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Sarah Shin (Nu’18) Describes Her Experience at the Mayo Clinic

This past summer, I had the privilege of working as a Summer III nurse extern at the Mayo Clinic. I learned about the program from Penn Nursing upperclassmen who had completed the program in prior years.

The Summer III externship focuses on supporting nursing students as they learn to be vital members of a dynamic patient care team. I worked closely with clinical coaches (registered nurses on the floor) to transition from observing to performing most tasks that the nurses were responsible for on my orthopedic surgery unit. I was expected to ask questions and perform patient care duties. Moreover, although I was not allowed to administer medications, my coaches challenged me to think about how and why I would give the medication, as well as what signs and symptoms to look for. They pushed me to understand the disease processes of my patients and how these medications would affect patients, physiologically and psychologically. Having developed this commitment to critical thinking and curiosity throughout my clinical rotations at Penn, I felt prepared to immerse myself in Mayo Clinic’s rigorous learning environment.   

Sarah Shin at the Mayo ClinicSarah Shin at the Mayo ClinicThroughout the day, I participated in prioritizing patient assignments, presenting patients during multidisciplinary care team rounds, and creating discharge care plans. I integrated the foundational knowledge and skills I had learned during my Penn Nursing clinical rotations and SIM labs into direct patient care and advocacy. I witnessed and participated in devising innovative nurse-driven ideas to enhance the care of the patients we served. Furthermore, I realized that Penn Nursing had provided me with collaborative, multidisciplinary environments   that helped me establish professional connections for comprehensive patient care.

Most importantly, I developed a deep appreciation for the side of nursing that is less well defined, less concrete, and less able to be quantified: how we interact with one another based on our shared humanity. Working at the Mayo Clinic gave me the opportunity to share intimate moments with a breadth of people from all different walks of life and to care for them in some of life’s darkest hours.

I distinctly remember one of my patients reporting 10/10 pain as he was weaned off his nerve block after a total knee surgery. Sitting with him in his room required very little of me as a nursing extern, but it was invariably one of the most enjoyable and educational parts of my day; we shared many laughs, and he told me about his family, his fears, and his regrets. It was during one of these visits, and amidst the chaos of the medical team, that I was overwhelmed with a sense of complete wholeness–I remembered that on the first day of orientation, Stephanie Sveen, our program coordinator, told us that we would collectively touch the lives of over 5,000 people during our time at Mayo. This patient was one of those lives that I was making a difference in. In that moment it became clear to me that, although I can’t change a patient’s circumstance, I can provide personalized health care to patients from all communities in this safe and trusted setting, and in doing so ensure that they are treated with dignity and compassion. My academic and clinical education at Penn Nursing had prepared me to provide this compassionate, patient-centered care, and this opportunity at the Mayo Clinic helped me to develop greater experience with it and bring it to life.