Finding her way: a journey to nursing
Jaclyn Salmon’s favorite part of her job as a registered nurse at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago is talking and bonding with her patients. She walks into each room eager to provide an extra dose of support and encouragement for those in her care.
“I was able to take a class in high school that allowed me to shadow nurses, and what really struck me was how closely nurses often bond with their patients while providing care at the bedside,” says Salmon. “From then on, I knew this was what I wanted to do. While in college, I was lucky enough to find a volunteer program that helped me get my feet wet in a clinical setting, even as a student.”
Salmon was part of the Pre-Health Volunteer Program at Advocate Illinois Masonic, which aims to provide individuals interested in pursuing medical careers with clinical opportunities and patient interaction.
Salmon started out as a wayfinder, helping patients and visitors find their way through the hospital, and later volunteered through the program as a Unit Assistant, completing tasks like answering call lights, stocking linen carts and visiting with patients.
“The Pre-Health Volunteer Program really helped me become comfortable interacting with strangers,” says Salmon. “As a wayfinder, I would chat with patients and visitors while escorting them to their destination. When I started volunteering as a Unit Assistant, I really spent time visiting with the patients there and learning how a hospital unit works day-to-day.”
After graduation, Salmon applied to be part of Illinois Masonic’s Nurse Residency Program, a one-year program geared toward helping new nursing graduates transition into practice.
“As a nurse resident, I had the opportunity to participate in monthly seminars, complete a performance improvement project with a group of my peers and gain valuable mentors in the more experienced nurses I got to work with,” says Salmon.
She credits her volunteer and residency experience for the confidence she had when she first stepped into a patient’s room to provide care on her own.
“Being responsible for someone’s care for the first time can be intimidating, but I was well-prepared and felt ready to help and make a difference,” adds Salmon. “I’ll never forget that feeling.”
If she could provide one piece of advice for aspiring nurses and medical professionals, it would be to get as much experience as possible early on.
“I really recommend gaining as much exposure as you can by shadowing, volunteering, working as a nursing care tech or by taking advantage of any other opportunities that might be available,” says Salmon.
For Salmon, her journey came full circle when a patient she once helped as a volunteer wayfinder became her patient.
“I walked into the room and we recognized each other right away,” says Salmon. “It helped foster trust, which is vitally important in the relationship between a patient and care provider, and really highlights that everyone from volunteers to clinicians plays an important role in patient care.”
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.