How to find a Preceptor for Nurse Practitioner Clinical

Hi, friends! Been awhile, so sorry! The last few months have been crazy on my end with my Pediatric clinical rotation, completing my husband’s step-parent adoption of our son (a post to come on that!), birthdays, holidays, weddings, being sick, and just regular life craziness. That’s all great, but lets get into the topic at hand here which is why I’m guessing you came – how to get preceptors for your nurse practitioner program’s clinical rotations.

If you’re like me, you are in a program that does not arrange your clinical rotations for you. You are going to be responsible for finding a preceptor and clinical site and nailing it down. This probably seems like an impossible task, and if you’ve been around other NP students, you have probably heard how hard it can be. But don’t despair! Follow these tips below to make your life a little easier during this process.


Step One: Figure out what requirements your program has and what your needs will be.

The first thing you should do when you find out you will have to arrange your own clinical rotations is GET STARTED! The following is some of the information you’ll need:

  • What rotations you’ll need
    • Example: FNP may need separate family, internal medicine, pediatrics, and women’s health rotations. This is completely dependent on your state, program type, school, etc.
  • How many hours you’ll need and over what time period
    • Example: 160 hours over a 10 week session
  • What credentials your preceptor has to have
  • What requirements your clinical site must meet
  • How many hours or rotations can be with one preceptor
    • Example: My program required a new preceptor for every rotation and I could not use the same office twice
  • What patient population must be seen in the clinical setting during each rotation
    • Example: Pediatrics, Adult only, Geriatrics, OB or OB/GYN combination

Knowing the above information and any other requirements you program has will enable you to find a preceptor and clinical site more confidently and have less of a chance that the site and/or preceptor will not be accepted by your program.

Step Two: Assess the options available in your area.

Once you know what requirements must be met, you can begin to assess what possible clinical sites would meet those requirements in your area. This is also a good time for you to decide how far you’re willing to travel for a clinical site and preceptor. I have driven up to 60 miles one way from my house for clinical. Although it was difficult for me with managing childcare and travel, it was doable. This may not be the case for you. I have also spoken with students who have traveled to another state entirely to complete their hours. Knowing what is available to you in your area will help you identify how far you’re going to need to go.

  • Where to Look
    • Within local area hospital systems
      • In my case, I did the majority of my clinical hours in a large hospital system’s outpatient offices and the first step was to contact HR. Most HRs will have someone dedicated to managing students and medical education and they have to clear you and give you the next step.
    • Private practice clinics
    • School lists of established or contracted clinical sites and preceptors
    • Networking websites/groups on Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • Word of mouth from other students
    • State Board Resources



Step Three: Make contact.

I cannot stress this enough – DO. NOT. PROCRASTINATE. You WILL regret it if you do! I am a lifelong habitual procrastinator. It is definitely one of my faults although I have never really had any major problems as a result. In this case, I did not know how difficult it could be to find a preceptor, especially for specialties, and my graduation was delayed by 9 months because of it. I waited 9 months for my Women’s Health preceptor’s availability and 1 year for my Pediatric preceptor to be available. I could’ve saved myself a lot of trouble had I known that I needed to start early.

Remember that many of these Physicians and Nurse Practitioners and their office staff are getting tons of calls every day from people looking for clinical. Be straight and to the point about what you need, present yourself professionally, and showcase why you would be a good fit for clinical in their practice setting. Don’t hesitate to leave a message and follow-up, but don’t be a bother either.


Things to Avoid and Final Tips

  • DON’T GET SCAMMED. Many websites out there advertise a guarantee that you’ll find a preceptor if you pay for membership. I paid $100 for membership to one of those websites early on in my search and was sorely disappointed. I have also heard of people that were told they needed to pay providers to precept them. It’s up to you if you want to do that, but I still feel there are plenty of people out there willing to give back by precepting you without asking for money.
  • Try to get a good variety in your precepting experiences (example: MD/DO/ARNP). Seeing how clinicians from different backgrounds in training practice provides a well-rounded experience and invaluable training in my opinion.  I was lucky to have experiences with a wide variety of patients also which I felt like enriched my clinical learning.
  • Be respectful and non-invasive. My preceptors have had some horror stories about students that were being disrespectful or invasive in their attempts to make contact. I have found it best to simply call the office or come to reception and request contact with the office manager as a start. Sending an email is also acceptable, but don’t be bothersome and annoying. If you don’t hear back after a couple of attempts, move on. Unless you know the preceptor or have been given permission to contact them by cellphone, I would never contact them by personal phone.
  • Work your contacts. Workplace networking is a good way to make contacts that may be helpful when you are searching for a preceptor or clinical site. I was able to use this route and my contacts from my job as an ER nurse to obtain my women’s health clinical site and preceptor.
  • Don’t give up! I live in a heavily saturated area of medical professionals and must’ve made over 100 phone calls for women’s health alone. Although there were many times I was ready to quit, perseverance allowed for it to all work out.
  • Know that it may not always be easy, but it will be worth it! There will be times when you may want to give up. I don’t blame you. But keep going anyways! Someone out there will take you on.


You can do it! Good luck.


Why Nurses are Sick of Maureen Walsh and People Like Her

Recently, nurses have had a lot to fight for. The plight of nurses and poor working conditions have been increasingly prevalent in the public news circuit thanks to stories like the horrific loss of nurse Lynne Truxillo, who passed away from complications of a patient attack, the fatal med error by a former Vanderbilt nurse, and the narrowly avoided nursing strike in New York City. With the added attention given to these issues and intensifying pressure from nurses across the country, many state legislatures are introducing and debating bills relating to nursing practice, working conditions, and healthcare practices.

