What I Learned While Becoming a Critical Care Nurse

By Katelyn Meitler, a registered nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at CHOC Hospital, and graduate of CHOC’s RN Residency Program

The RN Residency Program at CHOC is an intensive 17-week program designed for new nursing graduates to help them successfully transition to becoming a professional pediatric nurse. I applied for this program because I knew that I would learn how to deliver safe, independent, timely nursing care; and how to serve as an advocate for my patients and their families. However, I learned so much more than that from my fellow new nursing graduates, from the patients and their families we were lucky enough to care for, and last but not lease from the experienced nurses who patiently and thoughtfully helped us gain hands-on experience. At our graduation ceremony, I shared these unexpected lessons with my fellow graduates.

Katelyn, a critical care nurse at CHOC

“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can.”

I think most of us would agree we have learned more about what it means to be a nurse in the last four months than in the previous four years of nursing school. Here are just a few lessons I’ve taken to heart during residency.

I’ve learned to care for patients the way I would my children to be cared for.

I’ve learned if you are not ahead in your tasks, you’re behind.

I’ve learned it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.”

I’ve learned to make sure my IV fluids are actually dripping before I walk out of the room.

I’ve learned that the less time I have, the more I get done

I’ve learned it’s okay to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed.

I’ve learned to listen to parent’s concerns and take them to heart. They always know their child the best.

I’ve learned it’s okay to grieve with parents when they receive bad news.

I’ve learned it’s okay to cry and show that you are human.

I’ve learned a hug goes a long way.

I’ve learned that death never gets easier no matter how many times you witness it.

I’ve learned that crying doesn’t show weakness, it shows compassion.

I’ve learned that death is what makes life so beautiful.

I’ve learned that all people cry and smile in the same language.

I’ve learned a smile costs nothing but gives much. It enriches those who receive without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

I’ve learned that coffee grounds in a bowl make a patient’s room smell significantly better.

I’ve learned the importance of self-care.

I’ve learned to fill up my cup of joy so that it overflows onto the saucer for others to drink.

I’ve finally learned what makes me gag…snot.

I’ve learned the truth about what Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

I’ve learned to listen.

I’ve learned that some days you feel like you conquered the world and other days like the world conquered you.

I’ve learned there is always tomorrow to try it again.

I’ve learned how much I don’t know.

I’ve learned to laugh at myself.

I’ve learned that nursing is extremely hard, but I’ve also learned that that is what makes it so incredibly rewarding.

I’ve learned many lessons through the last four months but one of the most important lessons is…. I’ve learned that I will never stop learning.

Have you been inspired by a nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

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