I graduated from the nursing school this past May and I didn’t know what to expect as I started my career in nursing. I was definitely ready to graduate and move beyond the student role that I had gotten used to at BC. My first priorities after graduation were getting a nursing license and finding a job. I had to really buckle down and study for the national nursing license test called the NCLEX. I was overwhelmed of the thought of studying everything that I had learned over the past four years for this one test. I took a review course offered by BC and I set a schedule to study and do review questions everyday for about 3 weeks after my course. All of my hard work paid off because I passed the test and got a license to be an RN.
I knew that I wanted to work in an intensive care unit because of past experiences at school. I was fortunate enough to receive a position soon after graduation. I have been working on a cardiothoracic intensive care unit for about six months now. Four out of the six months was a structured orientation, which consisted of a preceptorship and classes for new graduate nurses.
Since I have been off of orientation I have realized how steep of a learning curve that I have embarked. The patient population that I serve is quite specialized. Every patient has had some sort of open heart surgery and come to the ICU at his or her most critical point after surgery. The most common surgeries include coronary bypass grafts, valve replacements and aortic dissections but can also be other complex cardiac procedures.
My role as a nurse on this unit is to monitor and recover the patients from the operating room. Patients come up intubated and sedated from anesthesia. The first few hours in the ICU requires frequent monitoring and great clinical judgment. Patients are on cardiac drips that improve their blood pressure and the function of their heart. My main role is monitoring frequent vital signs, the patients fluid status, titrating drips for specific effects, and monitoring the patients overall cardiac function after surgery. Another important role in the ICU is caring for the family. Making sure the family is informed about the plan of care and what to expect is very important since this can be the most stressful and nerve wrecking time of their lives.
I am still learning everyday about my job role and the different dimensions that exist. Every patient brings a new learning experience for me, as well as a different outlook of what I do. When I was in school many nurses told us that nursing means lifelong learning. Now that I am finally in the role I can understand what they mean.
Next time I will go over a typical night at work. Till then…