Program Gives Nurses Critical Career Preview

Internships are great for figuring out if you really like a job before you set out on a career path.

That's the idea behind a new internship program at Stormont-Vail HealthCare. It brings student nurses into one of the most intense areas of the hospital - the critical care unit - so they can see if it's a place they want to stay.

Washburn University nursing student Justin Timken was among those who thought he'd like the challenge of working in the intensive care unit. He says the wide range of patients, from the emergency room to heart patients to surgical cases, appealed to him. But he admits he didn't really know what it would be like. He says, in nursing school, you get the book smarts and take tests, but when it comes to clinicals, you only spend a couple days in ICU.

The Student Nurse Tech program at Stormont-Vail is changing that. Started this summer, Justin is one of ten nursing students working three, 12-hour shifts a week for ten weeks in the critical care unit.
They spend time one-one-one with registered nurses, getting to know the ICU environment and see firsthand how the entire medical team interacts.

Registered nurse Chris Tollefson says ICU can be a very stressful environment, which can come as a shock if a new nurse isn't prepared for what to expect. He says the intership program helps to lessen the shock, so nursing students can be sure critical care is right for them, rather than graduating, getting a job there, than leaving because it's not a good fit.

Tollefson says limiting turnover is a benefit for patients. He says having to reorient and train new people loses some of the continuity of care that you gain from the experience of a nurse who's been here.

Justin says being in critical care every day has taught him a lot. He says the biggest eye-opener was the pace of the ICU. He says it's amazing to see all the medications get dispensed in the morning, then getting new patients in, transferring patients out, and balancing the unexpected traumas and surgical cases that might come in.

But thanks to the one-on-one guidance of nurses like Chris Tollefson, Justin thinks his career is on the right track. He says he wants to continue on to a career in the ICU after graduation.

In addition to working their shifts, the nursing students also get extra classes in specialized areas.

Newly hired nurses also go through a residency program, to ease their transition into the unit.

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