Moving right along! It’s a little shocking how fast this UCSF MEPN year seems to be moving. It feels like I was finishing up Med-Surg and the intense Fall quarter just a few days ago. I was excited to enter this new quarter with a boost in confidence and more experience and knowledge under my belt. Winter quarter at UCSF runs from the first week in January until mid-March. My “A” cohort was required to take Parent-Child Nursing, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing and Socio-Cultural Issues in Health/Illness. Parent-Child Nursing, or Pediatrics, and Psych/Mental Health both included a clinical rotation. In addition to these, I enrolled in two elective classes: Managing the Psychological Impacts of Traumatic Events and Transgender Health. This put me at 17.5 units for the quarter.
N146: Parent-Child Nursing
Fun fact: Children are not just small adults! That became clear early on in this course when I realized that so many things, including the vital signs, are different. And there is variation among kids in different age groups, too. Just when I feel like I am starting to have this stuff all figured out kids come in and mess it all up. Well, not really. The kids were amazing, but the first few weeks of pediatrics clinical did throw me for a loop.
We had this class all day on Tuesdays, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Our clinical schedule was determined by our assigned location and instructor. I had my clinical hours at a UCSF hospital every Thursday, from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. I thought I was going to like working with kids, but it was way better than I expected. And the pediatric nurses are amazing! They were happy (or at least made me feel like they were) to work with students and provide a fun learning environment. The clinical teaching experiences in this program and at UCSF hospitals, in general, are incredible. The kids, however, were the highlight of each day.
N149: Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing
As usually happens before clinical placements in this program, the instructor sent out a questionnaire a month or two before the start of the quarter to help her figure out where to place students. These questionnaires typically ask where we live, what languages we speak, whether or not we have dependent children or family members that will require our care during the quarter, or other information like that. Since I am a veteran and have an interest in mental health and working with the veteran population, I sent my instructor an additional email explaining my background asking whether or not there would be any students assigned to a VA hospital, and if so, I would like to be considered for one of those slots. I was happy that my request was heard and I was allowed to spend the quarter working at the VA. It was a great experience that reaffirmed my desire to work with veterans and/or trauma survivors.
My clinical rotation for this class was at a VA hospital every Monday, from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm. My clinical instructor was also a veteran and had been working as a psych nurse at the VA for years. Her knowledge and experience of the patients and the VA healthcare system was impressive. Going into this quarter, I was interested in psych/mental health, but knew little about treatment methods or what a psych nurse would actually do. Because of this, I threw myself into the class material and tried to absorb as much as possible. It was interesting material, so I enjoyed it, but the highlight of the course was sitting and talking with the patients and learn from their experiences.
N244A: Managing the Psychological Impacts of Traumatic Events
Since I am planning to do the Psych/Mental Health minor, I was looking for opportunities to brush up on some important topics and maybe get a couple credits towards the minor out of the way. I found this great 1 credit online course and am so happy I signed up. It was a lot of work for a 1 credit course but it was all worth it.
The main book for this class was Traumatic Relationships and Serious Mental Disorders by Jon G. Allen. It is a little old at this point, but the material is clear and comprehensive. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in trauma and mental health. It is a book I will be returning to in the future. The rest of the course had us reading current research on a variety of topics, such as: the trauma response model, acute trauma responses, resilience, early interventions, pathophysiology of long-term stress responses, complex trauma responses, traumatic memory, somatization, avoidance, dissociation, disturbance of mood and affect, self-harm, developmental impact of trauma, trauma in attachment relationships, assessment and treatment of traumatized children, and self-care. As you can see from that list, this was a fairly comprehensive overview of trauma issues. I know I will be talking about many of these topics again as I continue on into the nurse practitioner courses and start doing my own research.
I enjoyed taking this class concurrently with the psych/mental health nursing course because allowed me to look for and see these concepts embodied by patients at my clinical site.
N148: Socio-Cultural Issues in Health/Illness
UCSF MEPN is all about socio-cultural issues. There have been ongoing discussions and debates about these topics among and between students, faculty, the school, and the community as a whole. Our cohort has a strong activist ethos and it is motivating to be surrounded by passionate and educated people like this on a daily basis. I have mentioned it before but it deserves repeating, I feel like the admissions committee is focused on building MEPN cohorts with students interested in serving underprivileged communities or working on social justice issues. As someone with a background in philosophy and social theory, I am proud that my nursing school is willing to confront hard issues in addition to teaching clinical nursing skills. This is important and healthcare professionals cannot deny that things like racism and social determinants of health affect our patients.
This course asked us to examine the relevance and impact of culture, race, socio-economic background, class, religious/spiritual beliefs, education, neighborhood, community, country of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. on the experience with and access to health care. We did not have clinical hours for this class, but it was easy to see the social determinants of health and structural barriers at work in the hospitals during all of our other clinical rotations.
FAM CM MED 160.04: Transgender Health
UCSF has really cool 1 credit elective classes scheduled during the lunch hour. This was one that I chose to take this quarter because I want to be up to date on the current research and healthcare issues for this population and learn how I can best serve them as a future provider. I think it is important to listen to voices in the community to find out what (if anything) they ask of me. This course brought together an impressive group of guest speakers to present to us each week. It was eye-opening, educational, and inspiring, to say the least. I highly recommend every student at UCSF take this course and look into other electives to enrich your time here.
Spring Break! This quarter took a lot out of me and as my luck would have it, I got sick during finals. I spent the first few days of my spring break in bed with the flu. I’m looking forward to rallying and wither going to the WinterWonderGrass music festival in Tahoe or driving down to Mt Whitney to go climbing. You really have to make the most of the little free time I get during the MEPN year.