The “Weak” Student

Callie Harris MSN, RN, CMSRN
LCC-HHS Adjunct Clinical Faculty

Every semester, there is always one “weak” student. Dale was that student.

After two weeks into my course, Dale was placed on clinical probation for unsafe medication administration and insufficient written work. He was working hard, but it was unclear what that hard work was accomplishing. Dale asked if he could stay a few minutes after class to discuss his probation. I agreed, glad that he would ask me first.

He appeared almost physically ill. He was pale, and his fingers trembled as he held out a failed assessment of his nursing skills. “I am willing to repeat this course if it’s what I need to do to be safe.” These were not the usual words of the “weak” student. Weak students gave me excuses, while Dale was giving me genuine concern.

We sat down and reviewed his assessment, and I watched as the lightbulbs turned on in his head. Dale had clearly never received this kind of one-on-one feedback before. He was a quick learner, but only if he was taught in a certain way. I listened as he explained to me how he used to prioritize his bedside manner over his nursing skills. It was hard for him to realize that patient safety often meant having concern for medications as well as sitting at the bedside. He wanted to listen to their fears and reassure them, but to be a nurse you must first keep them safe. After this meeting, he worked to find a way to do both.

Dale and I worked together every week to review his progress and he passed the class without any more negative marks. When I watched him on stage at the Pinning Ceremony as the student speaker for his class, I learned that Dale’s empathetic nature came directly from his experiences as a hospital chaplain. He spoke of how he witnessed the amazing things that nurses could do and how much he admired them for their work. He then spoke of the gratitude he had for the clinical faculty who helped him to become a part of that nursing community. As I watched his daughter place the nursing pin on his lapel, I realized what an amazing job I have to be able to help people like Dale achieve their dreams. While I helped strengthen Dale’s nursing skills, his dedication to nursing strengthened my bedside manner.