In Washington state, SHB 1155 was introduced to protect nurses who work 12 hours and ensure they receive adequate lunch and rest breaks, as well as a limit on mandatory overtime. In an effort to cause problems with the bill, an amendment has been added to mandate 8 hour shifts for nurses, which deviates from the industry standard of 12 hour shifts. This amendment to the bill is widely unsupported by nurses, other healthcare workers, and respected industry groups such as the Washington State Hospital Association. The negative impact would be felt by all patients across the state of Washington and a terrible example would be made for the rest of the country.

Although this is an incredibly important issue, why all the crazy fuss on social media and in the news? The main supporter of the amendment to the bill, State Senator Maureen Walsh, made astonishing comments on April 16th during a floor debate pertaining to her feelings about the work load she feels her state’s nurses are carrying. Some of the comments were as follows:

“If nurses get tired, let’s stop letting them do 12 hours shifts. Let’s make them do 8-hour shifts. 12 hours, I know they want it but, then they come back and start talking out of both sides of their mouth and telling us how tired they are. I understand making sure that we have rest breaks and things like that. But, I also understand that we need to care for patients first and foremost. I would submit to you that those nurses probably do get breaks! They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day!”

-State Senator Maureen Walsh

These comments are not only disrespectful and inflammatory, but they show a disgusting trend among some people who are in a position of power or influence as well as regular citizens, and that is complete disregard for the nursing profession. This attitude is ever-growing, and certainly is felt by nurses on a daily basis as they are being treated like a warm body who is there to work non-stop and put up with any disrespect, violence, or poor condition that is thrown their way without a second thought.

Understandably, nurses, other healthcare workers, and physicians are coming out in droves against Senator Walsh and her inexcusable comments. Why? Because everyone is sick of this attitude and those who use it to fight against beneficial policies that would make healthcare better. A similar situation was seen with Joy Behar’s 2015 comments on The View about a nurse wearing “a doctor’s stethoscope” and how “hilarious” she found it. Healthcare workers, nurses, and physicians among many others came out for nurses as well as several advertisers, who pulled valuable advertising from The View.

The facts about nursing conditions are simply that – facts. Poor working conditions, such as missed breaks and extensive mandatory overtime, are translating to poor nursing care. We know that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the USA. Why would we want to continue to mistreat our nurses and risk the continuation of these errors? We are not only risking the lives of patients, but also the health and well-being of our nurses and other healthcare workers. Perpetuating ideas such as those by Joy Behar and State Senator Walsh is going to continue a detrimental trend in healthcare and lead to worsening outcomes for our patients. We can no longer sit silently.

If you’d like to stand behind nurses, please speak up with your state legislature when able, and drop a line or two to State Senator Walsh. Nurses and patients alike thank you.


Ambiguous Grief: Grieving Someone Who is Alive


I’ve been getting ready for a series of new beginnings. Seeing the end of old chapters and the beginning of new ones is not really easy for anyone, me especially. I’m a pretty sentimental gal and I hold onto memories and people and I hold onto them hard. I would call it a strength and a weakness to love people so completely and passionately. I was recently looking for the right words to describe some very strong feelings I was having about someone who is no longer in my life. This person is not dead, but the person I used to know is gone and will never be back. So why was I feeling the same way I would feel as though this person had passed?

Ambiguous Grief

As a nurse, I have encountered many grief situations with patients and experienced my own individual grief in some moments. I have lost dear friends and family members and felt “classic” grief. I have worked hard to help others through their own grief. Anyone who works every day with people can testify that we quickly learn that emotions are not always felt the same and there are many ways that grief is experienced. Grief, felt for someone who is still alive or missing from somewhere, is called ambiguous grief. Ambiguous grief can present itself with the loss of someone who has disappeared and may never return, like when a condition such as Alzheimer’s disease causes the loss of someone’s personality or who they truly are, or when someone begins to make choices and do things that turn them into someone unrecognizable to us, such as with addiction.


In my situation, a person I loved suffered from addiction and turned into a monster compared to who they used to be. They went from being someone I knew better than anyone to a complete stranger. Unpredictable and nothing like their old, vibrant self. I was hurt by them physically and emotionally as a result of their choices and actions and eventually had to sever ties to them. It was much like them dying at the time. I was not prepared to end the relationship and did not want to. It was something I felt I was never going to be able to completely heal from, and there were lasting effects on my life from the whole ordeal.

The Five Stages of Grief

The “Five Stages of Grief”, also known as the “Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle”, is a very generalized framework of grief that people often experience. These stages include denial anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance and do not necessarily reflect the order everyone passes through them. They are simply a basic understanding of grief.

I cycled through these stages more times than I could count over the last 6 years. The grief started before they had even exited my life. Sometimes I would move forward and feel I was almost to the stage of acceptance when I would fall right back into the anger, depression, or bargaining associated. I did my best to not deal with it at all when I could, which is never the answer.


I have learned some important things along this path of grief that I wish I would’ve known.

