Honors College nursing major wrote a booklet of stories about her clinical experiences with patients
During her clinicals, nursing major Trinity Faith Esposito '23 noticed that patients seem to gravitate toward nursing students differently than floor nurses, perhaps because students are able to spend more time with them. As she chatted with her patients, she heard interesting stories about their lives that touched her and reminded her of the very human aspect of nursing.
For her Honors College APEX Project, the Acushnet, MA native wrote a collection of short stories about her patient experiences. (Only first names were used.) Esposito hopes that "Stories from a Nursing Student" will offer intuition to new nurses, reminiscences for veteran nurses of the early days of their careers, and peace of mind for patients.
"I am passionate about the emotional and personal aspects of nursing," Esposito wrote in a summary of her project, "which is why I have gathered a collection of short stories about individual patients to share with others. This project fulfills my desire to complete more than a research study but a meaningful piece of work for nurses and patients. These stories would include the patients' diagnoses, their coping strategies, the behaviors of themselves and their families, as well as the highs and lows of hospital care. Stories have always been central to medicine, and they show the vulnerability of the clinical setting."
During college, Esposito had a range of patient experiences in addition to her clinicals. She worked as a certified nurse technician at St. Anne's Hospital and as a personal care assistant for a temporary agency.
Active as a worship leader at Journey Christian Church in Fall River, Esposito is not only graduating from nursing school, studying for her national licensing exam, and starting a new career, she is also getting married this fall to her fiancé, Kyle Souza, whom she says has been an invaluable supporter of her nursing career.
UMass Dartmouth experience
Why did you decide to attend UMass Dartmouth?
"It was one of the best decisions I ever made," Esposito said. "It's 20 minutes away. I applied to 14 colleges, had offers to play soccer, but made the hard decision to stay close to home and save money, but it paid off. The nursing program here is talked about more highly; I heard about the nursing program by word of mouth and about the high percentage of students who pass their boards.
"I love being a commuter. I have friends at home and here. I don't know how my life would have turned out if I hadn"t come here."
What makes UMassD special?
"You're not surrounded by strangers here. You run into more familiar faces. There's a nice sense of camaraderie. We're more of a community."
"I was in the hospital once with stomach pains around eight years old. The nurses made me feel like I was the most important person in the world and thought I was funny. I wanted to be able to replicate that. I thought of becoming a midwife and have always wanted to work with kids but wanted to be a nurse first. I did my maternity clinical as a junior and loved it, but I am gravitating toward specializing in pediatrics.
"I fell in love with all aspects of nursing. The horizon is wide open. Once you are an RN, there are so many places you can go. I love projects and I love people; flushing tubes, handling meds, and talking to patients at the same time. People have become my best project. You are caring for people in their most vulnerable state."
What are some of your most memorable experiences?
"The faculty have been great. Covid was hard. It definitely took a toll on my family. My grandfather, the patriarch of our family, had been admitted to the ICU for weeks. He later passed away the morning of my third MedSurg exam, but my parents didn't tell me until after my test. My parents got in touch with the faculty that morning to let them know the situation and they were so kind. Afterwards, the faculty worked with me to move the final back. I'm really grateful that they made a way for me to do this.
"I never enjoyed studying until I came here. I got to make my own time. I would go to the library, get a Starbucks, and go up to the third floor and study for hours. The time would fly by."
What is your favorite place on campus?
"There is a peacefulness in the library. It's where I am most productive. I sit on the third floor in a study room that faces out onto the middle of campus. One of my fondest memories is sitting at a big table, laying out all my flashcards, and studying for finals."
Honors College experience
"I really enjoyed my Honors courses. They were unlike any of my other classes; they were my only classes outside of nursing. I loved the discussions and the smaller class setting. I got to know the students sitting beside me. It opened my eyes to what is happening on campus. I met students in liberal arts, biochemistry, and engineering. We had some really fun and interesting conversations."
APEX Project: Stories from a nursing student
"My APEX project is an accumulation of stories that came from my clinical experience. Nurses aren't always able to sit down with patients. They're running all the time between so many patients. There's also the emotional side of just being there, of providing patient-centered care. We were trained by our preceptors to sit down and talk to patients. My stories reflect real-life clinical experiences. I was a witness to what's going on in these patients' lives.
"Nursing students are encouraged to take their time during tasks and learn from them. I believe that because nursing students are still learning, we value our experiences with patients at a different level. I find myself saying ‘thank you' when I change their IV dressing, flush a tube, or check their vital signs. My gratitude stems from the idea that each interaction and procedure I encounter is bringing me closer to my degree.
"Nursing students have a raw interpretation of care and a deep desire to learn," Esposito continued. "It appears that patients notice this earnest pursuit and gravitate towards it. In my clinical experiences, patients express how proud they are of nursing students. They share their appreciation and voice the importance of people striving towards a career as vital as this one."
One particular experience stood out for Esposito, which she included in her booklet. "During my clinical rotation at St. Luke's, nurses would pull students into a room when something was about to happen. We were doing a catheterization and the nurse asked me to prep the area and get the supplies ready. The patient was apprehensive, and we began explaining why we were there. I began talking to the patient about her life and found out that she was from Fairhaven where I went to high school. We talked about the building and her whole demeanor changed. The procedure went fine, the students learned, and the patient was more comfortable. The family came back in and the patient reassured us that she was okay and said, ‘you have to learn.'
"When you have a patient, you have their whole family. If I'm in a patient's room and something is going on, I see the patient differently. This is a person. They have a home and family. They should feel cared for and listened to. Our whole day is so busy, but we can't lose sight of that."
Working with Honors College Dean Amy Shapiro was a great experience, Esposito said. "She has been so encouraging. She believed wholeheartedly in me and my project. It simply would not have been possible to complete it without her. She set up deadlines with me and guided me through all the details. I could not be more grateful for the time she gave me to make my project a success."
"Trinity is a fantastic student," said Shapiro. "Her APEX is an example of the Honors College emphasis on application, creativity, skill development, interdisciplinarity, and the connection of academic work to professional goals. To complete this project, Trinity worked with UMassD graphic designer, Liana DePillo, to learn how to create a visually appealing product, and worked to hone a different style of writing than is typically done in her discipline. She connected these new skills to her clinical experience, professional knowledge, and natural empathy to create a novel, creative APEX. I'm super proud of her accomplishment."
Esposito plans to work at St. Anne's Hospital in Fall River, MA, where she worked as a CNT and participated in their nursing student mentorship.
"I am prepared for my future career. I had a good clinical experience and benefitted highly from the mentorship at St. Anne's. I wish every major could be part of a clinic or internship, so students can immerse what they're learning into the real world."
Do you have any advice for future students?
"Hit the ground running as soon as the semester starts. Be mentally prepared. If you have a fear of failing, you have to overcome that. Have confidence. Tell yourself, ‘I was accepted so I am good enough to be here,' stick it out, and you'll make it through."