George – Semester Exchange to Catholic University of America, USA
Semester 1, 2017
One of the greatest experiences about studying nursing abroad has been the clinical placements that we have had every week. This year’s cohort of Australians were assigned to several different specialties and hospitals for our placements, including in Virginia, Maryland and in DC. My clinical placements were on Saturdays, where I was at the Medical-Surgical Ward at Holy Cross Hospital in Maryland, and on Tuesdays at the Heart and Kidney Unit of the Children’s National Medical Centre. Nursing in a foreign country was daunting at first – a lot of the terminology is different, and it was interesting to see how nursing-roles differ between the two countries. I remember being very nervous on my first day at the Children’s hospital when we had to bathe and change a baby! Sometimes it’s easy to feel lost and unproductive when you’re daunted, but after a while you get to know the dynamics of the ward and how to be helpful, productive and independent.
Our mornings at the hospital start at about 6.45am were we meet to discuss our plan for the day. By 7 we gather with the nurses on the ward where the night-shift nurses update us on the patients and do a handover. Our day on the floor starts with meeting our patients and conducting an assessment on them (check vital signs like blood pressure and pulse, assess breath sounds and inspect surgical wounds or injury sites). It’s been really fun to learn about all of my patients – DC is a diverse region and people have lots of interesting stories to tell! After meeting our patients and performing our assessment we jump on the computer to look through their charts and make a plan for the day. Most patients have to be given medications, and many will have to leave the ward for X-Rays or other appointments, so it’s important to know when and why this happens, and work around it. I feel like the hospital wards in America are a lot busier than the ones I have seen in Canberra. Nurses usually take between four and five patients each, and work with the Assistant Nurses, Doctors and other allied health staff during the day. My clinical experience in Washington has been really hands-on, buts it’s helped me to learn a lot about nursing theory, too. Once our shift is over we gather as a class and talk about what we’ve done during the day, and the challenges we faced.
I feel really lucky to have been able to get experience nursing in American Hospitals, because everyone has been very friendly, including my clinical instructors Meron and Craig, as well as all of our fellow students! We are almost at the end of our study-abroad, and this will certainly be one of the highlights of my semester! Our last week is next week, and we have planned to bring bagels and donuts for the nurses (very American!) to say thank-you for teaching us every week.