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Volunteer ‘patients’ raise the bar for Cal State Fullerton nursing student

By Amy Lee
In May, I will graduate from California State University, Fullerton with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Without a doubt, I can say that these past two years have been the toughest of my life, but have also been the most rewarding.
Amy Lee — Photo courtesy of Cal State Fullerton
I have spent sleepless nights cramming pathophysiology and pharmacology into my sleep-deprived brain. The Nursing Simulation Center, affectionately called the “Sim Lab,” became my second home as I practiced assessment skills, catheter insertions, sterile technique and even how to change the sheets with a colleague lying on top. My latte and scone consumption single-handedly kept Starbucks in business as I created 30-page patient care plans. Nursing school has been the most invigorating two years of my life.
The Sim Lab became a place for me to explore, to apply the theories I was learning in class. It is a simulated hospital floor with functioning mannequins, IV pumps, ventilators, and even an EKG machine and Code Blue Cart. In 2016, the CSUF Osher Lifelong Learning Institute partnered with the School of Nursing to enhance student learning. OLLI is dedicated to providing opportunities for older adults to continue learning, build relationships with peers, and volunteer and support the CSUF community.
The OLLI volunteers came into the Sim Lab dressed in hospital gowns and pretended to be patients, enabling me to sharpen my developing nursing skills on actual “patients.” While I had listened to countless simulated heart sounds on the Sim Lab mannequins, it was nothing compared to the fear and excitement of placing my stethoscope on an OLLI volunteer’s chest and hearing his actual heartbeat. Bringing the OLLI volunteers into the Sim Lab empowered me and my fellow nursing students to experience a higher quality of hands-on learning, where we could not only fine-tune our assessments, but develop effective communication skills. As challenging as it was, the more I practiced with another person, the more prepared I felt to transition into on-site clinical rotations.
Not only do the OLLI volunteers work in the Sim Lab, but they also tutor at the School of Nursing Writing Center. These retired professionals offer writing assistance for nursing students, a resource for which I am personally very grateful. Although I am now fluent in English, it is not my native language. As a young child, I first learned how to read, write and speak in Korean before immigrating to the United States at the age of 8. Throughout the nursing program, I worked with several amazing OLLI writing tutors who helped me polish my papers, recognize areas for improvement and hone my writing skills. On behalf of the many nursing students for whom English is a challenge, I am deeply grateful for the services provided by the OLLI volunteer tutors.
The most surprising benefit from the OLLI and School of Nursing collaboration was the unique relationships that I developed with the volunteers. Whether it was during a health history interview or in the middle of a tutoring session, I loved hearing about the lives and experiences of the OLLI members. Sometimes they shared personal stories about aging or their jobs before retiring. At other times, they talked about their current lives, recent struggles and growing families. These stories allowed me to connect in a deeply meaningful way and ignited in me the desire to create a connection with my patients, especially in their hardest moments. I discovered that it is my responsibility to listen with respect, to create an environment where my patients know that I value their lives and unique experiences.
Soon, I will make the transition from nursing student to registered nurse. I will never forget all those crazy nights of studying and the caffeine-fueled nursing projects. I will be a nurse who truly cares for her patients, a student refined and defined by her incredible experiences in nursing school. As I grow older and eventually retire, it is my goal to return to Cal State Fullerton as a volunteer through OLLI so that maybe I can make an impact on a future student nurse. I look forward to sharing my own life stories with the shy but curious nursing student as she listens to my heart.
Beyond her nursing studies at Cal State Fullerton, Amy Lee serves as president of the Chat With a Nurse project involving both licensed nurses and nursing students. The project’s mission is to empower underserved families and children throughout Orange County to take charge of their health through health education.
Source: Oc Register

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