It has taken me quite a bit of time to get my head together enough to write about my experience in nursing school. That may sound like an ominous statement, and maybe it is. I guess I can tell you now that I have decided (as some of you may already know) to leave the nursing program and pursue what I think will bring me more fulfillment – counseling psychology. I’ll talk more about that later, for now let me start at the beginning.
The first term of nursing started with a dozen emails from the program’s secretary, Kate. She’s a very thorough person and has a lot of ducks to keep in a row. Also, were emails from instructors with, well, instructions! Day after day, another email. Go here, go there. Read this. Get this form signed. Don’t forget…! So I had oh 200-300 pages to read BEFORE the first day of class. That was a shocker. Plus the fact that – uh, I didn’t understand half of what I was reading. Plus the fact that I had just finished a killer final in my statistics class and also was planning and getting married! So – I guess I was a little bit stressed out. I hit a wall with my depression… had a huge panic attack a few days before the first day of class and then spent the next 2 weeks digging myself out emotionally.
I did get into a good routine with classes, though, and enjoyed the learning I was doing. I got excellent grades on my weekly tests (5 classes, 3 weekly tests). I struggled a bit with the skills portion though. The demand for perfection was ever-present. The skills all had to be passed exactly as taught with no errors (or even potential errors – such as when I was almost failed for doing something that might have caused a break in the sterile field). Oh, and we were “taught” the skills by having one 2 hour class for 8 people to learn the skill. So what skills were they? Well, let’s see. Mixing and drawing up insulin into a syringe (from a vial), drawing up other medication from an ampule, give shots (intra-muscular, intra-dermal, and subcutaneous), measuring and setting an IV drip factor, and inserting a catheter (male and female) while keeping a sterile field. I think that’s it.
I was doing good in clinical because it was in a nursing home and I’ve spent the past 3 years working in one of those. I was frustrated though because we seemed to be only doing the job of a CNA. I already knew that, I wanted to learn about NURSING. So we did a little bit of passing meds and I got to give a couple of shots (that was cool!) and take some blood sugars. We did a lot of work on care plans. In a nutshell, that is where you figure out what the nursing issues are and how you are going to address them. I was pretty good at that, too.
All was going well, until toward the end of the term, like 3 weeks or so before finals I developed a condition called Bell’s Palsy. The right side of my face became paralyzed and I was in intense and excruciating pain – which I have previously written about, although maybe not here… maybe I’ll post the letter I sent to my friends and family… Anyway, the last 3 weeks were NOT fun! I had a final exam to study for – a mock-performance of a head to toe assessment on a mannequin. When I got the BP, I found that I was not able to study as well nor as long as I had been. I went from putting in about 30 hours a week of at home studying to only about 10. The pain and stress was so exhausting that many days I would go to class and come home for a 4 hour nap just so I could read a little. Being on the computer or experiencing any stress would set off a pain attack. Also, any noise above a whisper was excruciating since my tympanic membrane was also affected and was unable to modulate to sound. Not that the pain needed any reason to happen, there were times when I would just cry because it hurt so bad and I couldn’t do anything about it. Eating and drinking was also a challenge due to not having movement in half of my mouth! After about 3 weeks, I found a bit of pain relief (and after 4 weeks – considerable relief) with the use of a medication called neurontin. Of course a further disturbance I suffered was the side effect of this medication. It made me drowsy and dizzy a lot of the time until about 4 weeks into taking it.
So, I did the amazing feat of completing my last 3 weeks of clinicals and finishing all my tests. I had several classmates marvel at my tenacity. Then came finals week. I got good sleep, I ate healthy food (mostly), I studied as much as I could tolerate, and I went and took my finals. I did great on the written tests, but I completely failed the head to toe assessment. I was so mad at myself! I knew that stuff and I shouldn’t have failed. But I did and I had to accept the reality that due to my illness I hadn’t studied and PRACTICED as much as I needed to to know it inside and out. I just hoped that my work in the rest of the term would make up for my choking at the final. It did and I ended up with a C+ in that class. It is a passing grade, but I’ll tell you, in the almost 4 years I’ve been in college, I’ve only gotten 2 grades that were NOT A’s (a B in nutrition and a B+ in Statistics). Let me tell you, this hurt my ego! Well, I was bound and determined to give it my all next term and do better. (BTW, I got A’s in my other classes.)
I have to say here, that Autumn was truly wonderful during all of this. She took such excellent care of me when I needed it. She felt helpless, of course, when I was in so much pain and we couldn’t really resolve it. So she did what she could. She’d give me Reiki. She’d talk to me and use guided imagery to calm and relax me and she’d breathe with me, slow and deliberate. She’d hold me and rub my back and just touch my jaw (where most of the pain was located) until the pain went away. And you know what? It worked! I would invariably feel better and be able to sleep. Thank you Autumn for being such a loving and compassionate woman and for giving me the gift of your healing touch.
Thus ended my first term of nursing school.