2020 Alumni Q&A's

CJ Case

Graduated: December 2019

Employer: Mission Hospital

Q: Did you encounter anything unexpected or challenging when transitioning from SAC to a new grad RN?

A: After graduating from SAC in December of 2019, I decided to take a month break or so and then start studying for my boards. I was surprised at how far out the NCLEX testing dates were when I originally went to schedule my exam. In April of 2020, I was offered an RN position at Mission Hospital in the Surgical ICU for their New Grad Transition Program. As excited and relieved as I was to have a job offer, I still hadn’t taken my boards and felt the pressure only building now that I had a job position relying on my passing the exam. Then, things took a left turn as Covid-19 turned our worlds upside down. My exam ended up being canceled three different times and pushed back into May of 2020. As this was definitely unforeseen, I found it very challenging to commit time to Uworld. For those wanting to wait to take their boards, I would advise against it; I felt more organized and prepped right after graduating and it took some time to get prepared after taking a break.

Q: What was the hardest semester for you? Do you have any advice for current students?

A: Fourth semester was the hardest for me personally. As excited as I was to start critical care, I found that the content was much more difficult and intense than I had anticipated. The reality that I would be done with school soon and on my own, responsible for the lives of others, was starting to set in. Was I ready? Did I study enough? The phrase, “you only get out what you put in,” is absolutely true! The instructors can try to motivate you and provide you the tools to be a competent, knowledgeable, and safe practicing nurse; but that the end of the day, it is YOUR license and YOUR responsibility to yourself and your patients to take your education seriously. Preceptorship was the most valuable experience during nursing school for me. I was fortunate enough to precept at Mission Hospital in their SICU and that is currently where I work! Take this opportunity in genuinely, and use it as a time to no longer be the “student” but as the primary RN, and network! Make connections, get contacts, and show interest in job placement after you graduate. All SAC’s instructors are amazing but I felt really grateful to have had Louise for the 4th semester! She absolutely went out of her way for her students and helped refer me for preceptorship and interview placement after graduation. Network guys! :D

Q: How long did you study for the NCLEX? What guides did you use?

A: I started studying for NCLEX in late January and took my boards in May. I used Uworld and tried Kaplan. I felt Kaplan was very general and much easier than Uworld. After taking my boards I think Uworld is actually more difficult than the NCLEX, so if you can pass Uworld, you’ve got it!

Q: How long did you have to wait to be hired after passing the NCLEX?

A: My situation was much different than I had expected due to Covid-19. I actually had job placement before I took my boards and was required to get an Interim-Permit while I waited for Pearson Vue to allow me to test. This definitely increased my anxiety and stress level about taking my boards because if I didn’t pass I would also lose my Interim permit and my job offer. Take your test earlier than later guys! Don’t wait, it doesn’t get easier, only harder.

Q: Do you have recommendations or tips for working while in school?

A: During nursing school, I worked part-time nights at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach as a Patient Care Assistant. That is two twelve-hour night shifts a week. I would usually work Thursday and Friday nights. We had class Thursdays and got out between 3 and 4 or so. That made my Thursdays very long days. I would be up for about 28 hours and have to be back at the hospital the next night. This was definitely challenging but so valuable also. I saw some of my fellow classmates try to work nightshift during the week and have to attend class after; DON’T DO IT! They were frequently exhausted during class, not able to pay attention, and not actively engaged in the content. Come to class rested and work after. Also, If you haven’t gotten your foot into working at a hospital, start applying! Hospitals are always hiring within their organizations. This gives you more experience over other new graduates as well as contacts with unit managers etc. to get face time and opportunities!

Q: Do you have studying or organization tips for current students?

A: I believe everyone studies and gets organized in different ways. Do what works for YOU. I have never been a group study person. I find it much too distracting and takes twice as long for me as the conversations quickly become about personal issues and a hangout session. I studied before on my own and then sat in groups of about 4-5 and would ask questions back and forth, explain interventions, etc. and used this as a way to test my knowledge and teach others. If you can teach it, you know it!

Q: What were the most helpful learning experiences you gained from SAC?

A: Let’s face it, you’re not going to know everything; especially as a new grad. You are going to have moments where you feel absolutely lost and start to question yourself being ready to be an RN. When you encounter issues or situations where you are unsure of what or why you are doing something for a patient see clarification and help! Use your resources! It is ok to say you don’t have the answer but you will get one, this keeps your patients safe as well as your license.

Q: What do you wish you knew during nursing school?

A: Being I already worked in a hospital while in school I had a good idea of what to expect as I transitioned to an RN. This has also been a struggle for me; I was used to doing everything for my patients myself. As a nurse, you will find there are days where everything is burning around you and you’re putting out multiple fires constantly. This leaves you behind on meds, patient care, updating families, and of course, charting. Ask for help, use your resource nurse or patient care techs when appropriate. You can’t do everything yourself, you are part of a team, utilize it.

Q: How has it been working as an SICU nurse? What separates your unit from the rest

A: Starting in the ICU as a new grad has been exciting, challenging, overwhelming, and rewarding. I feel critical care is so interesting and different from other units. You have the ability to know so much more about your patients and work side-by-side with other members of the healthcare team. This includes Doctors, PT/OT/ST, case managers, nutrition, etc. Being in the SICU the intensivists round every shift on patients. This interaction with the physicians gives you the ability to become part of the care planning team for your patient. You are the nurse at the bedside; YOU spend the most time with the patient and I really enjoy being able to collaborate and advocate for my patients to get orders, treatments and plan the course of care. Our Doctors value our input and I feel keeping these lines of communication open helps patient outcomes. If you’re intimidated calling and/or speaking to doctors, start working on it! You will be doing this almost every shift, be prepared, have your info, and follow SBAP. Lastly, look for hospitals that have New Grad Programs, this was so helpful in transitioning from a student to a professional nurse. Goodluck SAC Students, you’ve got this!

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