Winter term was a frantic month but somehow I pulled off the grades I was aiming for. After a rough start, I had to reassess the situation. Initially, I upped my hours for the two weeks off during Christmas break. I thought that since my lectures were online I would be okay with continuing to take on extra shifts. I was working about 6-8 hours a day during the week but I also had weekly exams and a weekly lab that was 6 hours. I bit off more than I could chew and became stressed out. I realized that my grades were suffering so I did something I rarely do, I went to the professor’s office hours! From her emails and recorded online lectures, most of the students in my cohort got the vibe that she was one of those nurses who eat their young. I decided I had nothing to lose by going in to review my exam and ask her what I could do to improve. She ended up being totally welcoming and reasonable. When a group of us walked in, it only took a few minutes to realize that her email responses to other students that came off as short, cold, or rude were just misinterpretations of her dark and unfiltered sense of humor. Once I figured that out, she was easy to talk to and I ended up being frank and open with her right back. When she asked the group for feedback on the class so far, I told her I felt that having two exams worth 35% each was a bit extreme and not consistent with any other courses I’ve taken. She was receptive and ended up changing the syllabus and adding two more points to our already curved previous exam. Moral of the story, it’s true what they say about office hours. If you are struggling in a course or even just not doing as well as you’d hoped: GO!
Another A and A- in the books, but I’m a few days away from the first round of spring semester exams. I’ve been procrastinating all weekend and I even have an extra day off from classes today to take advantage of but I’m off to a slow start. I feel as though I’ve done a decent job of keeping up in classes and not letting myself get behind with material I don’t understand, but I know deep down I don’t fully grasp the content. This is a problem of mine I’ve noticed before. Because some of the content we’re learning in the Med-Surg courses overlaps with what we’ve already covered in pathophysiology and pharmacology, I get bored in class and end up not paying attention. Couple that with the fact that I feel like I have “real world experience” in some topics, like caring for patients on mechanical ventilation, I think it gives me a false sense of security. The way my brain works, once I hear something once and I easily retain the information. This helped me get through my first degree with minimal studying. Of course, nursing school does not work that way! Instead of reading or skimming the chapters, I’m focusing on just completing NCLEX questions on the topics we’re covering. That is something new I’m trying since the accelerated students have been specifically warned that Med-Surg is a GPA killer for students who aren’t as comfortable with answering NCLEX questions. Another method that has worked for me in previous nursing classes so far is buying the supplemental study guides or lab guides that go along with the required textbooks. They’re not on the syllabus as “recommended” purchases in most of the classes, but they pop up on Amazon when I order the textbooks so I get them too. The questions are based on the chapters in the textbook and I’ve even found some professors will base their tests around these questions or at least will the tests are very similar. I’m going to see how that works for me in the next few weeks but I think the best advice I got about nursing school before starting was not to waste your time passively studying and just do questions and read the rationales.
As far as work goes, I am not stretching myself thin this semester. When I first started my job it was my entire world and top priority. I still love going to work and love the kids there very much, but I have accepted the fact that it is a job and I am allowed to have a life outside of the facility. Obviously, school has to come first but having a significant other/romantic relationship is not a death sentence for my goals either. It may be considered good or bad timing, but my BF is leaving on military orders this week for three weeks. It’s just training so I will have nothing to worry about and since we won’t physically be together it may be easier to buckle down and study on the weekends. Who knows how it will all turn out this semester? Time to find out.
I can happily report I achieved my goal of straight A’s in my first semester of nursing school! Okay, some of those A’s are technically A-‘s so not exactly a 4.0 but I’m pretty damn proud of myself. Aside from battling the awful sinus infection that I still have from the week of finals, I had a really great holiday break and am preparing to get back to the daily grind.
Aside from the day I called out sick, I took advantage of my time off school and picked up extra time at work. I should be okay to keep up some of those hours during winterim but hopefully things will calm down at work by the time the spring semester rolls around. As much as I love working, it is easy to get burnt out especially due to the nature of my job. Same kids, same assignments, same routine. While I love the consistency and it can be great to work on autopilot, I couldn’t make a career out of what I am doing right now. After graduation, I would like to do something with a bit more variety.
Personally, winter can be a challenging time of the year. It’s always dark out and the cold weather doesn’t help lift my spirits. Summer is by far my favorite season, but I’m going to try to make the best of this short semester.
