Archive for September 18, 2012

The Start of Something New and Exciting

The past month has been a whirlwind, to say the least. As we all know, nursing school began nearly four weeks ago, on August 29, and since then life has not slowed down.

Summer of 2012 was fantastic: nearly four whole months of no school and being able to just take that time and relax after an incredibly stressful third year of college was just the thing I had been looking forward to since about March. I was able to spend lots of time with my absolutely wonderful fiancé, time that I would miss greatly after I left for school in Atlanta while he finishes his final year at Berry College in Rome, GA. I had a great job, I went on the best vacation of my life, and was just able to enjoy the slow pace of each passing hot summer day.

After a while though, August 22 began to sneak up on me pretty fast. This marked the soft beginning of nursing school (the abrupt, hard beginning would follow a week later). We learned so much information in those three incredibly long days of orientation that I, along with many other students, was beginning to feel incredibly overwhelmed before even cracking the untouched spine of a shrink-wrapped nursing textbook. We learned on the last day of the program that we would have plenty to be done by the first day of classes the following Wednesday. The assignments before school even started didn’t scare me away, but rather gave me that “Bring-It-On” attitude towards tackling the challenges that were about to be sent my way.

8:00 AM came early that Wednesday morning. My first class is at 10:00, and the traffic situation is something that I am still trying to navigate through. I’m from Canton, GA and there is never any traffic like this back home. And, people actually wave to you and don’t drive like maniacs, so this is a totally new situation for me. But, I’m adapting. My roommates and I left at 9:15, which proved to be way to early even with traffic. But, punctuality is a good first day of school quality to possess I suppose. I guess it was a typical first day, bumming through the syllabus then beginning to learn things that professors view as “review material.” It was a lot of fun though, and I really enjoyed it. I had Integrated Science and Clinical Nursing on that day, and I could already tell Integrated Science was going to be a trip: a trip in the sense that I would be finding myself getting tripped up many times along the way. But, I was just going to have to deal with it and figure out a way to keep my head above the water. And I had the confidence that I could do it.

There were so many papers to print out! And there are still…so many papers to print out. Since I did not have a place to put them as I had not gotten all of my school supplies yet, that was really stressing me out. I like to be organized and, although sometimes I’m really not very good at it, I’m trying really hard to stay on top of that this year. It’s one of my “grown up school” goals. So after the first week once I was able to breathe for a couple minutes, I organized my stuff. I got my binder, my paper, and my multi-subject notebook, spent a good amount of time hole punching powerpoints and syllabi, and put everything in its proper place. You’d be surprised at how much better that can make you feel. And I think the best part of that, and maybe the silliest part too, is that I finally got a 2012 planner and a pack of eight multicolored pens I was planning to use for writing in it.

Anxiety

As the BSN Junior class approached its first exam in nursing school, the realization of the fast pace of this program quickly set in for her. Her mood could only be described as frenzied. With only four minutes of class left, the final Integrated Science class before the day of the test, the professor raced to explain the information on the last 12 slides of her power point presentation. Needless to say, not much of that explanation was understood. As her tension amplified, the professor offered parting wisdom to her class. She said, “If you study well, you will do well.” Such a simple statement, highly conditional, but she found it comforting. She knew what she needed to do: spend the next four days of her life buried in books and notes and power points so that she was sure to pass this test. She tried hard not to let the fact that she had another online exam as well as an online quiz to study for and complete in the coming days worry her. She tried, but she failed. At home, after hours of preparing for lab she still felt behind. She just knew she wouldn’t have the time to study as much as she would need to in order to pass this test.

 

Anxiety set in.

Anxiety is a friend of none and a foe of many. This particular nursing student was no exception. What is detestably true of Anxiety is that it has the ability to transform itself into things even more despicable like: Fear, Panic, Doubt, and even Defeat. She was overcome by all of these faces of Anxiety.

She thought about all the times she could have stayed up an hour later to read or prepare her notes. She focused on the possibility of failing and being removed from the program. She even compared her intelligence to those of her fellow nursing students and decided on the fact (or what she believed was fact) that she was not as smart. She was not good enough. In her mind it would take a miracle for her to pass.

Test day came and went. She was not surprised but to her dismay, she failed miserably. She had spent more time worrying than actually studying and her thoughts and actions sealed her fate. After checking her grade once more, just to be sure, she decided that nursing school was not for her, or better yet, she was not for nursing school. She walked out and never went back.