  • Acknowledge when you have lost something or someone, even if it is just a part of them, despite the loss not necessarily being a death.
  • Find other people who share your experiences and support each other. Who knows your grief better than someone else who is going through the same thing?
  • Cherish your happy memories. Nothing can take them from you.
  • Do not allow old, happy memories to cloud your vision when someone is no longer themselves and there is no turning back.
  • Don’t let rose colored glasses (aka your love and the past) give someone the chance to continue to hurt you if that is part of your situation as it was mine.
  • Live your life and embrace your grief so you can work through it.

Recently, I was confronted with this old stinging grief. I came to an imaginary crossroad in my life where the sign read “Move on” to the right and “Return to grief” to the left. I have taken that metaphorical left so many times. This last time I chose to take a right and leave this grief behind. Although I feel I may look back on that person in rare moments and feel a sadness, I choose to never feel this way again. It’s time to move forward with the happiness I deserve.


With so much love,

Just Ask the Nurse


All About the CEN Exam and How to Pass

So you’re an ER nurse and you have been considering taking the Certified Emergency Nurse exam to become a board certified badass! Awesome! Or maybe you’re a nurse from some other specialty or area and you’ve decided that for whatever reason you want to take the exam and get certified. There are currently over 34,000 CENs! Whatever your reasoning may be, you have some work ahead on the road to becoming a CEN. I took the CEN exam twice and I’m going to give you some tips on what worked for me and some things that have worked for other people I know who took the exam and passed.

The Basics

To start, let’s learn more about the CEN exam. The Board of Certified Emergency Nursing (BCEN) is the organization who develops the certification exams or ER, trauma, and flight /transport nurses. They offer five exams that tailor to whatever emergency specialty you are the most skilled at. The cost is $370 for non-ENA members and $230 for ENA members. There are various benefits of an ENA membership and I highly recommend it. I got a huge discount at the time of the ENA National Conference for my CEN exam just for being a member ($195!). There is a small discount if you have to retake the exam, but let’s skip that because we know you will pass the first time!

The CEN exam is a 175 question exam with 150 scored questions and 25 questions unscored. It is not indicated during the test which items are scored versus unscored. You must answer 106 correctly to pass the exam. The test is 180 minutes long from start to finish. There is an option to mark questions you are wanting to revisit during the course of the test and a place at the end of the exam for you to see which questions were marked or unanswered, so don’t worry about hitting the back button 175 times at the end of the test. 😉

Before You Register

There are some pearls of wisdom that I wish I had heard or considered more prior to taking the CEN exam the first time. It is recommended by BCEN that test-takers have at least 2 years of experience in the area they will be sitting for. I wouldn’t recommend you ignore this. When I tested for the first time I had been an ER nurse for a year. I work in a high-traffic high-acuity ED and at 1 year of experience there, I thought I had seen a lot. After my failed attempt, I realized all the things that I had not seen much of. My ED is an adult only department and we are not a trauma center. With that being said, I had seen some traumatic injuries and a few trauma codes, but nothing to really hit it all home for me. I had also not taken the Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC). I realized that I definitely needed to gain more experience before taking the exam again, and when I retested after 2.5 years in the ED, I felt much more comfortable and knowledgeable as well as prepared.

For those who are deciding to take the CEN exam in order to reach a goal or prepare for time in the ED before actually working there, I would reconsider. Studying goes very far, but experience is essential to being successful during this exam as well as applying the knowledge into your own practice. It is also highly recommended that you take TNCC prior to embarking on the CEN exam as well as taking Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) if you haven’t already. Get on the BCEN website I linked above and just really look it over good. There is tons of information there that would take us forever to cover here so trust me and just do it!

How to Study

Okay, with all that being said, you have registered and now have to study! My first recommendation would be to go here for the full exam content outline. This is your key to every topic that will be on the exam and to what extent you should study them. This is also helpful in identifying your weak areas before you get started. I recommend that you allot plenty of time to study. I thought going to one review course and a few hours of studying was enough the first time, and I attribute part of that to my failing the first time.

Next, I would consider how you learn best. Are you a lecture person? Do you like to read to learn information or do you prefer questions and rationales? I chose to do everything for a good mix. Below are some of the books/review programs/miscellaneous that my colleagues and I have used and found helpful:

Sheehy’s Manuel of Emergency Care, 7th Edition


This book has SO. MUCH. INFORMATION. Seriously. Just get it. Money well spent.

ENA CEN Review Manual, Plus 2 Online Exams, 5th Edition

ENPC_cover_6 2018

This edition just came out in September 2018 and it has 5 tests worth of questions and rationales in the book, as well as 2 full timed exams available online. All of the book content is also available online in test formats, with the ability to mark questions for review just like the actual exam. The only thing that sucks is that it is designed for you to take it as though you were taking the test, so you can’t see your results and rationales until you complete all 150 questions from each exam. You can stop and submit at any point, though, and take each test an unlimited number of times. There were many questions that were similar to actual exam questions and things that I otherwise may have had no clue about (hydrofluoric acid causes calcium depletion, what?).

Boswell Emergency Medical

Mark Boswell is an MSN, FNP-BC, CEN, CFRN, CTRN, CPEN, TCRN, SCRN, NREMT-P, EMT-T, W-EMT. He knows his stuff. This guy travels the country holding review courses and they’re incredibly informative and helpful. The class I went attended was two full days and included lectures on all of the major areas outlined on the BCEN exam outline. The price for each course is as high as $325 but he gives discounts to military, ENA members, as well as RNs who work for whatever organization is hosting his course (I got a discount for being an RN in my hospital system). Each course includes a book with fill in the blank  material accompanying the lectures as well as a practice test. All of his lectures are on his youtube channel here as well as tips and tricks.

