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College of Nursing

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Finding The Why

BSN senior, Caroline Guynn spent her summer externing in a Brain Injury unit. Along with practicing clinical skills, she reaffirmed her why for nursing. 

Where was your externship?

The Brain Injury Unit at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA.

What was your experience like working in a hospital during COVID?

Shepherd Center is well known for the community aspect of their hospital and are open to friends and family participating in the care of each patient. There are sports teams of old patients that practice in the gym, cookouts held in the garden with those from every floor, and as many holiday parties as you can imagine. Due to COVID, the atmosphere has drastically changed. No visitors are allowed- friends and family stand outside the fence around the hospital to visit the patient from a safe distance. 

For many of those who come through the doors of Shepherd, it is the most difficult time in their lives and not having that community support can understandably affect progress. Because of this, the staff of nurses, care techs, and therapists have an even greater role as not only patient advocates while their families are away, but in making each person feel valued, encouraged and not alone. 

Do you have a standout moment from your externship?

Some of my favorite moments include five minute meditations with nurses and watching someone stand up and walk again for the first time in months.

The time that stands out the most was a spontaneous dance party in the garden. During a few minutes of free time, I was outside with three patients, all at different levels of brain injuries, a nurse, and a family member. This family member has experienced so much in her journey over the past few years and has an energy that was a light to our whole floor. On this particular day, she had spent time choreographing certain movements for people with brain and spinal cord injuries to move, tap, or sway to the beats of the most classic songs, mixing a mood boost with low impact therapy. We sat out in the sun and tapped our fingers, laughed, and watched smiles slip onto the patient’s faces. I was watching her face and the new spark in her eyes. She had spent time planning and creating a session for patients to come together and dance to her new moves to aid in their mental and physical recoveries. I was watching someone who had been through something traumatic finally find a place where she could now give back all the love and support she’s been shown along the way. A new beginning for her. I am grateful to have been a participant in this moment. 

How has this externship impacted your practice as a nurse?

As a very eager student, I take to new skills with a lot of enthusiasm and questions. Everyone around me, including patients and their families, showered me with patience and their individualized wisdom.  Some days it felt like I learned over 20 new tips, skills, or techniques in one 13 hour shift! I will bring the same passion that each person at Shepherd works with everyday. Taking a few extra seconds to clean someone’s glasses or make sure they are comfortable and not rushing through care. Working with the nurses and techs has reinforced my values, watching them work with intentionality, integrity, and compassion, just as I strive for when I will practice. Confidently, I can say that my experience this summer has made my “why” very clear. Why I chose nursing, why I get up early to work long hours, and why I know I am on the right career path. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.