                                                                                                                               

Jane felt a sweat-soaked t-shirt as she awoke from her nightmare. Could she possibly fail her first test? As soon as the thought entered her mind, it vanished. She knew that her professors gave her everything she needed to succeed. She knew that there was a possibility that she would not do well, but she was quickly comforted by the memory of a talk she had with her advisor. This mentor assured her that help would be given early on if she found the material too difficult. Jane did not have to study by herself either. She shook off the lingering dread she felt from her bad dream and got out of bed. She was running late for her study group. Confidently, Jane got ready for the day. She felt excited to master the material. Jane was shocked to hear that her classmates also experienced some anxiety as they embarked on knew test territory. This revelation calmed her even more. She was not alone. On test day, Jane was pumped. Anxiety, the cruel tormentor of minds, had no place in Jane’s. She knew she would make it through. “One test down, about 40 more left to go!”

The Journey Begins…

I had no idea what to expect of nursing school. All I had heard was “nursing school is hard”, but I didn’t exactly know what to make of that statement. Many things can be “hard”. In fact, the word “hard” is quite subjective. What may be difficult for one person, can be easy for another. Even though I was yet to hear from anyone the sentiment of nursing school being easy, I believed there was a possibility that for some people, it was. With this reasoning in my mind as well as the hope that I’d be an exception, I began my journey as an Emory nursing student.

The first day of orientation brought me back to reality. Hearing the seniors speak, I quickly understood that regardless of each person’s perception of the degree of difficulty, nursing school would indeed be hard for anyone. I identified my personal challenge as primarily beginning to think like a nurse. Nurses have a lot to think about. In addition to learning techniques and proper ways to perform tasks, nurses must think about how to best treat their patients, how to promote health to various populations, how to communicate effectively with not only the patient, but also fellow nurses and physicians, how to be comforting to their patients, as well as a plethora of other things. What’s more, nurses are not told in which order or how frequently to think about these things. They must figure it out for themselves. We have to master this because a nurse has the ability to seriously injure a patient if he or she does not think as thoroughly as needed for the situation. To prepare us for this type of thinking, we are assigned numerous tasks to complete at a single time. It is our job as nursing students to figure out the most effective way to get these tasks done on time and to the best of our ability. This causes many of us to feel anxious, especially because there is not a whole lot of supervision. However, there is a lot of support.

One of the things that eased my anxiety was how earnest and sincere the faculty was about seeing us all succeed. One thing that stuck with me was hearing the BSN Program Director, William Puentes, say that there is no weeding out process. The aim is that we all become nurses in two years. Next, I realized that the seniors were also just as concerned with the new juniors doing well. Many have taken time out of their schedules just to make sure we were getting acclimated to the program. I know that many juniors, including me, have decided to take advantage of the senior mentoring program. We are assigned to a senior with whom we can meet to talk about our concerns, tests, great study strategies, or questions about our mentor’s experiences last year. My mentor even scheduled a lunch with me, her treat. Lastly, my fellow BSN juniors have already become like family to me. Each person is so kind and willing to share their own experiences to form a bond that will last throughout our time here, and beyond.

It’s only been three weeks and I’ve already learned so much. In lab alone I’ve learned proper ambulation techniques, surgical asepsis, how to take a manual blood pressure, how to insert a Foley catheter, and much more. In class and through readings I have expanded my nursing vocabulary. I can understand much more medical jargon than before. It really makes me feel like a professional. The most important thing I’ve learned, in my opinion, is how to use my time. Because the content is so interesting, I find myself using my “breaks” to discuss with a friend what I’ve learned, or practice finding pulses on anyone who will let me. I still manage to make time for myself, and I have done more readings and activities than I remember doing in undergrad this early in the semester. I feel that as an undergrad student, I was spoon-fed my material. There were tasks to complete, and if I completed them, I passed. There was not a lot that I had to decide on my own. Nursing school, as I’m sure is true of most other professional schooling, gives me a taste of real life and what it will be like when I am a Registered Nurse. So far, I like that taste!

I have taken my first steps in this journey to becoming a nurse. So far it has not been a walk in the park on a bright sunny day…maybe, a walk in the park on a cloudy day! I know the road will get steeper and at times my legs will get tired. But, I have people walking with me to keep me company, I have people walking behind me to hold me up, and I have people walking in front of me to pull me forward. I’m excited for this journey.