So whether you are in the ICU preparing to apply to CRNA school, or graduating nursing school and getting ready to start in the ICU, or if you are a nurse who is transferring to the ICU this episode is for you.
There is a lot to do during that year or two that you are getting critical care experience. It's going to go by fast. And as you may have heard me rant about in previous episodes you know that one of the biggest mistakes we see applicants making is not starting to prepare themselves soon. So today we are going to be talking about some of the things that you should be doing in the ICU while you are getting your Critical Care experience.
The first thing you should be doing is really trying to understand the pathophysiology and pharmacology on your unit. Really try to maintain that student mindset. Now of course as you're making the transition to being in the ICU, you are going to be focusing on getting the flow of the unit, and understanding the nuances of the environment. And really if you are a new grad you are going to be getting adjusted to what it really means to be a nurse.
But after this adjustment, really start to get back to studying. Take a look at the typical patient population that you are seeing on your unit and really make sure you understand the pathophysiology behind what is going on with your patients. For example, if you have patience on CRRT, take some time to understand what renal failure really is. How is it affecting the other systems in the body? How does dialysis work? What happens when your patient is fluid overloaded, what are the signs and symptoms of renal failure? What are the lab values that you're seeing and trending? What are the interventions that you are doing to manage this?
And the drugs that you're using- do you know what receptors they are working on? Do you understand why you are choosing epinephrine over phenylephrine in the septic patient? Do you understand how Heparin and TPA works? Of course you know why you're giving these drugs but really step back and think about how they are working down to the cellular level. The sooner you can really focus on understanding these drugs, the better it's going to be solidified in your brain and you won't have to do so much cramming when it comes time for your interview.
The second thing that you are going to be doing during your year or two in the ICU is you are going to be seeking out leadership opportunities in your hospital. It is going to take time for you to get involved in committees and research, so the sooner you can put some feelers out the better. You are going to be looking into your Clinical Practice Council (CPC), uou are going to try to get involved in your local AACN chapter, or you are going to be joining your UPC or your unit practice committee. Furthermore, if you are able to join hospital-wide committees that is even better.
One of the things that will really set you apart is if you can get research experience. So that means if you are at a big academic institution or near a major university you likely will have ample opportunities to seek out experiences. And what do we mean by research experience? Well it is going to be hard for you to be a published author, however you will be able to help with ongoing research projects by collecting data for example. A tip would be to check with your professors of those science classes that you are retaking and see if they are involved in any ongoing research and see if you can be a part of that.
Why is being involved in research such a big deal? Well it's because in school you will have to do a DNP research project. If you have experience analyzing data and if you understand the research process, that is going to be a huge benefit for you because it won't be so overwhelming for you to do this huge research project while you're in school. Plus, it's really important for CRNA's to have the ability to look at the data and make changes to our clinical practice based on research and data. And if you have that mentality ingrained in you, that you are adaptable and flexible and not so set in your ways, that you can adjust to new information as it comes out, it is only going to make you a better practitioner and clinician.
The third thing that you should be doing during your year or two in the ICU is starting with the end goal in mind. Remember, that you have a lot of boxes to check. Applicants are doing more and more so the bar is being raised for everyone. That is one of the things that we talk a lot about with our application accelerator students: it's making sure that they are very well rounded applicants. That means you are going to be taking certifications, you are going to be volunteering, you are going to be studying for the GRE. When you start in the ICU it would be very wise of you to map out your year ahead and you will very quickly see that your year is going to be busy. The GRE will take you probably 3 months to study for. The CCRN might take you a month. If you take an additional certification that will take you another month. And then not to mention the prerequisites you will probably have to take or retake. Your year or two is suddenly going to be very full. And that doesn't even take into account the fact that you're probably going to want to go on vacation, or take time off from studying between your prerequisites, so make sure that you don't fall into the trap that a lot of people do. Which is starting your application 6 months before it's due because you're going to realize that you will be scrambling at the end. There are going to be some things that we suggest you do that you are going to be rushing to complete.
If you are motivated to get started and make sure that you are not missing any of the key things that you need to be doing, you can check out our free masterclass.
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