TSN 11: The Student Nurse and the Learning Environment

I didn’t know what I was feeling for and didn’t feel anything unusual about the woman’s belly. I couldn’t time the contractions, but I was aware that when her moaning started, it would build up to a crescendo and then subside. With my hand on her belly and my watch pulled up to my face so I could see the second hand, I counted the minutes between when her moaning ended and then began again. I also counted the seconds that it took for her moans to reach their crescendo. Hoping I might be spared more humiliation, I timidly told Miss Staczs my conclusion. She gave me a strange look but accepted my guess and announced that this woman was still in early labour: her contractions were not very strong and were more than a few minutes apart.

How could that be? The patient was in agony. At that moment, and oblivious to my disbelief, Miss Staczs abruptly checked her watch and announced it was time for us to meet the rest of my student colleagues for our post clinical experience conference. I think she’d simply lost interest in me, or had I pulled it off? I was a fraud but hadn’t been discovered? I couldn’t be sure, but to my surprise, she spared me the indignity of telling the rest of the students about my failure.

The Student Nurse and the Learning Environment - Delivery Room


The next thirteen weeks of my life didn’t really improve; I lived in a constant state of anxiety, always fearing further humiliations. I finished my Obstetrical rotation without ever having felt a contraction. I continued using my guessing method to time contractions, living every minute in fear of being found out. Somehow I passed the Obstetrical course but had been scarred by my experience. I had no intention of ever again setting foot on an Obstetrical Unit.

Three years after becoming an RN, I found myself in a small community hospital hired for a full time position on Obstetrics! I wanted the position; it was time for me to prove to myself that I could learn those skills, but as soon as I stepped off the elevator all my Student Nurse anxieties came flooding back to me. The misery Miss Staczs had put me through was there again filling my mouth with a sour taste. Just as I realized my heart was racing I pulled myself out of that nightmare. I was no longer a Student Nurse, I was a full fledged Registered Nurse with three years experience in Critical Care Units. I had developed a tolerance for patients’ crises and no longer fell apart when they occurred. Surely, I could learn to be an OBS nurse!

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Barbara Tiessen is a retired RN who lives with her husband in southwestern Ontario but winters in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. She researched her genealogy, wrote and self published The Schoenfeld Russlaender: A Mennonite Family's History in 2015. More recently her interest have focused on writing short stories.
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