School is hard

When you are an old lady, school is tough.  Nursing School is not at all what I expected.  Not even close.  I spent the last year-and-a-half taking courses that my brain was not wired for: Chemistry, Biology, Microbiology… and I actually did fine.  Better than fine.  My GPA was a 3.97.  I made Phi Theta Kappa and I was actually ranked 40th in the state in the nursing school admissions list – and that includes a “B” in English I got a dozen decades ago in my first (read “party”) college days.

Now, I am lucky to squeak by with a low B all around.  You can’t study for Nursing.  No, really, it’s true.  Give me a thousand bacteria to memorize and I will spit them all back out to you by shape, spore, or gram sign.  Take a nursing exam and you’re like wondering what grade of crack the instructor smoked when she wrote it.

There are questions like: If a nursing student entered a room and a patient diagnosed with lung cancer was saying, “I really want to die for my sin of smoking.” Would you a) Call the hospital chaplain, b) tell them “It’s okay, there’s nothing you can do about it now.” c) Tell them to practice deep breathing, or d) Tell them that when they started smoking it wasn’t that bad.

I’m not making this up.  And I got it wrong.  Any guesses?

We had four different instructors in Nursing 101.  One was really good and thorough.  One was absolutely terrible, scattered, and only discussed her aging father’s hearing aids and sister’s diabetes.  Anyway, it didn’t really matter.  The tests were all subjective.

I who was a tutor over the summer for my second job, got sent to the tutor 4 times this semester.

And that’s just the classroom part.  We spent two full days a week in the hospital, taking care of real, live people.  It was reallllly intimidating at first.  The clinical instructor literally had to push me into my patient’s room the first couple of times.  I was scared stiff.  I wouldn’t want a student taking care of me!  Especially a first-semester one!  Who hadn’t a clue as to what to do.  Yep, I was a CNA briefly seven years ago.  Then I considered a career as a funeral director.  And my instructor told me once that I just might be better compatible with the dead.

The last week or two I was feeling a little more at ease.  It is very, very frightening  – for me anyway, because I really am a shy person – to walk into a sick  person’s room and start poking them with my thermometer and probing them with my stethoscope.  And you have to do just that, because the instructor will find you and ask you intimate and detailed questions about the patient’s vitals and overall physical assessment.

The one redeeming quality of the first clinical rotation – I had some really awesome patients.  Not a single one was intimidated that an idiot was caring for them.  I had everything from a double mastectomy due to the BRCA gene, to an end-stage cirrhosis, to a pleural effusion in the nicest, funniest, 92-year-old one could ever meet.  I was told – more than once – what a good listener I was.  Being quiet has its advantages.  It’s called empathy, and it’s what nursing is all about.

But tomorrow is the final.  Yeah, another whacky-question test, and I am so, so glad that this semester is over.  It is quite one thing, my clinical instructor told me one day, when she remarked about how I seem like an intelligent person – what the hell is wrong with me – and quite another, when one goes to nursing school as a 20-something single.  Or in my case, when one attempts at middle age and with a zillion kids and turmoil by the truckload, to take it on.

In any case.  I am back.  I will have a tiny bit of free time coming up.  And I really missed blogging – and all of you!