Graduate Lauren Leininger looks forward to a bright future. Photo courtesy of Leininger.
By Quincey Taylor
Walking into your last clinical for your senior capstone is an experience all nursing students will eventually have. While sometimes daunting, leaving behind your preceptor to independently care for patients acts as a springboard from which nurses can launch themselves into their new careers. Lauren Jones Leininger, fresh graduate from the BYU College of Nursing, shares her thoughts and advice as she reminisces past experiences and looks towards the future.
Leininger is extremely grateful for the impactful experiences she has had in the BYU nursing program. She truly feels that the individuals she met here have left a lasting impression on her in every aspect of her life.
Leininger and fellow nursing students on their Global Health trip to Ecuador. Photo courtesy of Leininger.
Here is some of her advice to nursing students that will follow:
- Become a licensed practical nurse your fourth semester
Leininger took the NCLEX-PN her fourth semester and became a certified LPN. She works at Horizon Home Health and Hospice, which hires many BYU student nurses every year. With this organization, she does home visits for children. While it is a great option for students to make money while in school, Leininger sees the value it gave her in building personal confidence as a healthcare professional.
She says, “While being an LPN isn’t what I want to do for my nursing career, it’s just been really great to have an experience where I’m the primary caregiver for a patient. I’ve grown a lot by being in charge and making decisions.”
It might seem nerve-racking to not have a preceptor helping you, but it is beneficial in the end. Leininger adds, “My biggest takeaway is I’m capable, I can do this. I’ve gained so much confidence.”
- Trust in your preceptor assignment
Leininger’s experience with her capstone preceptor in the Utah Valley Hospital ER was greatly impactful. She says, “The faculty at BYU work a lot to match us up with the right preceptor. I believe there’s inspiration involved with that, because I know that the preceptor I had matched me and was the perfect kind of mentor I needed.”
“At my last clinical shift, my preceptor and I just kind of talked about what my biggest takeaways were, and he left me with the challenge,” she says. He challenged her “to never give report of a patient to another nurse in a way that would taint their perspective of that patient.”
She has taken this challenge to heart and says, “We should be our patient’s advocate and stand up for them. It’s easy to make judgments and think of them a certain way, but this can impede the care you give.”
“Once you tell your own opinion of that patient to another nurse, you’re ruining that next nurse’s experience. My preceptor’s challenge to me was to always give my patients the benefit of the doubt and never, never label them. Because, no matter what, they are a person, a human being, and a child of God. Whatever they’re going through, they deserve respect. They deserve to be given dignity.”
- Be as involved in clinicals as you can be
Leininger believes that clinicals are a unique opportunity to learn and put into practice the things you learn in class. She says, “Make the most of every clinical shift you have and learn as much as you can. Be as involved as you can, even if it means measuring your patient’s urine output or something like that. That will show the nurse you’re working with that you want to be there and you’re willing to learn. Then they’re going to be a better mentor and a teacher to you.”
It’s also an important time to make mistakes and learn from fellow nurses, because once you graduate every decision has larger consequences.
- Listen to the faculty’s advice
BYU faculty are unlike any other faculty on the planet. They are able to teach not only the temporal but also the spiritual. Leininger is so grateful for the chance to be taught by such amazing faculty.
She says, “Obviously, I’ve never attended another nursing school. So I don’t know exactly how BYU is different from other schools. But I do know for certain that we have the spiritual aspect integrated into our curriculum that isn’t present in other universities. That was my favorite part about the nursing program: how our professors could incorporate the gospel into everything we learned. A huge part of being a nurse is being able to have the spirit with you to help you discern your patient’s needs and to empathize with them.”
That’s what learning the Healer’s art truly is.
In the future, Leininger is preparing to take the NCLEX-RN and find a job as a registered nurse. She feels well-prepared and recognizes the need to continue her education. She says, “A nursing career is a career of lifelong learning. You’re never going to stop learning; things are always changing.”