Lecturio Medical Education, Youtube

Here you can find some other videos I found really helpful while studying. I listened to these, as well as Mark Boswell’s videos, in the car, while cooking, during a shower, basically any downtime I had and found them to be super educational but not overly complicated. Along with their emergency videos, they have a ton of others that I have found helpful during my FNP program.

The Day Of

So now that you’ve studied, freaked out if you’re like me, and done whatever you could do to get ready for the exam, it’s time. Get some sleep the night before, have a good breakfast/lunch/snack before you head in, and go inside with the knowledge that you know your stuff and you WILL pass. Breathe, take your time, and think things through. Read every question carefully and don’t let the wording trip you up. I found it helpful to write down the stuff I knew was strictly from memorization, like the 12-lead info and ABG numbers, on the white board that’s provided as soon as the exam began for my reference throughout.

You’re going to crush the test!


What study tips or tricks helped you pass the CEN? Let me know below!

Much love and luck,

Just Ask the Nurse, BSN, RN, CEN


Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

Holy smokes, it’s been awhile, guys! You may or may not have noticed. If you didn’t, it’s okay – I forgive you. I am much more active on my Instagram and Facebook lately for anyone who wants some little spurts of “Just Ask the Nursction, so feel free to keep up with me there!


A whole lot of stuff has been going on and keeping me from this blogging thing I so enjoy, so let me catch y’all up. A three weeks ago I finished my Women’s Health didactic course which means I started my Women’s Health Clinical rotation two weeks after a nice week off from school. I’ve been working overtime at work almost every week trying to get ready for the upcoming turbulence of what is clinical and working full time, aka basically two full time jobs – so fun! Then there was Halloween. See Chef Oliver below.

I have also spent every moment I wasn’t doing school work or working studying for the Board Certified Emergency Nurse (BCEN) exam. Some of you might know that I took it in July of 2017 and failed it by a whopping one question. ONE. SINGLE. QUESTION. Having never really failed anything like that in my life, I was pretty crushed. It brought me down a peg for sure and my work confidence really took a hit. I had been freaking out for this exam this go around, needless to say.  I was so scared of retaking and failing the CEN exam again that it took me 15 months to work up to taking another stab at it. So I studied and worked my ass off to get ready (we’ll save the study material stuff for another day).

Everything you want is on the other side of fear

The day of my exam, I woke up and flipped my daily inspirational quote calendar (yeah, I’m that girl!) to October 31st. The message was the title of this post: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It really struck me! How many times have we kept ourselves back from doing something out of sheer fear of failure, embarrassment, whatever? I reflected on the way to the exam about all the times I’ve been fearful – there have been many. I’ve been fearful of failure in nursing, school courses, relationships, motherhood, friendships, being hurt, and just general life obstacles. I’m a planner and because of that, I fear ahead of time even! My mom has always had to quote my grandmother to keep me grounded and remind me, “cross that bridge when you get to it.” The moment before I walked in I let it sink in that if I wanted something, I was going to have to get through the fear and push on.

“How do you feel?”, the examiner asked when I exited the test room. I didn’t tell her how I really felt, which was that I wanted to throw up. I mean I had failed the test once and let’s be real here, this crap costs a LOT of money. I took my folded paper and walked outside before I opened it. Then I read it:

You have passed the CEN Exam.

Yeah, I flipped out.

So there ya have it, folks. I’m one heck of a scaredy cat. But I’ve decided that I’m not going to be afraid anymore. I’m going to keep on keepin’ on until my wheels stop turning, and I’m going to do it without fear.

Be brave,

❤️ Just Ask the Nurse

Surviving Violence in Healthcare: One Year After My Assault

I’ve got a long and emotional one today, folks.


Day One

On the day of my assault, September 4th, 2017, I woke up like any other day. I had just come back from my week long vacation across the state of New York with Patrick and was finally feeling refreshed and ready to get back at it. Over halfway through the day, I saw a patient was going to be coming in by EMS. The complaint “Found Running Naked in Traffic” was my first idea of what was coming. Security had gone somewhere else to assist, but I didn’t think much about needing them.

When the patient arrived, it was clear that the EMS report had understated how bad off the patient was. He had initially been combative, bitten their thermometer probe in half, and was very unstable mentally and physically. He was a known methamphetamine and heroin user and had done something that day that was thought to be much worse based on his presentation. When I got him onto the stretcher he was talking to me and answering my questions. He was breathing 50 times a minute and his heart rate was 180. It was clear that he wasn’t going to be able to keep this up much longer on his own, so I rushed to grab the doctor and the stuff we would need for intubation, grabbing one of my favorite ER medics on the way back to the room to help me out. We were busy that day and there wasn’t anyone else around really to help out, so the three of us just went in and got to it.

I was instructed to grab a med to help the patient calm down some before we began the process of intubation. I turned around halfway to grab the medicine I had drawn up and when I turned back, the patient looked completely different. His eyes were huge and he was sitting up staring at me with a terrifying look on his face – blank, but calculating. In the two seconds I connected his eyes with mine, I realized he was about to hurt me and went to step back, but I didn’t react fast enough and he punched me in the head as hard as he could. I couldn’t see anything and was stunned. I remember saying “he hit me” and then the doctor pulling me away as he went to hit me again. There was a lot of noise and I remember walking out and going to the nurses station. The patient ended up going crazy. He kicked the medic and almost got him in the jaw, and there was a blood exposure. It took 5 men to hold him down while they gave him the medicine he needed to calm down.

