“No one is a stranger in this hospital, everyone is family.”
The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital’s first 9-week paid Nurse Extern Program is in full swing. It’s a unique hands-on experience for nursing students going into their senior year of nursing school. The program provides a variety of experiences within pediatric rehabilitation—including Complex Care, Transitional Care and the Pediatric Medical Rehabilitation Unit (PMRU) under the direction of an experienced Registered Nurse (RN). This year, 13 future nurses were selected to participate in the program.
Program Director, Jessica Gore, RN, says, “This is a great group of future nurses. Since the start of the program on June 1, they have all jumped right into patient care and are learning as much as they can. The consensus has been that they are learning a lot of skills here that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn otherwise.”
The experience of working in the hospital exposes the externs to a variety of learning experiences, from technical procedures to confidence building social skills. Nurse extern Sara Massey is excited to have learned to change patients’ trach ties. “Trach tie changes can feel scary, but it’s my job to make sure the patient feels as comfortable as possible,” she explains.
She also appreciates less technical discoveries, such as singing a silly song to bring a smile to a patient’s face or learning how to style different types of hair to give each patient the very best care.
Isaac Resendiz values the experience he’s gained interacting with patients and other team members, making it his goal to become more outgoing and professional. “I believe this is the most important skill a nurse can have, because there must be communication with the team and patients for the shift to run smoothly,” he shares. “I’ve not only grown as a nurse, but as a person. I’m excited to go back to school and show everyone how much I’ve changed in one summer!”
The Nurse Extern Program gives participants the opportunity to pinpoint areas of interest, as well as explore different aspects of pediatric nursing from the perspective of Case Manager, Nurse Practitioners, Clinic Nurses, Nurse Facilitators and Nursing Leadership. Working with and shadowing members of the nursing staff allows externs to experience individual traits and work styles.
“It’s amazing getting to see the flow of how each nurse works so that I can take bits and pieces from each and learn what works best for the patients and myself,” says Sara.
Overall, the program builds skills and confidence through hands-on learning and the guidance of skilled nursing staff.
“The staff has been very patient with me,” says Isaac. “They always help me learn from my mistakes and use them as teaching moments to help me grow as a nurse. Thank you, TCCRH, for showing me what type of nurse I want to become after I graduate.”
Extern Sara agrees, saying, “The extern program supports me in my career goals by giving me opportunities to learn new things, while also encouraging me to be confident and grow as a future nurse. I have loved every minute I have spent at TCC and I can’t wait to see what the next month has in store for me.”
Amber McKinzie, Chief Nursing Executive at The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital, acknowledges the anxiety and fear of failure that new nurse graduates can experience when taking on their first patients.
“The success of our Nursing Externship Program is measured by the ease of our graduates’ transition from the educational experience to the realities of the complex health care system they are entering,” she explains. “The program’s additional experiences of multi-disciplinary collaboration, nursing leadership, hospital systems, and bedside care offer students the opportunity to experience a day in the life of their future selves.”
The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital plans to host a second Nurse Extern Program in the summer of 2022. Interested nursing students should check the hospital’s website at www.miracleshappenhere.org for information beginning in early 2022.