First year of nursing school: complete.
Early December: a long, welcomed, winter break ahead. Although with the holidays, travel, my little girl’s third birthday and catching up on plenty of things that were neglected during the first semester, I barely had a chance to refocus to plunge into the second semester, but January 22 arrived and the whirlwind started again. 7:50am Pharm: my first class. Then, a flash of studying, papers, exams, quizzes, memorizing, reading, care plans, clinical sheets… the next 14 weeks were off and running faster than you can say, “Pharm grades are up!!!” on Facebook.
The second semester I knew what to expect, good and bad. So, I planned accordingly organizing myself to streamline the chaos that was the first semester. I stayed on top of classes, studying (as drilled into my head over and over) 30 minutes each subject each evening, readings, getting a better sleep at night, taking only the essentials in a rolling backpack to class and recording lectures on my iPhone, so I could listen again later, which I found to be essential when studying for exams or even sitting on the bus and subway on the way to and from class.
Two weeks in, and I was on top of it all. I had such a positive attitude, and a feeling like I could totally get this done, but as mentioned above, my little girl, Madeline, turned three in January. This I was not prepared for.
I wanted to participate in blogging to bring another angle to the table of the varying characteristics of today’s nursing student. I’ve met quite a few parents also climbing the mountain to BSN and beyond at Hopkins who have children as well. I think nursing school is an overwhelming challenge for anyone: 20-something to 40-something, relationship or single, children now or way into the future. Nursing school is an undertaking of endurance and balance. It’s not a sprint or for the weak. I find myself still shooting down the high jump path, bar in hand, blowing tons of fuel to hit the mark wondering why I put the bar so high. Lower the bar a bit and build to raising it higher.
Over the past year, I have met so many brilliant students. We have studied together, kept each other on schedule, passed around notes and objectives to help one another out and have been each other’s counselors and tutors. Empathy is a foundation trait to have as a nurse and as a student. I believe teamwork and empathy are two characteristics that the Traditional Class of 2013 has in excess.
I digress to the reality, which is my life: wife, mom and student. Balance is the only way this works. My husband puts Michael Keaton’s roll in Mr. Mom to total shame by supporting our family completely while I’m in school being dad/chef/housekeeper/psychologist to a toddler who has grown to be a preschooler in what seems like one night and dials down the excitement in front of me about weekend plans when I exhaustively say there’s a Pharm exam on Monday, and I have to study. Then, there’s the student me who sunk every last bit of energy in the first semester, used winter break to get to know my family again, while promising that the second semester was going to contain more balance. Something always has to give. So, I decided I would pull back a bit on school. Lower the bar slightly to a more a realistic level where all the plates spinning on sticks could spin for a bit above my head without my frantically running around trying to keep them in balance. I’d just toss a few pillows below and if one fell, at least it didn’t break.
Being three can’t be easy. I don’t remember going through it of course, but it’s definitely a challenging time of boundary-seeking and learning behavior. There are hurdles thrown at you like potty-training, moving to preschool classes, making new friends, trusting the right adults and not-trusting the wrong ones, being expected to have better manners, eating with utensils at the table, recovering from dramatic skinned knees and bumped noggins and even helping out around the house. Incredible tantrums, illness from preschool snot exchange, phases of limit testing are all part of the gamut of being three. Add a dad who is juggling household tasks as well as total financial burden and a mom who needs quiet to read and study and always has a cup of coffee in her hand, even at 9pm at night. The JHUSON student/parent life goes from organized campus travel and studying tables with adequate lighting to a lottery of activity in the evening. Will I get to study tonight? Will the evening run smoothly? Is there a grand mal tantrum in Madeline’s future choosing pajamas and negotiating bedtime or will she be her sweet self hugging me and telling me to go study my books? Will I say, “o-m-g, there’s an exam in two days… and its 10pm… and I haven’t even done the objectives… and I look in the mirror after Madeline is in bed and look like something out of a Poe short story. And my God… that pillow looks so soft and fluffy… if I just take a power nap for an hour…” 2am comes and the skill to think rationally is vaporized. Sleep wins.
I guess what I have to mention in this mind-numbingly, lengthy blog is that to all the incoming parents to the nursing program: stick with it and please feel free to find me, or any of the other parents in the building. We get it. If you can be a 4.0 student and balance school and home, I stand and give you a sincere ovation. If you’re a single parent, as there are some in the program now, my hat completely comes off to you. If the freight train of study turns out to be a struggle and you wonder what the hell you were thinking when you checked the figurative ‘I Accept’ box after receiving your acceptance letter, there are those of us who will always be there to listen, albeit we may be dangling over guides deciphering medications or interventions at the same time. Even my friends without kids always find a way to motivate me to keep going. Everyone has a challenge. The best part is sharing it. My grades were less than perfect this semester, I had struggles with balance, sleep and maintaining my sanity, but I’m 50% RN and successful. I will take the summer to refocus, re-energize, enthusiastically work in my new job (yay!) at UMMC in the MICU where I’ll be a student nurse and soak in the experiences and personalities while structuring my mind to start again strong in the Fall.
I missed class a few times this semester for a few mandatory family moments, but I caught up through my fellow classmates’ help. Overall, I did great, but not my typical 4.0 expectation of myself. I was there for my daughter and husband who are first in my life. Being an amazing RN is a dream to me, but I’m going to have to settle for balance over perfection during school as, in my opinion, should everyone. This can be done and we’re halfway there.