Meanwhile, in shock, I got the triage information from the EMS crew who brought him in and answered the phone – his sister was on the line. The patient did not have a pulse shortly after and, still stunned, I went back in and we ran the code, getting his pulse back after two rounds of CPR. After giving report off to another nurse once he was stabilized, I was told to go wash my face, not realizing he had cut me under my eye and I had a mix of his and my blood on my face and in my eye. I looked back at myself in the mirror and didn’t know who I was looking at. What happened to me? Why did he do that? I suddenly felt flashed back to the last time I was physically assaulted by my ex. Those feelings flooded back and I had to calm myself to go speak with the police.

The police officers who came to take our reports brushed mine and my co-worker’s experiences off like no big deal. They tried to make me feel embarrassed by skeptically saying, “so you’re saying he battered you?” One tried to convince me to put a fake address citing, “he’ll know where you live, it’s all public record” while the other informed me the case would be dropped if the attorney couldn’t get ahold of me immediately. I was kindly informed that “these types of cases usually aren’t prosecuted”. After 4 hours of medical care, a blood draw, and waiting to find out if I had been exposed to HIV, I went home and felt absolutely broken. I was scheduled for the next 2 days after so I decided, stubbornly, that I was not taking any time off because of this.

I came in to work with a positive attitude. I was NOT going to let that guy ruin my day. We all laughed and joked about it. I went home and at about 9pm on day #2 it all hit me. I began to have the worst headache I’d ever had. I was so dizzy I wanted to throw up when I moved or stood up and every time I closed my eyes I felt like I was falling. I went to work the next day and was told to leave and get checked out at one of our hospital run clinics. “You have a concussion,” the provider told me. I didn’t understand how I could be going through this. She told me she had no idea when I would be better and to come back in a week if it was still going on.

The Aftermath


I worked and had to leave early pretty much every day – barely making it through each day. I was angry, frustrated, irritable, and mostly, felt like total shit. My head never stopped hurting and the dizziness, nausea, and lightheaded feeling wouldn’t go away no matter what I tried or took. My ears were constantly ringing so loud that I felt like I couldn’t hear anything else. The medications just made me sleepy and I had a toddler to care for and full-time graduate school to keep up with. I returned to the clinic 2 more times before I was finally referred to a neurologist. Almost a month after the assault, I got the CT scan I needed and X-rays of my neck. The neurologist diagnosed me with Post-Concussion Syndrome and a whiplash injury and prescribed more medications to try to help. “Come back in a month.”

Over the next month things only got worse. The neurologist recommended physical therapy but it took 3 weeks to get the referral from Worker’s Compensation, who always made me feel like a faker. I probably would’ve thought that about myself if I wasn’t in my own body. My friends and family were kind to me and understanding, but after awhile I just shut down. Who wants to hear negative Nellie talk about her messed up brain all the time? I just hid how awful I felt and suffered alone. Physical therapy was brutal, leaving my neck sore and making me so exhausted that I’d have to go home and sleep after. I felt like all I did anymore was work, sleep, and cry.

At my 2nd month appointment with the neurologist, things were worse than ever. I sobbed through the whole appointment. The poor doctor was very awkward and I could tell he didn’t know how to comfort me, really. “Give it more time, one day it’ll be better,” he said. Meanwhile, I felt like life was falling apart. Patrick and I were fighting and I felt like I was barely scraping by in school. I couldn’t take care of my house and was barely able to do anything with my son. My paid time off hours were dwindling away and I saw no end in sight. I was told by worker’s compensation that “nobody told me I needed to leave early everyday”, so they would not be compensated. I wanted to give up on my job. Every patient was suspect and couldn’t be trusted. I was jumpy and scared constantly of the next hit. People seemed more irritable than ever and every time I had to call security on a patient who was aggressive or threatening, I would have to go get myself together again somewhere private. For anyone who has worked ER, there are a lot of those kinds of patients.


By the third month, I was the worst I had been. My head was hurting so badly by the end of the day that I would cry with pain. I had a baby with no pain medicine, so you could say that wasn’t characteristic for me. Nobody knew how to help me and it made me want to lash out. I felt angry and helpless all the time. I woke up dizzy and in pain and went to bed dizzy and in pain. I began to see an employee assistance program therapist and it helped me somewhat with coming to terms with my anger for the man who had done this to me, and realize there was nothing I could’ve done. I worked hard on letting myself forgive him so I could try to move on, and began to try and rebuild my trust for patients, which had been totally lost. In this experience, I lost my love for nursing. I had to learn how to love my job again that I had waited so long to have and worked so hard for.

Turning the Corner

On the morning of December 6th, 2017, I woke up and opened my eyes, something I dreaded everyday due to the way I had felt all those mornings, and it was different. The room was still and my head was pain free. There was no sound – just the quiet of the room. I sat up carefully, waiting for everything to kick in, and realized I wasn’t dizzy. I began to cry because of how happy I felt. I went cautiously through the next few days, waiting for everything to come back, but the only thing I felt was the occasional slight headache. The worst was over. Just over three months after my assault, I was back to myself. I continued doing the things I needed to do to heal. I followed with the neurologist, wrote the chief of police with the department that I felt had dismissed my assault as no big deal, and tried to get my voice back. I started living my life again and finished the session in school strong. I had put on 15 pounds and began to exercise again and take care of myself. I was still having to have blood testing to ensure I hadn’t contracted his Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, but everything was good.

