Every time I hear this word, I can’t help but smile because it’s burdened with bittersweet memories. As a nursing undergrad, internship is the peak. The true north. The self actualization. Any thoughts concerning your future in nursing climaxes with internship.
Degree nursing began in Kenya in 1988 in Baraton University. Like the rest of the world, Kenya was appreciating the need to train nurses at a more advanced level to meet the emerging health needs. Since then, many public and private institutions have picked up the training, modelling their curriculum as they see fit.
After four years in campus, all BSN graduates must undergo a one year internship to polish their clinical skills and justifiably so. This is the year we all look forward to for two reasons. First, you are technically a student because you are not licensed or registered exempting you from any liability within the profession. Second, the central government puts you on a payroll, a cushy spot in the hierarchy of civil servants
For the first three months as an intern you will work with no pay. I honestly do not know what happens in the 90 days given the current data processing tech in the market.
The three months can be long and excruciating. You are living from hand to mouth. You are vegetarian because that allows you to make a decent meal out of Kshs. 20. This is also the time when you appreciate that walking is a good way to relax your mind and to get to work.
At the end of the third month you get all your wages in six figures.
It was the year of the lord 2017. I was invincible. Life was really good. The jaluo in me had awakened and I was about the good life. I got myself a one bedroom apartment in the leafy suburbs of Kiambu. Literally. Kiambu has many trees. I then furnished my house with different gadgets, only recognizing certain brands.
My slogan was “Kupigia Mwili Pole” loosely translated to “apologizing to my body”. I’m assuming for the hard work during my four years of campus. This also involved dining as I saw fit. We were back to being omnivores.
I mostly showed up to work but I would beat the system whenever I felt “tired” or if I did not like the department. Remember, limited liability.
Fast forward to when internship came to an end and the first job I landed was in maternity. In the four weeks placement in maternity, I had spent roughly one week doing the actual work. In a previous post I has shared this experience. Check it out here. Not to mention, I had to live with no income for circa four months.
While I had a good time, we all know that “in hindsight, everything is much clearer.” After reading the book Rookie Smarts, I have come to realize that there is so much power in the one year internship that we are just ignorant about, either by choice or by, well, not knowing.
If you intend to maintain a career in the nursing profession, then here are some of the ways to make the most of the one year internship. This can also be applicable to your first job.
Be open to learning. Be indiscriminate about the knowledge you acquire. We often enjoy learning in the specialties that interest us. Give equal attention to the places you dislike or simply hate. Your interest may evolve along the way. Or you may just land a job in that area, like I did. Dare yourself to do the procedures you’ve never done. Remember, you are a learner still and your seniors are mandated to teach and supervise you, even if they don’t want to. Take advantage of this.
Build your confidence. Start preparing for workplace practices. After four years in nursing school you are knowledgeable. Dare yourself to ask questions. Participate in ward rounds and give your input. Participate in discussion in operating theaters, in ward meetings and in tea rooms. And by this is I don’t mean gossip because there is a lot of that in hospital corridors too. Apart from self confidence, you will also gather insight on nursing and medicine
Network. Start engaging with different people you come across. Build your network. Sometimes you may land a job from such contacts. Other times you will find the people who will be your referees when looking for certain roles or people who will mentor you or others who may simply inspire you. I am still inspired by some of the nurses I interacted with during my internship.
Network also with your peers because these are the people who will be “peer reviewing” you when the time comes. On a more serious note, your peers will challenge you to be better, directly or subtly. Some will introduce you to opportunities. And others will become your lifelong friends.
Work on your finances. Even if you have to “apologize to your body”, do so within reason. If you are lucky not to have any responsibilities, start saving and investing. Read books about money. Watch talks on money. Attend Centonomy or its equivalents if you have to. Do all this because the period after internship is a deserted desert. Its real life.