First-year nursing experience builds confidence

Nursing students at UNB start clinical practice in their first year

Practice makes perfect.

That's why at the University of New Brunswick, nursing students begin clinical practice in their first year. This means they get more time in the field earlier in their program to perfect their skills.

For Kayla Beck, that time has made a difference.

Beck, a second-year nursing student at UNB Fredericton, built her confidence through starting clinical in her first year of the program.

“It was going to be scary whether we started clinical in first year or second year,” she said. “I found that, because we got to do it first year and overcame the fears, I’m not as scared now to help with actual physical crises.”

Learning practical skills along with communication

Nursing students start clinical practice in the second semester of their first year aof the program. Students assist patients with eating, bathing and mobility to build communication skills, said Dr. Krista Wilkins, an assistant professor with the program.

It’s important to learn and perfect the ability to greet and make a patient comfortable, because that’s what nurses do every day. Nursing instructors stress those skills before, during and after clinical placements through skills labs and public blood pressure clinics.

“It’s thinking about how they interact with that particular person and making use of their communication skills. It’s really helping them to make those connections,” Wilkins said.

Nurses are part of a team and need to work together, too. Students are given the tools to participate and communicate within their nursing team, along with the critical thinking skills necessary on the job.

“It’s helping students think about the anatomy, the heart and what they are actually measuring when they do somebody’s blood pressure. It’s thinking about how you interact with a person,” Wilkins said.

From the classroom to the hospital

The program’s first year focuses on the healthy individual. Before they take care of an ill person, nursing students must first think about caring for a reasonably healthy or stable person.

Most patients in long-term care are stable in their conditions, making those facilities an excellent place to test out new skills, Wilkins said. The students spend eight shifts in the long-term facility, and have a total of 108 clinical hours in their first year of nursing.

The placement is also the first time UNB nursing students put on their red and black scrubs, a very exciting and important milestone for students.

Beck is now completing her placement at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital. At the time, she didn’t realize how much valuable experience she had been gaining, but as she continues with her education it’s obvious.

“I can’t imagine doing clinical my second year without having started it last year. I definitely feel a lot less rushed and stressed this year because I already know all the basic skills. So now I can focus on completing more important tasks, like medications and injections.”

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