In December 2020, Kaiser Permanente Northern California Patient Care Services launched a unique externship program for student nurses and recent nursing graduates to be able to support inpatient care delivery during the peak of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. These positions provided clinical support to the organization’s registered nurses and care team members during a period of unprecedented patient volume. One participant was Chelsea Grantham. As she prepares to take her nursing licensure exam on July 15, she expresses how well her experience as an extern at Kaiser Permanente Vacaville prepared her for her career.
Life-changing. Growth-promoting. Confidence-building.
That’s how I describe my 6 months as a student nurse, or extern, with Kaiser Permanente.
My experience began in January at Kaiser Permanente Vacaville. My title? Pandemic Student Nurse Extern. My job was to assist the Intensive Care Unit nurses during the third surge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I had never even been in an ICU before, so I was nervous to be around such skilled nurses, to care for vented patients, and to be so close to those sick with COVID-19. But being on that floor changed my life.
I witnessed some of the most competent, wise, compassionate individuals provide care during such a difficult time in our nation and globally.
I learned about ventilators, titration drips, proning, post-mortem care; I had the opportunity to speak during interdisciplinary rounds and learn from the warmest physicians, respiratory therapists, social workers, and more who were so enthusiastic about teaching.
I held the hands of patients while they were dying. And I celebrated with others when we removed their ventilator tubing and they finally breathed on their own again. This experience was incredibly powerful for me; I would often find myself in tears driving home, feeling overwhelmed by what I witnessed and also gratitude that I was there.
I reflect often on this experience and speak about it to others with pride, as it more thoroughly confirmed my deep desire to be a nurse. In what other field are we gifted with the opportunity to constantly learn, to meet new people, to work as a team, and to care for others when they absolutely need it the most?
Nursing is a calling — and it is mine.
As the COVID-19 cases dropped, Kaiser Permanente opened a door for me to assist in its vaccine clinic. Where the ICU allowed me to further my learning in critical care, the clinic offered a chance to grow in teaching and interacting with patients.
Despite the seriousness of vaccinating patients, it was fun to rotate among the Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Hospital, the Vallejo County Fairgrounds, the Napa Meritage, and other pop-up vaccination events, giving well over 700 COVID-19 vaccines!
Meeting new people and assisting my community members in protecting themselves and their loved ones against this relentless virus was incredibly rewarding.
My overall experience at Kaiser Permanente gave me the opportunity to learn and gain exposure to the many facets of health care. It has greatly affected my confidence moving forward in my ability to provide competent and compassionate patient care.
It absolutely changed my life.
I am now a graduated RN, spending some moments in reflection and positive thoughts for my future. Gratitude is a component of this.
Thank you for opening this door for me, Kaiser Permanente. Thank you to all of you clinicians and staff who poured wisdom into me and took their time to teach. And thank you to the administration for the onboarding process and scheduling — I know this all took effort. My hope is for more nursing students to have these enriching opportunities.
I am forever grateful to Kaiser Permanente and those involved in its educational opportunities. My memories there will hold a special place in my heart always.