A New Nurse’s Journey

Oct 10, 2017

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What I liked best about the ECCO program…is that it allows for flexibility and independent learning.

Mark Christmas

Many nurses are inspired to enter nursing after a traumatic life event. For Mark Christmas, that reason was his grandmother. It was life-changing to witness the care she received in the emergency room, and that incident sparked his interest in not only nursing, but critical care as well.

“I lost my grandmother to ovarian cancer. She was rushed to the emergency center, and I watched the process unfold. I saw what it takes to be a critical care nurse, along with the respect and the autonomy that they are given. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a nurse and that there was no other place for me than the emergency center.”

During this experience, what did you admire the most about the nurses caring for your grandmother?

This specific occurrence happened prior to nursing school and it was near overwhelming. What I admired most about the emergency room nurses was the vast knowledge-base that they displayed. They were at the bedside, and had an answer for every question I asked. I am currently working in the same emergency center and I understand the kind of training that the staff endures.

Mark completed nursing school and passed the board exams in 2016. As a young nurse, he is enthusiastic about patient care, and thriving on his journey. However, applying the knowledge he acquired to everyday scenarios is real and challenging. He recalls a difficult incident where the basic critical care principles he learned through an AACN course became integral for treating a stroke patient.

“The patient was middle-aged and had only a history of hypertension. Following the hospital stroke protocol, the patient immediately was sent to the CT scanner, where the bleed was discovered. A baseline NIH Stroke Scale was also performed upon arrival. This patient had two ventricular drains placed as a last resort for a life-saving measure. He remained stable for an extended period of time. AACN’s Essentials of Critical Care Orientation (ECCO) program assisted me with monitoring the patient during the stabilization period. The patient had the head of the bed elevated, the lights were dimmed and there had to be continuous ICP monitoring. This had been one of the most critical patients I had been assigned to thus far. I had to incorporate knowledge from all aspects of my learning - including school, critical care academy courses, past experiences and the ECCO program.

How did you become aware of AACN’s ECCO course?

The hospital I work for hosts a Critical Care Academy for those nurses who work in either ICU or the emergency center. This is a six month program to reinforce skills and information that are essential in a critical care setting. In addition to the academy, we enroll in AACN’s Essentials of Critical Care Orientation (ECCO) program and participate in a 16-week bedside orientation period. My hospital ensures that their nurses are prepared for everything whether or not they have experienced it before. Each participant attends classes and utilizes the ECCO course to expand their advance knowledge-base, while they transition to an independent nurse. The knowledge Mark acquired through his hospital’s critical care training program prepared him to become a confident caregiver. He affirms the positive influence the ECCO course provided as a new nurse in a critical care setting. ECCO covers a broad spectrum of topics, provides you with the opportunity to think critically and to act off of a well-rounded nursing judgement. As a new nurse, working in a Level 1 Trauma Center can be very intimidating, but the blended approach of critical care academy classes and the ECCO course helped to boost my confidence. Both allowed for a "new nurse" like me to come out of orientation feeling more comfortable than I initially would have.

What did you like the best about the course, and what did it teach you?

What I liked best about the ECCO program as compared to other courses within the critical care academy is that it allows for flexibility and independent learning. You are able to access the program from home and able to learn at your own pace. The course gives you the information that you need, and requires learners to take an assessment at the end of each module and make a passing grade on it. After each assessment, the program provides you with a study guide that shows weak points and areas for improvement. This allows you to go back and review material missed prior to taking the assessment again. Repetition is one of the best learning tools, and this program utilizes that in order to help you not only learn, but to also remember the material!

As a new nurse, why is being prepared so important?

As a nurse, you are expected to be prepared and always know what to do. For example, what if you are in your patient’s room and they begin having a seizure? You don't have your phone on you and you have nobody else in the room, what will you do? Well, if I was in that place I would turn the patient on their side and hit the call light to ask for help. New nurses may panic at first and may not have every possible answer. And that’s okay, because a large portion does come from experience. ECCO provided me with the knowledge to care for the patient, but it takes actually being put on the spot to know how one would respond.