Judy Swafford, RN, is a lifelong learner, and she tries to instill that quality in others. So, when she was asked if nursing students could intern with her, she couldn’t say no.
Judy’s nursing career spans 35 years, all of it at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, specifically in orthopaedics, including inpatient care and research. Currently, she works with acute and chronic spine patients in the Orthopaedics Clinic at UI Hospitals and Clinics.
“Certainly there are challenges to having students because you are trying to coordinate those things you need to do that day and still provide educational opportunities,” Judy says. “But I feel it is my role as a professional to help nurture that next generation of nurses.”
When nursing students work with Judy, they assist with many aspects of outpatient care — phone triage of patient issues, record reviews for appointments, pre-surgery consultations, and patient education. By the end of the semester, students are pulling diagnoses and looking at clinical exam notes and available imaging studies to help determine the level of care needed.
The experience exposes students to the changing world of health care, showing them how the focus on patient-centered care affects care coordination and the use of multi-disciplinary teams. Students also accompany her to meetings and committees, such as shared governance, to provide a comprehensive picture of nursing.
The most enjoyable thing about the experience: building a relationship with the students, people she would have never met without this opportunity. This year she connected with them in a brand new way. Judy is currently working to complete her BSN.
“A lot of classes I was in, they had just taken. So, at times, it was a peer relationship. We were able to talk about the things we’d learned and apply them to the clinical situation,” Judy says.
Looking into the future, she plans on working with more students, perhaps as early as next fall.
“I’m so thankful for the opportunity to pass along the things I really value, like being engaged as a professional and that desire to never stop learning,” Judy says.
In Fiscal Year 14 alone, 675 nursing students spent 73,359 hours learning from and working alongside nurses at UI Hospitals and Clinics for internships, traditional rotations, and dedicated education unit experiences. Those numbers do not include the 276 students that came for 1,666 hours of tours, shadows, and observations in that year.
Shadows are important to allow undergraduate nursing students to do a more focused observation of nurses in a specific patient care area, typically for an eight-hour period. While some students want the most requested areas—pediatrics, obstetrics, emergency, and intensive care—others are just searching for their niche in nursing.
Students from nursing programs across eastern Iowa may also come to observe care in specialties that may not be available to them locally. Iowa Wesleyan University nursing students visit UI Hospitals and Clinics each year for shadowing as part of their psychiatric rotation.
“I feel like it is our duty and privilege to facilitate these shadows and observations, as much as the regular placements,” says Lou Ann Montgomery, director of Nursing Professional Development and Advanced Practice and Nursing Informatics liaison. “We want nursing students to be successful, and we can help with that by providing opportunities to find the specialty that fits them best.”
Reach out. Report. Repeat.
Community benefits are programs or activities that provide treatment or promote health and healing as a response to identified community needs and meet at least one of these objectives:
- Improve access to health care service
- Enhance the health of the community
- Advance medical or health care knowledge
- Relieve or reduce the burden of government or other community efforts