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Penn Nursing Diaries: A Day in the Life--Kelly Kim

What’s it like to be a current undergraduate at Penn Nursing? Think little sleep, rushing to class and clinicals, and constant commitments. Sound familiar? We asked three juniors to keep track of their days so that you know what it takes to keep up with them.

Kelly Kim, Penn Nursing Student/Young Quakers Club Participant

6:40 A.M. ALARM rings—my hands automatically go for the snooze button. After finally opening my eyes, I check my calendar to see if I have any meetings today and do a quick 30 second stretch. I get out of bed, throw on my navy scrubs, clip on my ID badge, and pin up my hair.

7:00 A.M. Walk over to the kitchen to make a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios with almond milk. I stand and look out my window as I eat to watch the sunrise over Center City. I check the weather app on my phone to see if I need to wear an extra layer under my scrubs or if I need an umbrella. I dread showing up to clinical with wet scrubs and walking around in wet socks and shoes all day as I go from patient to patient.

7:30 A.M. Start running two blocks down to my clinical group’s designated spot so we can Uber together. I definitely meet the stereotype of the nursing student who is always rushing to make it on time. As we gather one by one, we huddle together to shield ourselves from the cold winter breeze that is freezing our wet hair.

Credit: Photo by Sean Legg, a Penn Nursing undergraduate. 8:00 A.M. Sit in a circle to begin our pre-conference for our clinical day and talk through interesting articles we’ve read related to our patient population and share any concerns or questions. I’m going through my psychiatric-mental health rotation right now and I never realized how much I would love this area of nursing. The incredible stories and struggles that people share with me make me realize what a privilege it is to be in the profession of nursing where people give you trust at the most vulnerable points in their lives.

9:00 A.M. Today, I’m placed on the women’s short-term drug/ alcohol rehabilitation unit. I join their morning community group in which they talk about their goals for today. After group ends, I sit with a woman who has recently entered the program and she shares with me her life story and how she came to end up at this facility. Most of the women here have gone through immense trauma and faced numerous hardships. Some have been victims of domestic violence and rape while others have experienced loss and depression. Sometimes, all they need is someone to listen, and I’m grateful I was able to do that for this woman today.

10:00 A.M. Follow this woman to her small-group therapy session and the counselor leads a discussion about grief and loss. One man speaks on the loss of his son, and how drugs have been his only way to cope. Through this rotation, I’ve had so much time to reflect back on my own perspectives and biases. The time spent at this facility has been invaluable as I have really learned to become less judgmental and more empathetic, especially with people who struggle with substance use disorders.

12:30 P.M. We begin our postconference and one by one, we reflect on the emotions and thoughts we experienced throughout our day. My instructor, Gerry, is such a wonderful mentor in this area of nursing and he always provides insight on how the treatment of psychiatric disorders has evolved and how we as nurses can make a tremendous difference for people who have mental illnesses.

Credit: Photo by Sean Legg, a Penn Nursing undergraduate. 2:00 P.M. Clinical day ends and we wait for our Uber XL to take some of us home and some of us to lab. In the car, we have an intense discussion about what we are going to eat for lunch.

2:15 P.M. After much deliberation, I decide to pick up my usual Chicken Pesto Parm salad from Sweetgreen. I eagerly speed walk home so I can eat my salad while finishing the Netflix documentary on a Japanese sushi master I started last night.

3:00 P.M. Grab a tall Earl Grey tea at Starbucks and read through the documents posted on Canvas to prepare for lab tonight.

3:40 P.M. Wrap myself in my scarf and layers to start walking over to Franklin Field. I currently work with elementary and middle school students in West Philadelphia who come to Penn to exercise with the track team. It’s a program called Young Quakers Community Athletics (YQCA), a collaboration between Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships and Penn Athletics. This is the first year nursing students have been involved in the program and we are actively looking for ways we can make a positive impact. After a lot of observation and participation in the program, we have decided to kick-start a mindfulness initiative so that students can not only improve their physical health, but their emotional and mental health as well. Many times, I will sit and talk with students who are going through stressful situations, whether at school or within their families. I believe it is very important to have a safe space to talk through these issues as well as practice positive coping mechanisms. Today, I helped resolve a conflict between three students by using some of the therapeutic communication techniques I learn in lab. I also ran practice laps with some of the students. It’s definitely hard keeping up with them! I hope all this running will help build my endurance to take care of patients for 12 hours a day.

5:00 P.M. Rush over to Fagin Hall just in time for my lab instructor, Heather, to open the door as soon as it hits 5PM. Today’s topic is opioid withdrawal and I volunteered to be the nurse for our simulation today. I know it’s practice, but I still get nervous as I try to scramble in my head all the therapeutic communication techniques we’ve learned so far. But I’m glad I can get feedback before my actual test-out next week.

Credit: Photo by Sean Legg, a Penn Nursing undergraduate. 7:00 P.M. Walk over to the study hall where my Bible Study group will have our meeting today. While waiting for other members to come, I eat the granola bar, orange, and cookie I packed for dinner.

7:30 P.M. My weekly Bible Study group meets every Thursday. I love the community I have found here because it includes students from different schools and majors. It’s interesting to learn from the experiences of people in different majors as they go through college.

10:00 P.M. Get home and review the material I need to cover for the weekly anatomy and physiology lecture review sessions I lead. I look back through the detailed diagrams I drew as a freshman taking this class and think how fast nursing school flies by. Tomorrow’s review session will be on the skeletal system (one of my favorite systems!)

11:00 P.M. Take a shower and call my mom so we can talk about our days. We are best friends and she definitely helps me process through all the highs and lows. While talking on the phone, I simultaneously add more notes to my care plan due next week.

12:00 A.M. Bed (FINALLY!).