Life in Graduate School (with Nicole Diddi)

Joe Gaccione 0:01
Welcome to Vital Views, podcast for UNLV School of Nursing. I'm Joe Gaccione, communications director for the School of Nursing. You might be wondering why a communications guy is talking to you about nursing. It's true, I'm not a nurse, but I know plenty of nurses who are willing to share their expertise from all walks of life. My goal is to hopefully help facilitate their knowledge to try and make it less in the weeds and more palatable for general audiences, while retaining the importance of what these health pros are talking about. These nursing stories focus on work on the frontlines, in the classrooms, in the lab, wherever our nurses are making a difference. We're all getting a front row seat to essential health information through the lens of a nurse's vital views. An advanced degree in any field, let alone nursing, can open more doors for you professionally and personally. The beauty of graduate school is that you don't have to rush into it after pushing towards an undergraduate degree. You have time to work in the real world, obtain more knowledge and jump right back in when you're ready. We are happy to have one of our newest graduate nursing students in the booth with us today, Nicole Diddi. This is her first semester in the Master's in Nursing Nurse Educator program. She earned her Bachelor's in Nursing from UNLV way back in 2010. She currently works at a surgery center in Las Vegas. Nicole, thanks for coming in.

Nicole Diddi 1:09
Thank you for having me.

Joe Gaccione 1:10
The semester is young, but what has the experience been like for you so far?

Nicole Diddi 1:15
So far, the experience has been very fulfilling. I've really enjoyed it so far. I was very apprehensive to start because of the long gap, years in between, I felt very, like it was very rusty with everything from APA formatting to using any Microsoft Office product, but so far, the professor's have been very willing to help and very accommodating, and they're very open to any questions I have. And so far, it's been a very good experience.

Joe Gaccione 1:41
When you graduated, did you have an idea that you wanted to do grad school at some point? Or was this more of a new decision?

Nicole Diddi 1:47
I always knew that I wanted to continue to challenge myself in whichever career I chose, and I always wanted to advance in some way, but I didn't know how, initially, when I graduated if I wanted to do nurse practitioner or nurse educator, but on the unit, having precepted many nursing students, I realized I really enjoyed teaching them and I found it very exciting to teach young nurses.

Joe Gaccione 2:12
Where did you precept?

Nicole Diddi 2:13
I precepted when I was a relatively new nurse at Summerlin Hospital as well as St. Rose.

Joe Gaccione 2:18
Was it a little jarring to go from a student, and then now you're on the other side of that, where you're actually teaching the students?

Nicole Diddi 2:25
Yes, it was very jarring, actually very intimidating, as well, but on the other hand, I kind of knew what I wanted from a preceptor when I was a student, so I felt like I would be able to maybe help them in a way that wasn't so long ago that I hadn’t experienced that myself.

Joe Gaccione 2:42
And for people out there who might not know, preceptors are essentially nurse educators in the field, in the clinics, and in hospitals, I should say. So, they're basically guiding these nursing students along showing them, hands-on, what to do, what not to do. That’s kind of a rough overview of the position, correct?

Nicole Diddi 2:59
Yes, that's correct.

Joe Gaccione 3:00
What originally inspired you to become a nurse?

Nicole Diddi 3:03
Well, since high school, actually middle school, I always loved science, it was my favorite field of study. So, when I graduated high school, I majored in biochemistry thinking that would give me a wide variety of careers to choose from. And at that time, my dad had gone into the hospital with chest pain, and he was hospitalized. They didn't know if he was having a heart attack or what the situation was. Anyway, it ended up happening, that he had to have a quadruple bypass. And the nurse, when we had found this news out, was so kind, and so encouraging, and she just answered all of our questions, and made us feel so comfortable with what was about to happen. And I realized then that if I could have that kind of impact on someone's life, this was definitely the career I wanted to pursue.

Joe Gaccione 3:49
I wanted to ask, in that moment, and kind of going back to when we're talking about preceptors, and you mentioned, “I know what I want to see,” what do you see in a nurse? Like, what are the qualities that you think stand out the most?

Nicole Diddi 4:00
As a nurse, first, I think compassion for your patients to understand where they're coming from, to try to put yourself in their shoes, being empathetic to their situation, I think is one of the most important things about being a nurse, in addition to a solid science background and evidence-based practice, but just being empathetic to the needs of your patients and trying to understand them individually, I think is what makes a really good nurse.

Joe Gaccione 4:26
That gap between taking classes again, do you feel like that benefited you, that you had some time working on the front lines, you don't have any classes to, for lack of a better word, distract you, like you're just working full time you're not juggling two different roles? Do you feel like it's a little easier now that you've had some experience to help build up your knowledge?

Nicole Diddi 4:46
I think so. I think it's, it's helped me in many ways. I think it's helped me to be able to kind of look at the material that I'm learning now and see its application in real life like, “Oh, yeah, I, you know, this theory we're studying, I see how this is beneficial,” or, “I see how this has played out in one of my patients and what they're going through.”

Joe Gaccione 5:04
When we talked before, before this interview, you mentioned that you had also experience in joint replacement, oncology units, med-surg, is that correct?

Nicole Diddi 5:11
Yes, that's correct.

Joe Gaccione 5:12
Med-surg, to me, stands out, and talking to undergraduate students, most of the time, they'll say that med-surg is one of the hardest classes they've taken, maybe even the hardest. Would you agree? And if so, what makes that course so challenging?

