The nervous system is one of the most complex structures in the human body, and it requires a high level of skill and coordination from the specialists who care for patients with neurological disorders. This summer, nursing major Julia Martin ’19 learned exactly what that means during an internship at Maine’s largest hospital.

As a nurse associate at Maine Medical Center (MMC) in Portland, Martin assisted an RN clinical preceptor in her assessments, medication administration and other daily tasks. Martin was part of an elite team of caregivers on R6, a 42-bed orthopedic, neurology and trauma unit.

“Every day, I got to learn more about individual disease processes and their courses of treatment for this specific patient population,” Martin said. “Being able to provide care and comfort to patients who are at their most vulnerable makes going to my internship every day worth it.”

The work experience polished Martin’s time management and critical thinking skills, and it helped her learn to advocate for her patients; conveying their needs to the rest of the team taught Martin to express her thoughts in a clear, efficient manner.

A female Colby-Sawyer nursing student smiles next to a sign for Maine Medical Center.

All this added up to improved confidence for Martin, which she sees as one of the biggest benefits of experiential learning. Martin’s increased comfort at the bedside enhanced her ability to connect with patients. She formed a special bond with one particular patient through deep conversations and meaningful interactions. When the patient was discharged, Martin realized she’d made a true difference in someone’s life.

“I was teary when we said goodbye. It was a moment I’ll never forget,” Martin said. “I chose to major in nursing so I could help people, and I got to do that even before becoming a nurse.”

When Martin jumped into her job she was already qualified to take patients’ vital signs, assist in their daily care, and perform a neuro-assessment for patients admitted to the floor, which includes testing strength, coordination, reflexes and sensory functions.

Through lectures, labs and clinical experiences, Colby-Sawyer is teaching Martin the skills she’ll need to succeed. She specifically cites Fundamentals of Nursing as instrumental to her time at MMC, as the course taught her the basics of bedside nursing. The class also provided Martin with a teaching assistant opportunity and the experience needed to obtain her certified nursing assistant licensure — the latter of which was a requirement for her internship with MMC.

The college also awarded Martin a grant funded by the Presidential Initiative that helped offset the costs of her commute, uniforms and other expenses associated with being able to take advantage of the opportunity at MMC.

Martin’s internship showed her the positive benefits of working on a neurology floor, but she’s keeping her options open when it comes to choosing a specialty. She’s interested in pursuing travel nursing at some point, but one thing is for certain: Martin made the right career choice. After experiencing the daily life of a nurse, she’s more excited—and confident—than ever to start her practice.