Nursing student taps into own experience to reassure patient

  • Kailey Kennedy Slesar. Submitted photo

Published: 5/21/2021 12:43:45 PM


Kailey Kennedy Slesar, a UMass nursing student, walks into Baystate Medical Center at 7 a.m. for her six-hour pediatric clinical rotation. She is wearing a face mask made by her mother that reads, “I wear hearing aids SO SPEAK UP.”

The stone building reminds her of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from “Harry Potter,” but instead of a magic stairway, she takes a small elevator to the pediatric floor. She notices the distinctive hospital scent and the soft beeping of machines.

The pediatric unit is awake and filled with the voices of nurses, doctors and patients. The nurse preceptor begins giving a report on their patients for the day, but Kailey can’t focus on what she’s saying; the commotion in the background makes the words sound like gibberish. Kailey asks if the group can move somewhere more quiet.

“I hate feeling deaf,” Kailey said. “I often feel like I am missing out on something . . . because I am so worried about hearing everything.”

Clinical rotations, which provide nursing students with hands-on learning experiences in different care settings, are known for being emotionally and physically demanding, especially during the pandemic. But Kailey, who attended at least two different clinicals a week, faces additional challenges as a deaf person who relies on lip reading.

The use of face masks has eliminated Kailey’s primary method of communication with the nurses, which makes her feel alone and at a disadvantage. Although it’s been difficult to adapt to mask culture, the nurses on rotation, like most of the nurses throughout Kailey’s life, have been helpful and understanding.

The nurses are what make Kailey’s experiences at the hospital a lot more enjoyable, and her own experience as a patient is what inspired her to connect with her own patients.

Kailey notices one of her patients is upset. Her patient just learned that they will get a PICC line, a type of catheter inserted in the arm, due to an infection from their burst appendix. Kailey can see their fear, and she understands they are worried they will be awake during the procedure.

“No,” she assures them, “you’re going to be fully asleep.” She remembers her own fear when her left cochlear implant was infected and she received three PICC lines over three years.

A PICC line is a long catheter inserted into an arm and threaded through a vein to provide direct access to the heart for antibiotics, medications or nutrients. Since it is an invasive procedure, all precautions are used to secure the placement of the catheter to prevent infection and decrease any risk of cardiac complication.

“I would cut knee-high socks,” Kailey tells her patient, “pretty-knee high socks, to make it fun because you need to have it secure.” Kailey used the socks to hold the PICC line in place and protect it. She remembers they like science so she suggests they buy some science-themed socks to spice things up.

“Go to Target or Walmart and go to the $1 section and you can cut those socks.” While her patient is still nervous, Kailey notices they’ve become less hesitant.

The pandemic has restricted Kailey’s social world, pushing her mental and physical limits at times, but it reminds her of the reason she wanted to become a nurse: to connect with patients. That’s what keeps her going.

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