Notes of a Student Nurse: A Dose of RealityMay 4, 2011
By Jennifer-Clare Williams, who is a student at Cox College of Nursing and Health Sciences in Springfield, Missouri. This is her first post for this blog.
It’s been said before that we are our own worst enemies, our own worst critics. I can’t imagine a time when these phrases are truer than during nursing school. Little more than a year ago, when I was starting my prerequisites for admission to the BSN nursing program, I was giddy with excitement. Images of what life would be like played in my head like episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, or, on a day I was feeling a bit more goofy, reruns of Scrubs.
I took any opportunity I had to share with friends, family—even new apartment neighbors—that I was well on my way to nursing school with the confident smile of a person destined to save the world, one patient at a time. I scoured discussion boards and nursing student forums late into the night, anticipating the day that I, too, would have something profound to contribute.
I laughed off those who warned me that the path was difficult and ridden with challenges. There was no bridge I couldn’t cross, no task I couldn’t do, and no test I couldn’t pass with flying colors. The world was mine. Now, I’m living those moments as a first semester nursing student—but a funny thing happened on the way to the present, a thing I will lovingly refer to as reality.
And reality has an uncanny way of making sure you’re well aware of his presence. The truth is, most days I feel more like the character Steve Urkel in Family Matters than like Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy—awkward, unsure, and out of my element. My excitement masquerades more as fear. And those scrubs? Hardly the superhero cape I’d imagined. Yes, the truth is, for the first time in my life, I don’t have the definitive answers to anything, my “natural aptitude” for test taking continually disappoints me, and that confident, poised, straight-A student has somehow disappeared, leaving a nervous, uncomfortable rookie in her place.
I replay my mistakes (“No wonder your patient was uncomfortable—you put the bedpan under her backwards!”), I cry more than I ever have in my life, and I continuously wonder how on earth I will ever learn everything I need to know.
But there is good news. I’m surviving. And I’m learning that perfection is unrealistic. That nursing really is a fluid profession: things are constantly changing, and that’s a good thing. That there are very few things that I’m going to master on the first try, or heck, even the 10th try . . . but that’s ok. I’m learning that the patients who are, let’s just say . . . unkind . . . are not launching a personal attack on me, but are facing a difficult set of circumstances and are unhappy with the situation.
But perhaps most importantly, I’m slowly learning not to be so hard on myself, that patience is a necessity in this learning process, and that only time and experience can make me the kind of nurse I want to be: kind, compassionate, and competent. And no, life is not like you see on TV, but the chance to make a difference is real, and that realization is far more satisfying than any scripted show ever could be.