University of Virginia School of Nursing
"I always look forward to the moment when it clicks for nursing students," says preceptor Laura Shepherd Cromwell, a pediatric nurse at UVA.

Laura Shepherd Cromwell, one of UVA's beloved pediatric nurses in its 7th floor Intermediate Care Unit, was - with UVA ED RN colleague Mary Messer - recently lauded with the School of Nursing's 2016 preceptor award. Shepherd is one of 246 preceptor mentors working across the Commonwealth with UVA nursing students this year.

  • How long have you been a preceptor?

I started precepting about a year ago. I was very nervous in the beginning!

  • It's a ton of extra work ...  why add it to an already expansive job?

I remember what it was like as a student to have a preceptor who cared about you and honestly wanted you to learn and improve. I was excited to have the opportunity to help a student grow as a nurse, learn new skills and figure out the type of nurse they want to be moving forward.

  • What kinds of things do students see on your unit?

I work on at UVA on the 7th floor in acute care, which is the pediatric floor and IMU (Intermediate Care Unit a step below the pediatric intensive care unit). I think it is a great place for students to come to as we see all types of patients. Our patient population has issues in cardiology, hematology/oncology, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, neurology, trauma, gastroenterology, pulmonology, endocrine, transplant, plastic surgery and general pediatric patients... So students have the opportunity to provide care to a wide variety of patients of different levels of acuity.

Students get to see and do a ton, but to name a few specifics: they learn how to perform proper assessments, administer medications and perform NG (nasogastric) tube feedings and enteral (a tube in the nose, stomach or small intestine) feeding. They also get the opportunity to witness Foley (catheter) care, central line care, tracheotomy care, dialysis, ICP & EVD (external ventricular drain, which alleviates fluid build-up from hydrocephalus and intercranial pressure) care, and chest tube care.

  • What advice do you routinely give your students?

To take it easy on yourself, it is impossible to learn how to be a nurse overnight. I am also a big advocate of caring for yourself because you cannot care for you patients properly if you do not care for yourself!

  • Any funny or memorable student stories? And have you ever recruited a former student for work alongside you?

I don't have a specific story, but I always look forward to the moment when it "clicks" for a student. It is amazing to watch someone so scared to work with children on their first day, and by the end of their time, feeling confident and excited to check on a patient by themselves.

Although my last preceptee is not working on 7 acute, I am excited she did decide to continue working in pediatrics and will start working in the PICU this summer!