For Mattison Jenks, the life of a full-time nurse will come as no surprise when she embarks on her nursing preceptorship next semester. All nurses spend a month on the hospital floor the last semester before graduation, but Jenks experienced a strong dose of full-time nursing life during an externship at Kettering Medical Center in Ohio last summer.
Despite a hectic schedule, Jenks, a senior nursing student at Union College, loved the work in the 5N trauma unit at Kettering Medical Center—particularly working with dementia patients.
Jenks began her workday at 6:45 a.m. when she received report from the night-shift nurses. After learning about each patient’s diagnoses, medical history, medications, treatments, and plan for the day, she helped the nurses keep up with demands of the unit including administering medications and assisting with various physician orders. “It makes it more fun, though,” said Jenks, who enjoyed the high-pressure environment, “when you have so much to do and try to plan efficiently to meet the needs of your patients.”
Kettering Health Network’s externships allow hands-on training and practical experience for student nurses, throwing them in the thick of rounds and caregiving. Many hospital systems offer these sought-after externship experiences. Each one is highly competitive and Union encourages all nursing students to apply. For Jenks and the other students in the program, Kettering College of Medical Arts provided housing and college credit and the students are paid as well.
Jenks found the connection she built with nurses particularly valuable. Several took extra time to help her acclimate to the fast-paced routine of the hospital. “I love that the nurses there knew that I was trying to learn and would come find me if there was anything cool going on with their patients,” she said.
While she learned many of the skills she will need on the nursing floor during classes and clinicals at Union, Jenks said the most important thing she learned in the externship was how to prioritize her time to benefit her patients. Working at Kettering expanded her knowledge with opportunities she wouldn’t have found in regular clinicals. She says a lot of her work was to keep up with patients who were in pain. “It was such a wonderful floor because there is such a mix of duties,” Jenks said. She handled tubes, drains, and IVs—all parts of nursing she really enjoys.
At Kettering, like most hospitals, a physician will only see a patient for about fifteen minutes a day. It’s up to the nurses to take care of the patient’s worries, medications, dressings and treatments. Jenks admits to being exhausted after each twelve hour work day. “You are holding these people’s lives in your hands,” Jenks said. “You have to be on top of your game every day and think critically to keep them alive. It is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. I love it.”
Jenks didn’t always plan to be nurse. She enrolled at Union because her parents worked at the school and her older sister studied here, too. “If I had known from the beginning that I was going to pursue a nursing career, I wouldn’t have chosen any other school but Union,” she said.
Much like in her externship experience, Jenks values the strong relationships she’s building with both students and professors in the nursing program. “I cannot boast enough about the outstanding teaching that happens in the nursing program at Union College,” Jenks said. “I absolutely love the teachers and the staff. They are completely willing to take time out of their day to make sure you receive the best education you can have.”
Combine that with great learning experiences outside the classroom like her externship at Kettering, and Jenks feels she’ll be ready to hit the floor running when she graduates.
By Elizabeth Bearden, student writer