that really daunting. Now, I have done that so much that I am not sure why I was afraid of it. Asking doctors questions and updating them, I think this program gives you confidence.

Chantel: Your critical thinking too… you piece things together when you are in nursing school but it is totally different when you are on your own. Being an ESN I try and think about it on my own and then try to find the answer and then go to my RN and discuss with her and I don’t think I would get that much critical experience in clinical.

Laura: I think it is a really encouraging opportunity when a health authority that maybe you do want to work for is willing to pay you to come to learn. I think it is really encouraging for someone to get hired, to go through that process, to get a pay cheque to be there and still as a student. It has been really encouraging to remind me almost there and this is the beginning of your practice and so taking more ownership of what you are doing.

All three of you are now veterans in going through the interview process. What advice can you offer to future applicants applying to this program? Any tips that helped you through it?

Laura: Prepare with standard interview questions that you would for a job. It isn’t a student interview, it is a real job so be prepared!

Amber: I was really nervous so I would tell people to breathe and stay calm.

Chantel: I went through my clinical documents and then remembered certain situations to bring it back to the front of my mind so I had examples of where I felt confident or didn’t feel confident in clinical because that is often what they want to hear, about your actual clinical experiences. It is so easy to forget; as I was going through it I forgot about scenarios and thought this would be a great one to demonstrate my strengths. Also know about the hospital and its values and the mission, it is very important.

Well thank you for taking the time out of your learning to share with us!

Interested in learning about our Employed Student Nurse program, visit our Careers page today

Submit your application this fall to be a part of this invaluable program.