In the surgical unit at The University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vt., fourth year nursing student Esther Micena Matos is experiencing post-surgical patient care and reaffirming her skills as a healthcare provider. Thanks to many hours of clinical practice reinforcing rigorous coursework, Matos feels prepared for professional nursing practice.
“I am incredibly excited to start my career as a registered nurse,” Matos said. “I have learned a lot about care for surgical patients, including dressing changes, ostomies and catheters. Each shift, I feel more confident on the floor. I get to work with so many incredible nurses. They have made my senior practicum fun and enjoyable taught me so much.”
For undergraduate nursing students, clinical experience begins in the second semester of the sophomore year and continues throughout the program. Students benefit from nearly 600 hours of direct faculty-supervised clinical instruction, applying classroom concepts to real-world situations. Senior nursing students engage in community-based projects and select a clinical practicum in preferred area of interest. Students work at the University of Vermont Health Network — a six-hospital system that includes a Level 1 Trauma Center, children's hospital and cancer center— or other community hospitals, primary care clinics and agencies. Some students study and work abroad.
During her time at UVM, Matos spent seven months completing a general medicine clinical rotation at Joondalup Hospital in Western Australia. Studying and practicing abroad sharpened her nursing skills and opened her eyes to how health care practices and nursing styles differ among various cultures.
“I enhanced my clinical skill set and developed my independence and self-reliance as a student RN,” Matos said. “I believe I will be a better nurse because of this experience. It was also fun to experience life and culture in a different country and attempt to understand the Aussie slang!”
Matos also worked as a student employee in the Department of Nursing, assisting nursing faculty and staff. She especially enjoyed helping at the White Coat Ceremony, an annual tradition in which incoming nursing students receive a white coat signifyingthe beginning of their nursing careers.
“I never would've thought that as a freshman getting my own white coat, I'd be back putting white coats on the incoming freshman class. It was a really nice full-circle experience,” she said. “I enjoyed working with my professors. I met a lot of people through this position and have been lucky enough to makes connections with people who support and encourage my career path,” she said.
A Vermont native, O’Rourke grew up in Rutland, and she plans to remain in Vermont upon graduating. She hopes to work in a general surgical floor, just as she is doing in her senior practicum. She also hopes to return to Australia to work and explore more of the country. In her free time, Matos enjoys boxing and taking dance classes in downtown Burlington.
“Deciding where I want to work is the hard part because there really aren't any limits. There are so many options for graduate nurse,” Matos said.