Office Of Public Affairs

Teaching Critical Care

Jun 18, 2007 6:00 PM

When Kate Layne, R.N., B.S.N., graduated from nursing school at Oregon Health Sciences two years ago, she wanted to work in critical care, but didn't feel ready for such an intense setting. It can take an ICU nurse a year--a sometimes long and overwhelming year--to feel prepared for working in critical care.

So instead of applying for jobs, Layne applied to the Critical Care Nursing Internship program at University Hospital. Each session, roughly 40 candidates, ranging from recent grads to veteran nurses from across the United States, compete for seven spots.

Layne was accepted into the six-month program and spent five weeks working in each of the hospital's adult critical care units: Surgical ICU; Neuro Critical Care; Burn Trauma ICU; and Medical ICU/CCU. She was shepherded through the units by preceptors--exceptional nurses carefully chosen to teach and mentor interns as they care for patients on the floor and in the operating room. "We felt very much supported by managers and educators on each unit," says Layne. "If we ever felt there was something missing, they made sure we got it on the floor or during a weekly presentation."

In addition to hands-on patient care, interns gather for a four-hour weekly conference, which includes formal academic training, guest speakers, and lectures. According to Jonathan Dimas, R.N., B.S.N., a current critical care nurse intern, "It also provides a time to sift through everything that has gone on during the week and let it resonate a little bit, because it can be a really intense experience." Dimas says the sky's the limit as far as exposure and learning opportunities during the internship. "In the first six weeks, I saw more things than some nurses have seen over several years," he says. "The technology, the patient populations, the procedures, the disease processes--it's incredible."

Less than halfway through the program, Dimas already sees how his training will affect patient outcomes. "When you're focused on learning the therapeutic side of the job, you can't focus on the patient's emotional need," he says. "This internship will really bridge the gap and allow me to start focusing on whole patient care much sooner."

After completing the program, interns are required to make a two-year commitment to one of University Hospital's critical-care units. Layne chose to work in the Medical ICU and felt well prepared for her first day on the job. "The internship really kick-starts you into taking care of higher acuity patients and eases you into a job that otherwise would be very intimidating," says Layne. She feels fortunate that the support she received as an intern continues into her job. "That doesn't happen in many places."

Margaret Pearce, chief nursing officer, says critical-care interns go on to be leaders in their units. In the future, she envisions a similar process for all of the hospital's service lines. "Nurses strive for this kind of advanced education and specialty training," says Pearce. "Making it available will improve nursing satisfaction, which will enhance recruitment and retention."

If Layne is representative of nurses in general, Pearce is on the right track. "I love my job," says Layne. "I love the types of patients we see. I love the people I work with, and the learning never stops, which is something I was really looking for."

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