Although nursing student Caleb Wehling loves his major now, he didn’t always want to become a nurse. With a nurse and an anesthesiologist for parents, the junior from Kearney, Nebraska decided to forge his own path in computer science. But something was missing.
“I thought I was going to play on computers, write code and stuff like that, even though I’m way too active to be sitting at a desk,” he said. “My dad asked me if I wanted to come to his job and see what doctors and nurses do. I went and realized this was the career I wanted. Medical technology is the bleeding edge of innovation, and getting to work with those innovations as well as getting to work with my hands is the best of both worlds.”
Wehling fell in love with nursing and its combination of technological innovation and hands-on caring. When he came to Union, he couldn’t wait to study both — in clinical settings as well as in Union’s Nursing Simulation Center.
Union’s nursing students complete more than 925 clinical hours by the time they graduate. Students get to experience nursing in all of the major hospital systems around the city of Lincoln. Under the supervision of a nurse, students assess patients, assist them with basic needs and administer medications. “Injections are the best,” said Wehling. “Drawing up medications, injecting them, even giving IV medications — it’s all fun to me.”
“In clinicals, you finally get to do all this fun stuff that your professors talk about in the classroom and show on lecture slides. It’s really cool to see the direct connection between what you learn in class and what you see the same week on the floor.”
While clinicals take place under direct supervision, Union nursing students prepare to take on the full range of nursing work independently in Union’s Nursing Simulation Center. Wehling said, “Sim lab is awesome because it is the closest you can get to being a nurse without being one. Everything you learn in clinical and class all comes together in the simulation center.”
The Simulation Center is outfitted with high-tech patient simulators that not only look like people, but also mimic bodily functions such as pulse, pupil reactions, breathing, speech and reactions to medicine. With multiple rooms and patient simulators, the simulation center is set up to emulate a real hospital floor. Students learn to work as a team to provide care to multiple patients at once. Instructors observe the students from a control room, so the students learn to provide care to a patient independently.
Wehling appreciates the independence the Nursing Simulation Center technology provides.
“The simulation center really feels like a hospital floor,” he said. “There’s a medication dispensing machines, patient charts and accurate rooms with equipment in each one. All the responsibility comes down to you: you get to administer medications, do the problem solving, and call the “physician.” It’s very intense, but it’s the best practice you can get.”
After drilling their skills in the Simulation Center, students debrief with their instructors. Wehling considers Union’s professors to be one of the best parts of the nursing program. “I don’t have one professor who feels disconnected,” he said. “They’re engaged with us every semester, and they really want us to pass these classes. Our professors are always asking us what they can do to improve their classes and help us succeed.”
When he graduates, Wehling wants to work in a Lincoln ICU before becoming a nurse anesthetist. Even though he’s looking forward to his first shift on the floor alone, he’s enjoying being a nursing student. “I’ve never been so excited about topics or willing to learn before,” he said. “The nursing program is hard, but it’s so much fun. I wouldn’t choose anything else.”
By Annika Cambigue, a junior English and communication major from Ohio