I found out that the police had in fact put the wrong address on my report and I almost didn’t get to tell the state attorney’s office that I wanted to move forward with charges because of it. I got in touch with them just before Christmas and they expressed to me that they would absolutely be pursuing the case. They validated that what happened to us was wrong and would not be accepted. It was not “just part of the job”. It was said by the prosecutor I spoke with that this was a problem within the specific police department who handled my case. I was so disappointed.

Finding a Voice


About six months after the assault, I learned from the state attorney’s office that the man had died after a months long hospital stay and obviously, the case would be dropped. I felt sad. Sad for him as a person, because something had made him the way he was and it didn’t happen overnight, and sad for victims of assault in healthcare, because we all deserve justice and too often it never comes. We aren’t fully supported when these assaults occur and this has to change. The night of my assault, I messaged the viral doctor-rapper, ZDoggMD, and told him my story. He had been bringing to light the very important conversation about violence in healthcare. I didn’t expect him to ever message me back, but he did. He included a quote from me and my picture in a very touching video aimed at garnering support for victims of assault and the safety of healthcare workers as a whole. You can find it below:

I have learned so much about myself in the last year. I am so much stronger and resilient than I ever thought. I have the best team at work of supportive, loving, amazing people who have had my back and made me feel safe anytime I wasn’t. I know now how real this problem is, and that I want to do whatever I can do to bring violence against healthcare workers to the attention of everyone. It is a culture problem and it is all of our responsibility to fix. Nothing gets better if we ignore it. Please don’t stay silent if this has ever happened to you. Our voices matter and will be the tide of change.



With love,

Just Ask the Nurse

How to Be Successful with Your Preceptor

Starting something new is not always easy. This is especially true when you embark on a new nursing adventure whether it be with a new specialty or new setting or an educational endeavor. Often times, this includes mentorship from a preceptor who is basically there to make sure you don’t kill someone. With healthcare internship programs becoming more and more popular, it is important that you know how to make these relationships work. The key is to find a way to get along with that person and get as much as you can out of the experience in terms of learning. Super easy right? Not always! With most preceptors being someone you have never met and also often randomly assigned to you, there is no guarantee that you’re going to automatically jive. So how do you find a way to forge a successful relationship?

Ensure all expectations and needs are communicated up front.

The first step in any mentoring or preceptorship should be to first figure out what both of you need from the relationship. The preceptor and preceptee should be fully aware of each other’s backgrounds and knowledge base. Make sure your preceptor knows what you are coming into the preceptorship already understanding or what you already have knowledge of. There should be an up front discussion in the beginning about what you both are hoping to get from the experiences you’ll have together. The preceptor should also be sure you know what they expect of you. This can be anything from how you’ll go into a room and assess patients together to how many patients you’ll be taking on your own and when. Going into the mentorship without knowing these expectations on either side is setting yourselves up for failure.

Figure out how you’ll communicate and what your style of communication is.

This is incredibly important for any professional relationship! Don’t wait until you’re in a bind and trying to contact your preceptor emergently on Facebook, not sure when they’ll see it. Establish up front how they expect you to communicate with them whether it be via cell phone, email, etc., and get that information! You’ll thank yourself later and it’ll save you a lot of problems.

Don’t hesitate to address a problem when it comes up and encourage them to do the same.

In any learning environment, nobody is going to be 100% perfect 100% of the time. Expect there to be some wrinkles that need to be ironed out and times when something happens and needs to be discussed. That’s just learning and doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong! However, these times need to be handled in a healthy way that is conducive not only to your professional relationship, but your overall learning and growth. When something happens that you don’t understand or that makes you uneasy or upset, DO NOT hold it in and ignore it happened! Discuss it openly with your preceptor or mentor in a way that best suits both of your styles of communication. Having an open communication and clearing the air helps to keep things moving and will only assist in giving you a smooth experience that works well for everyone.

DO NOT go into it with arrogance and/or expecting to take nothing away from the experience.

This is a big one. One of the biggest peeves for any experienced nurse is getting some A-hole who has some experience somewhere else, who thinks they know everything and makes that clear to everyone around them. We have all met a person like that (and probably come off that way unintentionally!). It’s common for people to want to overcompensate and impress whoever is mentoring or precepting them. However, try the best you can not to do this. Have confidence that you got into whatever position you are training for because you have earned it and let that be enough. People will be much happier helping with your learning experiences if you go into it openly and not throwing in their face whatever experiences or knowledge you have. Not to mention, you’re training for a reason, and anyone in nursing should be able to tell you that you learn something new every day. No matter how experienced you think you are, try and keep a level head and the ego at bay.

Check in with your preceptor and education team regularly.

This one helps if you have a long mentorship program like the one I went through. I went through a 12 week transition program for experienced nurses wishing to go to the ED from an inpatient unit. We also had 4 weeks of education included before starting the clinical training. That long period meant lots of checking in with the education team and figuring out what how things are going. Make sure everyone is on the same page and that you’re working hard on your weaknesses or areas needing improvement. You should also be told what your strengths are and what you’re doing well! Let the education team and/or your preceptor know what you need more help with. You should also tell them if you feel you need more time when your time is coming to a close. Safety is key, even if it means we aren’t all ready to be on our own in the cookie cutter amount of time allotted.

