Now, she is a medical surgical nurse at Carle. And she has her bachelor’s in nursing from the University of Illinois at Chicago – Champaign-Urbana campus. Graham exhibits the traits and confidence she started to pick up from the Student Nurse Internship Program.
This quick transition came with a lot of lessons along the way, but was also something she accomplished purposefully.
“The nursing profession drew me in, because of an interest in nutrition, fitness and overall health,” Graham said. “I thought this profession would be a good way to continue learning about the human body while making a difference in the lives of others. The Student Nurse Internship Program definitely helped me transition into my current position in many ways.”
Juniors or seniors in college have until Sunday, March 1 to apply, and Graham has a piece of advice for those who might want to take a similar path toward becoming a nurse.
She encourages them to make the most of the opportunity.
That begins, she said, by being clear with nurse mentors. Explain that you want to be there when something happens so you can gain knowledge and confidence. Others may want to shy away from something happening, but that was the opposite of what Graham did.
“One experience I remember is when a patient, after open heart surgery, had the sternal incision split,” Graham said. “The nurses pulled me in the room to let me help control the bleeding with gauze. While I helped, I witnessed how effectively the nurses worked as a team and how supportive they were of each other. For someone coming onto the unit with little experience that was exciting.
“It also helped me learn how to intervene and how to communicate effectively.”
Of course, not every day in the Student Nurse Internship Program includes that kind of experience. There's also a glimpse into the everyday traits of the job that ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
Graham paid close attention to her mentors and picked up their organizational habits. Each day included a large number of patients with specific needs. Many nurses had different ways to chart and organize medications.
After watching them all, Graham matched the options with her own tendencies.
"I now like to write down my morning medications for each patient on paper,” she said. “Then I use a feature in our electronic medical record, Epic, called ‘The Brain.’ It helps me keep track of my medications and tasks for the rest of the day.
“The internship exposed me to some different time management strategies that came in useful when I started my own nursing career.”
One more lesson learned for Graham came from also working a few shifts as a healthcare tech.
Beyond the job shadowing experience with professional nurses, this ensured a well-rounded experience. She didn’t have any experience as a healthcare tech, and this helped her learn a bit about their discipline.
“Creating a care plan for a patient is a team effort, and it’s important to establish a rapport with every discipline involved,” Graham said. “The healthcare techs have a lot of work to do and are another set of eyes on the patients, and sometimes that pays off when they notice a change in their status.”
With these experiences now in her rearview, Graham hopes a new group of student nurse interns join the program to take just as much from the program.
By taking the right approach, she’s proof that meaningful change can happen from the Student Nurse Internship Program.