Finally, a moment to breathe. I’ve been putting in extra hours at work lately so I haven’t had much time for anything, let alone updating this blog. Classes were cancelled this week but we still have labs so I’m not quite off the hook yet. I signed up for winter term classes and the spring semester as well, it’s not going to be easy. Winter term is about a month long and my cohort has to take two classes. It’s hard enough cramming one 16 week class into 5 weeks but two! One of the classes is online, which sounds good to some students but in my experience it is a lot harder to get an A in an online class… though it’s always challenging to get an A in nursing school. Spring semester will be intense. 5 classes and 4 of them have weekly simulation lab components. I’m not sure how I’m going to pull off working during that time period, but I can’t afford to quit. After that, clinicals in the summer. I’m getting ahead of myself, though.
This semester has flown by but at the same time I feel like it should be over with by now. I’m not expecting straight As, but I’m expecting a couple. If I could make Dean’s List it would be a dream come true. I’ve been at work anywhere from 16-28 hours each week. (I know, quite a variance.) I attend 2 labs for about an hour per lab every week. In class time is around 10 hours per week, though I am taking an online class too that I’m a bit behind on video lectures. As far as studying goes, I do as much as I can. I don’t have the kind of job where I could study at work, but I don’t work on the weekend so I try to utilize that time for studying about every other weekend. The other weekends I will visit my family or spend time with my friends. If I had to estimate, I study or work on assignments at minimum 2 hours a day. My longest stretch was 10 hours in one day but that was mostly finishing an assignment.
As hard as it has been, I know it’s worth it!
Sometimes, my job is filled with beautiful and rewarding experiences. Like watching a child go from nonverbal to saying your name whenever they see you, teaching a toddler with an oral aversion how to brush their teeth, and seeing joy on the face of a kid who discovered a new favorite food. Other days, you think you’re making progress with a behavioral issue but end up getting formula spit in your face. You win some, you lose some.
… going to simulation lab on a Friday morning, then working 8 hours as a CNA, telling your friends you’re too tired to go to the bar after work, but still staying up past 1am to study for the pharmacology test next week.
One of our lectures in pathophysiology was on allergic response and anaphylaxis. It wasn’t long after that class that I had to apply my knowledge in a real life situation at work.
I was feeding a nonverbal resident a puree dinner. The contents are always labeled, but most of our PO residents have been at the facility for a while so it would be normal to assume that anything from dietary is safe for them to eat. After a few minutes of feeding the resident, I noticed a rash on the face and increased drooling. The puree was marked: “shrimp fried rice 8 oz”, so I instantly thought there must be an allergy to shellfish/seafood going on. I checked our computer charting system for allergies and only saw allergies listed that I already knew about. This resident often has a rash of some kind, it wasn’t that surprising for one to pop up, but something in my gut told me to discontinue the feeding anyway. I just monitored the resident while I finished charting the rest of the intakes. I brought the resident back to the living room, told her nurse what I observed, and asked her to take a look. Most of the rash had subsided but I said that it worried me and she said she would look into it.
Two weeks go by and I’m speaking with my supervisor, the speech language pathologist, about the changes in the food since our former food service manager came back to work after becoming a registered dietitian. I said that it seemed like our staple meals had been switched for more exotic recipes. After all, meals like creamed chip beef are pretty exotic compared to the turkey salad sandwiches the residents were used to! When discussing specific meals and food preferences, it came up that the resident did have a shellfish allergy after all.
Paying attention in class really did pay off! Instead of carrying out my work on autopilot, I made a potentially life-saving call based on my own clinical judgement. When I’m a nurse this will be something I have to do everyday, but as an aide/nursing student it was really cool to use the information I had recently gone over in class and apply it at work. Plus, if it wasn’t important, the professors wouldn’t be teaching it.
The first two weeks of classes have whizzed by. I’ve already done my first simulation lab, taken two quizzes, and have been studying my ass off. I truly have never worked this hard for anything academic in my life but I want to do it right this time. I have a little group to study with between classes and it’s paying off. I’ve never been one to obsess over grades, but I got a 100% on my first quiz. I’m finding that while a little effort has always gone a long way, 100% of your effort will take you much further.
My work schedule is a little different with more anticipated changes. The speech language pathologist I work under has been a great mentor and source of guidance. Being a member of the therapy department instead of the clinical staff has been challenging, especially because I work after standard office hours, but it is a rewarding endeavor. We have a lot of ideas in progress right now, so I’m just waiting for it all to get approved and take off.
Unfortunately, I also got some terrible news this week that my little sister was in the hospital. It was a rough situation and it was horrible to see her in so much pain, though I visited as much as I could. I am grateful that she is going to be okay. As awful as it was, this unfortunate circumstance gave me an opportunity to reflect on my path and find the silver lining: I truly have found my calling. Though I rarely let anyone see my softer and compassionate side, after this experience I feel certain that I have what it takes to become a nurse from my head to my heart.