Realize when it’s just not working out and let someone know!

Unfortunately, we may have all had some professional relationships that just aren’t going to blossom and flourish. The same may happen at some point with a preceptor. Honesty is always the best policy. Nobody is going to benefit from a nasty, sour relationship filled with tension or animosity. We all know that nursing is full of women and sometimes, women don’t get along with each other. (Shocker, right?!) So if you’ve both done your best and it’s just NOT working out, let someone know. Don’t wait until time is up and it’s too late, and you’re on your own without knowing everything you should’ve learned in your training time. Some people just don’t jive, and that’s totally okay.

What suggestions do you have for a successful preceptor/preceptee relationship?

Much love,

Just Ask the Nurse

When Things Don’t Go Right


I’ve always been someone who needs to have a plan for my life. I enjoy being spontaneous day-to-day, but in the big picture, I always have a plan for how I want things to go. Having goals set in place has always given me something to work toward. A way to propel myself forward in really shitty times, and I’ve had several of them in my life that I, at times, thought I would not be able to overcome. Somehow I got through them and things always worked out one way or another. Recently, life has felt kind of topsy turvy for me and it’s had me thinking about when things don’t go right.

There have been times where nothing has gone the way I wanted or planned for it to go. Every step in the road to wherever I wanted to go had some bump or hurdle for me to overcome, and it was exhausting. There were days when I would wake up and not want to move from my bed, fully ready to give up and reformulate my plan for something else – something easier. Thankfully, the people in my life have never accepted those days or times as my defining moments, and they never allowed me to give up.

Recently, there have been more obstacles and I’ve had to make adjustments to my life and the road that will lead me to where I want to be. It felt like the last straw that I could handle on this super long journey I’ve been on. I was so ready to give up on my dreams and just stop where I’m at. I’ve learned some things though in this short 26 year span of life though that helped me this go around.

For one thing, a person is not defined by the obstacles they face, but by the way they face them. I have always loved the quote about fearing the person who looks into fire and smiles (okay maybe not someone who is looking at a house fire like a total nut case smiling, that ain’t cool) because I kind of identify with that. Anyone who has trudged through miles of metaphorical shit in their life probably feels that way. I don’t think a successful life is for the faint of heart. Success is what comes with time, hard work, energy, patience, and sometimes blood/sweat/tears. If everyone gave up every time their plans or ideas went awry, nothing would ever get accomplished. I’m also a firm believer that there is something positive or a lesson of some sort in every situation. We may not always see it in the moments where we are really in pain what those takeaways might be, but they always have a way of showing themselves in the end (and if they haven’t, maybe it’s not the end!). Finally, this quote:

“It won’t always be like this.”

-My poor momma who has had to tell me this at least 9,000 times

So in these moments where I feel fatigued, beaten, or just plain over it, what will I do? What should any of us do? We should persist. We should hold on to our dream, goal, plan, or idea and keep on fighting until we get where we want to go – no matter what. Until then, be strong.

Much love,

Just Ask the Nurse

Loving the Unloved in the Emergency Department

Something we pride ourselves on in the ED is the ability to make light of anything. We can turn literally anything into a laugh and find it easier to get through the day that way. One particular highlight of the day is hilarious triage chief complaints. A few shifts ago, I was in a low acuity part of the ED working with one of my favorite PAs and saw the complaint “I’ve got a corn in my ear” waiting for us. Obviously, we were already laughing. How does one even get a single piece of corn in one’s own ear?! I went to retrieve the patient and decided to look for who it might be first. I scanned the lobby and saw a slightly disheveled patient talking to himself. He looked like he was in a heated conversation with himself. Clearly, it was highly possible it was going to be him. So we pulled him to the room to see him and this is a little bit of how the conversation went:

Me: So what brings you in today?

Patient: I’ve got a corn in my ear!

Me: How did that happen?

Patient: I got mad so I put a corn in my ear!

The PA checked both ears and pulled the lone corn out of his ear, as well as noted he had an infection in the other ear. The patient divulged that he sometimes puts stuff in the other ear when he gets mad, also. He was counseled about NOT putting foreign bodies in his ear at any time and was given prescriptions for his bilateral ear infection. He hadn’t had breakfast so I loaded him up with cereal and milk, per his request, and sent him on his way with a bus pass to get wherever he was going. We went back to the room we were charting in and had a laugh about it. We talked about how you literally can’t make this shit up. Then a quiet sadness settled on both of us. We talked about how it was sad because he clearly has mental health issues and there isn’t much we can do to help him. I started thinking about what might’ve brought him to this point in his life. I thought about the day my son was born and how perfect he was, and how this man might’ve been born the exact same way; perfect and innocent. What has happened to him to bring him to me this way?


Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

Often times, we know some of our special frequent visitors, like the one described above, better than anyone else in the world does. They come to us for comfort, safety, hygiene, temporary shelter, nourishment, or just company, even if one or all of those things are only for a few moments. We do our best to send them off with resources to make their life even a little bit better or help them with whatever problem they have that to them, requires immediate attention. These patients are experiencing financial or emotional hardship, homelessness, addiction, depression, loss, hunger, mental illness, or a handicap of some kind, among other things. We have to put in a little extra elbow grease for them because of these special layers to their life. The rest of the hospital sometimes gets to meet them on rare occasion, and we help them get to know them the best we can, but they don’t see them how we do.

