Former SBCC student putting nursing training to good use at Lompoc Valley Medical Center
For Kaitlin Shipley, good things truly do come to those who wait.
Currently a nurse at Lompoc Valley Medical Center’s acute hospital, Ms. Shipley started taking classes at Santa Barbara City College at the age of 16 as she sought to earn college credits while attending San Marcos High School.
The Santa Barbara native worked for 10 years as a medical assistant after high school in order to see if it fit her personality. After two years as an MA, it became clear to her that she had the qualities to be a capable and caring nurse.
“I have always had it in the back of my mind to work in the healthcare field,” Ms. Shipley, 32, said in an email. “I have always been a very social person, and enjoy helping people through challenging times. My confidence grew from feedback that I was able to make patients feel cared for and at ease.”
As she worked as an MA, she started taking prerequisite courses for the nursing program at City College. It took her several years to finish the prereq courses before applying and ultimately being accepted in the program. She was then put on a waiting list to get into the program, so from 2013 to 2017 she continued her work as an MA. Her journey as a nursing student started in August 2017 and culminated with Ms. Shipley receiving her associates degree in nursing upon graduation in May 2019.
After graduating she started working at LVMC in September of 2019, attending “new grad” classes once a week and working with a preceptor while she trained on the floor. Ms. Shipley finished her coursework in December of 2019 and has served as a registered nurse ever since.
Her determination is being put to the test as she battles on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.
The medical/surgical floor at LVMC holds 40 beds to serve a diverse group of patients of all ages who suffer from various conditions.
“For example, I might care for: a pediatric patient, a postoperative patient, a patient requiring a heart monitor for cardiac issues, or someone with pneumonia, all in the same shift,” she said. “One of my favorite things about the hospital is the diverse patient population and the broad experience I am gaining as a new graduate nurse. Being in a small hospital requires you to be a ‘jack of all trades’ and gives you opportunities to learn about and treat a wide variety of diagnoses.”
The Lompoc hospital has sectioned off a part of the floor solely for COVID-19 patients in order to isolate them. The nurses who care for coronavirus patients remain in their unit for the duration of their shift, while the nurses caring for the medical/surgical patients remain with that patient population. The typical shift would see a nurse care for as many as five patients, while not the ratio is slightly less due to the heavy workload, acuity and the need to don protective equipment.
“Although this has been one of the most emotional and exhausting times in my life, I feel proud to be fighting this alongside my fellow nurses, medical professionals and hospital staff,” she said.
While it has been a challenge, Ms. Shipley said this is what she was trained for, as she finds satisfaction “to help people who need us the most right now.”
Her experience as an MA gave her confidence in her nursing abilities and has helped her become a leader wherever she has worked. That being said, working and training in a hospital was a drastic change from anything she did as an MA.
“While we had excellent clinical instruction at SBCC, any new nurse has to learn an entirely new skill set in an abbreviated time frame. Personally, I strive for perfection and want to excel on the first day of work; so I can be hard on myself when things don’t go perfectly or I have to ask for assistance,” she said. “Now that I have more than six months under my belt, I feel vastly more experienced than when I was a new graduate. It is important to remember that even the most experienced nurses are always learning. Nursing is a team sport and we wouldn’t make it as nurses without each other.”
Ms. Shipley said she finds the greatest sense of fulfillment by improving a patient’s day and making them feel cared for, particularly when they are facing healthcare challenges. When asked what advice she would give to future nursing graduates, she said patience is key.
“I’m not going to sugar coat it, being a new graduate nurse is not easy, and the learning curve is steep in this profession,” she said. “It is important to maintain your commitment to learning, utilize your fellow staff /resources, and be patient with yourself. If you do those things you will look back and be impressed with how far you will have come in a short time.”
She encouraged new graduates to take as many opportunities as possible to improve their skills and to not be afraid to speak up. She also advised future nurses to not take things personally and to remember they are only human — “Just do your best not to make the same mistake twice” — while always remembering why they entered the field.
“Do your best not to rush or get flustered, always think through your steps and plan of action,” she said. “Lastly, always remember why you became a nurse in the first place, to be there for the patient.”
Ms. Shipley recently applied to Ohio University’s online RN to Bachelors in Nursing program to obtain a B.S.N degree in Nursing.
“Nurses have many more opportunities than some people may realize. One could continue their education and obtain a Masters/PHD, go into management, or choose from a wide variety of specialties,” she said. “Currently, I am enjoying working with a diversity of different patient groups. It is a great opportunity to learn about different specialties and I will continue to grow from that experience and see where it takes me.”