Be thankful. Be kind. Don't be surprised if some things still gross you out.
Those were the messages a registered nurse at Van Matre HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital gave two East High School juniors, Jumenia Garcia and Carolina Juarez, who job shadowed the nurse Nov. 28. Van Matre was among 12 employers that hosted RPS 205 high school academy students for on-the-job experiences and hands-on training. Other employers that hosted students included the Rockford Police Department, the Rockford Park District, the YMCA of Rock River Valley and UTC Aerospace Systems - Collins Aerospace.
Garcia and Juarez are in East's Health Academy. They say they are drawn to nursing because they want to help people. Juarez said she also craves a fast pace. Registered nurse April Taylor assured her she would get that in nursing, no matter which nursing specialty she chooses.
Balancing the three hours of therapy patients get at Van Matre with other patient needs can be a challenge for nurses, Taylor said. While the East students weren't able to work directly with patients, they saw up-close the many policies and precautions regarding duties like giving medication. They saw how charting patient vitals and other data is a big part of a nurse's work.
Still, relationships — whether with patients or coworkers – are central to the work, Taylor said. The medical staff must collaborate to make sound judgments about patient care. Nurses must find their own rhythms about how they prioritize their tasks and balance a typical six-patient load. They must mesh their own styles with those of their colleagues.
"Always work together as a team," Taylor said. "It can make or break your day."
Van Matre specializes in rehabilitation after brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke and amputations. The goal is to get 80 percent or more of patients to return home to a level of self-sufficiency. As the only rehabilitation hospital in the northern Illinois region, "we're proud of what we do here," said Chrisi Karcz, the chief nursing officer at Van Matre.
Nurses deal with all manner of bodily fluids, but they told the East students some things still make them uneasy. Taylor says nasal mucus can bother her, while Allison Schindler, an OSF Saint Anthony College of Nursing student, says sputum is her least favorite. The trick is to never let their patients know it.
For their part, the two East students – Garcia and Juarez – were not discouraged by anything they saw at the hospital. Karcz said Van Matre is looking forward to the spring, when the hospital will host another group of East students.
In all, about 125 students from East will participate in the pilot this year. The goal is for all juniors in RPS 205 to participate in a job-shadow experience in the 2020-21 school year.
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