One of the most unrecognized jobs of ED nurses, providers, and other staff is that we have to provide love to those whom the rest of the world has deemed unlovable. The people the world has forgotten and knowingly or unknowingly chosen to ignore. The humans that have been given up on, even if it was unintentional. At times, these people are hard for even us to love. In these moments, they might lash out at us with violent or mean words or behaviors. No matte what, we care for them just the same as we would anyone else. We love the unloved. Take today to give a little love to someone, even if it’s just a small thing. Do a kindness for someone. Hold the door, give a stranger a smile in passing, or just say hello. Believe me, it will make a difference.


Much love to you,

Just Ask the Nurse

Reflections from Two Years in the Emergency Department


I recently had my two-year anniversary of working in the ED. Crazy! When I transferred from Med/Surg to the Emergency Department, I was terrified to say the least. I had zero critical care experience and was coming from previous jobs at two pretty small hospitals to a huge one. For a month I had to do education and get ready for the task ahead – learning how to be a safe and competent ED nurse. It wasn’t going to be easy!

June 12th, 2016

The morning of my first day precepting in the ED I woke up, of course late, and hurried to get ready. I was so nervous! I got on the road and remember thinking how empty an early Sunday morning on I-4 is. Suddenly, when I was almost to work, a police officer came flying up behind me. I thought, “Oh shit. This is it. I’m going to get a ticket for speeding and have to tell my preceptor what a loser I am on my first day.” Ha. Turns out, he was speeding toward what was at the time, the worst mass shooting in American History – the Pulse Nightclub Shooting, that would end the lives of 49 beautiful people and directly injure 53. I walked in through the EMS bay with my new badge access, still oblivious, and gave a big friendly smile to security and police officers guarding the door. I had no idea what happened yet. I remember thinking, “Boy the people here are grumpy in the morning!” When I walked in for pre-shift huddle, I got the news. We were all devastated and didn’t know what the day was going to look like.


My first patient in the ED was a young person who had been shot twice. I remember we were getting ready to move to surgery and as I was assisting them out of some of their personal items, I noticed there was still a lot of blood around the back of their head in their hair. I asked if they knew if they hit their head also or had been hurt there and they replied blankly, “I think that’s my friend’s blood.” The trauma of everything they had been through in those early morning hours had shocked them to their core and they didn’t know if their loved ones were dead or alive. It shook me. I went through the day meeting new people and putting on a nice face. We took calls all day from people looking for their loved ones. Some that we would later hear the names of on the news as passed away from this horrific act of violence. I got in my car that night and sobbed the whole way home, thinking what a huge mistake I had made and how I should just quit while I was ahead.

One Foot in Front of the Other

In the days after my first day, I decided to come back every day and put the work in to see if I really did make a mistake or not. With lots of encouragement from my mom, another ER nurse, and my now fiancé, I put one foot in front of the other and continued to learn and change my floor nurse ways into those of an ED nurse. It was a big source of humor with some of my colleagues and I think I even helped them learn a thing or two. I ended up changing preceptors after 4 weeks (if you and your preceptor aren’t jiving, DON’T IGNORE IT!! You aren’t helping them or yourself! Some people just don’t do well together, and that’s okay.). I got some really critical patients and learned so much about what it takes to take care of these super sick people. I laughed, cried, and was worn the heck out some days.

I am thankful I precepted in the summer with its lighter patient flow and acuity. In Florida, the Summer is a lot like a Game of Thrones’ Summer (“Ohhhh, my Sweet Summer Child!”). Things are quieter for the most part (yeah, I said the “Q” word”) and the acuity of patients is somewhat lower. I felt like I had more time to ask questions and really learn. In the Florida Winter, some phenomenon happens and things get crazy, to say the least. I survived the following Winter on my own – even if I had to go cry in my car at the end of the day a few more times than I care to admit.


Onward Bound

In the last 2 years and some change, I have grown, learned a lot about myself and my chosen area of nursing, and have really realized that ER is the best damn place to work in nursing (okay, maybe I’m biased…but still). So here are some lessons I’ll share for you:

  • You will take $h!t for missing IVs. Doesn’t matter how many amazing IVs you get that nobody else could get. Doesn’t matter if it’s 1 missed attempt a month. Someone, somewhere, will give you hell about it. And you will laugh.
  • You will find some crazy and ridiculous coping mechanisms.
  • Your sense of humor will twist into something unrecognizable and completely wonderful.
  • You’ll learn how to adapt to your circumstances and think on the fly, even when you may not have everything or all the people around that you need. You’ll do whatever you have to for your patients.
  • Every other nurse in the hospital hates you and a lot of the doctors will think you’re stupid/the worst. Okay maybe not that dramatic, but nurses will act like they hate you when you give report and some doctors will get so irritated when you’re holding their patients and can’t do everything for them there that the floor nurse can (and they do a heck of a lot we just can’t!).
  • You might get assaulted. You will encounter physically and verbally abusive situations and need to know how to handle them. Another post on this for another time.
  • You will find the most amazing, closely knit family in your ER co-workers and you will need them and lean on them more than you think.
  • You will sometimes hate your job, but you will always love it.



Much love and luck,

Just Ask the Nurse