Nicole Diddi 5:26
Med-surg definitely was very challenging for me, as learning it in school and in practice. I think just the wide variety of diagnoses that you see, the wide variety of patients, different experiences that you get there make it so challenging. It's not centered on one issue the patient’s having. A lot of people don't like to work med surg, but it really, I think, gives you a very good background and a very good foundation.

Joe Gaccione 5:51
When you became a preceptor, did that plant the seed for the nurse educator path that you're taking now?

Nicole Diddi 5:56
Yes, it did. At first, you know, I second guessed myself, “Oh, no, I don't think, I don't know if I would be any good at it,” but it kept coming in my mind for the past several years since I became a preceptor. And I realized, “Well, I think it's something I would really, maybe I could benefit someone else someday, by doing it.”

Joe Gaccione 6:12
Is having that feedback from the students too, does that help you reinforce your decision?

Nicole Diddi 6:16
Yes, it does, especially when you see maybe a student that was very apprehensive to do even like, a subcutaneous shot, or some, you know, entry level task, and you see them become very proficient at it and then be very confident in their skill, it's very satisfying.

Joe Gaccione 6:31
What would you say are the biggest challenges to new nurses? Because I imagine, when you're precepting, at least for UNLV Nursing, that's their final semester before they graduate, and then they can jump into the real world completely. What are the biggest things you see with new nurses as far as getting acclimated to that role?

Nicole Diddi 6:49
I think that a lot of challenges that they have deals a lot with patient communication, being able to communicate with a wide variety of patients, whether they are patients that have English as a second language, or you know, just stuff like that, trying to figure out the best way to treat the patient in, despite of the challenges that you may not see in a clinical setting, like in nursing school, where it's very controlled.

Joe Gaccione 7:11
How do you plan to utilize your nurse educator degree once you achieve it? Where do you see it going five, ten years from now?

Nicole Diddi 7:18
Well, eventually, I would like to teach students in a clinical setting, nursing students, being able to teach them things in the clinical with the patient, and I think that would be the most fulfilling aspect of being a nurse educator, but there's so many ways to use the degree, I'm not quite sure how I will decide to use it.

Joe Gaccione 7:37
For students out there who may not understand what it's like to be a nurse educator, whether you're in the classroom, whether you're on the front lines, what would you say is the most underrated part of that role?

Nicole Diddi 7:47
I would say the most underrated part of the role is actually in the moments where you can see the progress of your, of your student and see them have confidence to do things that they didn't have the confidence to do at the beginning, when you first began to teach them. And when I was a student myself and having such patient preceptors, I realized that, and after being, having some confidence to do some of the tasks that they asked me to do later on, I imagined they felt very fulfilled watching my progress as well.

Joe Gaccione 8:16
I feel like that's so important, is to install that confidence because it's easy to say to a student who might be underperforming or may not get it, it's easy to criticize, but it takes more work, but there's more reward, I think, to build them up and say, “I recognize what you're doing wrong, here's how to fix it,” without belittling you.

Nicole Diddi 8:35
Yes. And I had a preceptor when I was a student at UNLV, that I was very apprehensive to do an injection for the first time and I, the patient was confused and in restraints, and it was just a very intimidating situation for a new student. But she took the time, she did the injection for me, she pulled me aside afterwards and said, “I know that that was, you know, not the ideal situation, that was scary for you, but, you know, let's work through this.” And she gave me the tools to, to feel confident to do it next time, and I often think about how she could have handled that in a different way that would have maybe really shattered my confidence, but instead she took that time to encourage me and I think about her often and how, how much of a difference that made in my nursing career.

Joe Gaccione 9:19
You bring up a great point, too. You talk about ideal situation. In nursing, you don't always have those opportunities to calmly say, “Okay, here's what you're doing wrong. Here's how you fix it,” because depending on what unit you're in, it's go, go, go, I mean, it could be ICU, critical care, and you don't have time necessarily in the moment to say slowly, “Okay, here's how you do this.” You have to get it done for the patient's sake, but then afterwards, almost like that debriefing process where you bring them back and say, “Let's talk about this because here's what went well, here's what didn't go well,” because I feel like if you ignore that or use it just to bring them down, it's you're, you're, you're on the verge of losing a nurse, I would say.

Nicole Diddi 9:56
Yes, I agree. And I, the whole process is very intimidating, especially if you've never been in the hospital before. Learning how it's done, and all, and how to interact with so many different patients, it's very intimidating. But if you have someone teaching you that's kind and is patient with you and is very encouraging, and like you said, not picking on all your faults or the things that you are doing wrong, it makes you really inspired and find things to love about the profession because there's many things to love about it even though there’s a lot of challenges.

Joe Gaccione 10:27
For any student out there who is thinking about becoming a graduate student, or maybe an alumni who graduated years ago, they might be on the fence about it, what would be your advice to them? How would you get them started to get them over that wall to make that decision?

Nicole Diddi 10:42
I would first decide if, if you wanted to attend graduate school, which path you wanted to go whether it was education or a nurse practitioner. So, you, maybe you could shadow nurse practitioner for a day if that would be possible. Also, just kind of get back in the swing of reading evidence-based articles and reminding yourself about what school was like at the beginning and see if it's something that you want to pursue.

Joe Gaccione 11:08
That is all the time we have today. Nicole, thank you so much for coming in.

Nicole Diddi 11:12
Thank you for having me.

Joe Gaccione 11:14
When this episode drops, we will have links about our graduate programs on the podcast website. Thank you for listening, hope everyone has a great day.

Creators and Guests

Nicole Diddi
Nicole Diddi
UNLV Nursing graduate student, registered nurse
Life in Graduate School (with Nicole Diddi)
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