Yamina Khelifaoui loves working with children, so much that she spent seven years teaching French to preschoolers before discovering her calling to be a pediatric nurse. Khelifaoui graduated in spring 2020 with her bachelor’s degree in nursing. An exclusive, hands-on, summer pediatric elective program (PEP) at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta led her to a combination of teaching and caring for her young patients.
Khelifaoui begins her career as a nurse at Children’s later in the summer on the respiratory floor after taking the NCLEX (spell out), which is required to earn her state license as a registered nurse. However, it was the Children’s PEP program that gave her a hiring edge after graduation. The hospital selects approximately 25 nursing students from colleges and universities around the city to work hands-on as patient technicians and nurse-trainees working with a pediatric nurse one-on-one. The Byrdine F. Lewis College of Nursing and Health Professions was one of the four nursing schools to help develop the program.
Khelifaoui gladly gave up her summer to work at a sometimes-unpaid externship program.
“I was told that Children’s is hard to get on with [to get a nursing job]. They take the best of the best. And it’s the only place I want to work,” she said. Khelifaoui believes in Children’s mission and vision of making children well today and healthier tomorrow. “I had my senior practicum on the same unit where I worked as a PEP student.”
The senior practicum is the last clinical rotation before nursing students graduate. Often this placement gives the nursing student another edge to post-graduation placement.
“The PEP program allows students to work as paid patient care technicians for the first four weeks of the summer,” said Teresa Bates, Lewis College nursing course administrator. “The second four weeks, students attend weekly classes at Children’s and work one-on-one with a Children’s nurse to expand their skills and critical thinking. Since it is a collaborative effort with the participating schools of nursing and Children’s, the PEP students earn 3-hours elective credit if they complete the program.”
As a PEP student, Khelifaoui performed physical assessments, administered medications under the supervision of a Children’s registered nurse, and worked as a team member with healthcare professionals, such as physical therapists, respiratory therapists and dietitians. She also enjoyed building therapeutic relationships with families and teaching them how to care for children after discharge from the hospital.
“Do not assume that parents know everything,” she said. Khelifaoui believes during a stressful experience such as a child’s hospitalization, families need extra time with a nurse to ask questions, discuss feelings and learn to the best care techniques to promote healing, growth and development.
Khelifaoui appreciated the experience and resources provided to her while participating in the program and receiving college credit. She received lots of support from the highly-skilled pediatric nurses and was happy to be a part of their interprofessional health care team. The one-on-one time with a nurse built her confidence in caring for patients to the point that she asked her supervisor to allow her to take charge and give patient medication while her nurse preceptor stood beside her and observed.
“I wanted to learn to think and be responsible like a nurse,” Khelifaoui said.
Khelifaoui is fluent in four languages, and learning a fifth, Spanish, improve communication with patients and families. She loves talking to her patients and their families and thinks health education is crucial to prevent hospital readmissions and complications.
As a newly graduated pediatric nurse, Khelifaoui sees herself as a patient educator and advocate. She looks forward to the day soon she will care for her little patients on her own. Her long-term plans include continuing her nursing education, applying to the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program.
“I can’t wait to come back to GSU, a place I call home and take my journey to a higher level.”