Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Nursing School Story

I thought I should brush off the ol' blog and talk about nursing school. I've been out of school for over 6 months now!  I found reading about other people's experiences was super interesting and helpful so here is my story.

If I could describe nursing school in one word, it would be: Intense.

Pre Nursing School

I was going to university for psychology. I was in my last year and I realized there is not much that can be done with a psychology degree. I wanted to be a counsellor but in order to do that, I would have to pursue my masters. The whole idea was daunting. During that time, I had a coworker who was a nursing student. One day, she shared with me a story about a patient who yelled at all the nurses and was constantly angry. He gave her a lot of grief. However, she pushed through with her calm and patient nursing care and his attitude changed. His anger was really masking his frustration with a certain situation. She made an impact on him. And that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to help people.

I never considered nursing. I did work experience in the hospital in high school. I fainted the first day. The person I was with told me the hospital probably wasn't for me. Regardless, I decided to apply to nursing school. It was a spontaneous decision. Even more surprising, was getting accepted into nursing school. I started right after I finished my psychology degree.

Nursing school is a lot harder than university. My school is apparently known as the bootcamp of nursing school. They instructors told us the school was one of the best. 10% dropped out/failed each term.  I wondered if that's what all schools told their students. We were thrown into things right away. Our first clinical experience involved meeting our patient, sitting with them, and collecting their history. I don't know why, but I was scared. I wasn't used to being in the hospital. I wasn't used to being somewhere at 7am. I wasn't used to approaching people. I wasn't used to being evaluated constantly. I wasn't used to doing presentations. It was stressful. I cried a lot. I debated if nursing school was worth it.

Soon, we learned real nursing skills. I was placed on a surgical unit. We learned things like injections, IV therapy, and dressing changes. I remember the first time I primed an IV line and hung a med, it probably took a good 30 mins. I also learned very quickly pulling out the spike of an IV bag while it's still hanging will cause it to spill everywhere. I did love dressing changes. This was the first term where I had a patient that I ended up crying over. It was my first experience with a patient who was waiting to be transferred to a palliative unit. She needed constant narcotics for pain management. Her husband sat by her the whole time even though she was asleep for the most part. It made me sad.

I survived the first year. Felt like I barely hung on. Still debated if it was worth it.

Maternity- Not my thing. However, I got to hold newborn babies for the first time which was pretty amazing. The day I was slotted to observe in labour and delivery, my instructor was sick. I never got to see a real live delivery.

Paediatrics- I lucked out and got a good balance of patients. I had an infant, toddler, child and teenager. One time, I had to give a 3 year old, liquid Tylenol. I bargained with her and said she can either take it through a syringe, or I can give it to her in a cup. She chose the cup. Then chucked the bright red liquid tylenol all over her bed. Definitely knew paediatrics was not for me.

Mental Health- I fell in love. Everything I read in my psychology textbooks, I was experiencing hands on. The stories I heard were incredible. It reminded me why I went to nursing school. I wanted something that involved my psychology background but combined with nursing. What more could I ask for? I worked with patients who were going through schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, etc. Worked with patients who were going to through manic stages and didn't sleep for days. Worked with patients who had schizophrenia and were so scared because of their hallucinations.  I thought mental health was so amazing.

More med surg. We learned the rest of the nursing skills such as catheter insertion, complex wound care, trach care, tube feeding, etc. We were now up to 3 patients and pretty much did what a basic nurse was expected to do. I had an incredible clinical instructor who was so patient, kind, and nurturing. I had several incidents where I cried and she was very supportive. One time, I cried over a patient who was towards his end stage in life. He brought it up with me while I was giving him a bed bath. He said he knew he was going to see his wife soon (she had passed away few years ago). I didn't know what to say. I knew he wanted to talk about dying. But I couldn't talk about it with him. It was morally hard for me to deal with. So I just listened. I think that's what he really wanted.

I passed every course and clinical. I was thinking that maybe, this was something I was actually going to do. At the same time, I felt like my self- esteem was challenged everyday and it was a struggle for me.

For community, I was placed in home health. I had no idea what home health was. I learned it's providing acute nursing care in the home. I got to do a ton of dressing changes. I experienced working with the homeless/at risk population. One time, I was during a dressing change and a cat walked into the room and jumped on my sterile field. Seriously, that doesn't happen in hospitals. Home Health was a real eye opener for me. It was nursing that was different from acute care.


I was placed on a medical unit that was very very intense. We had a simulation lab before preceptorship and the instructor pulled me aside and asked me if I was really ready for this. It stressed me out a lot.  The nurses, my instructor, and the manager told me if you could survive this unit, you can survive anywhere. I thought I was ready for preceptorship but I felt like I was learning everything new again. It was a learning curve of time management, prioritizing, and delegating. I had two great preceptors. I experienced an emergency situation with my patient vomiting blood. I saw a few code blues. Experienced caring for patients who passed away. Had the experience of a patient who yelled multiple times and in the end, did a 180 once we uncovered his anger was masking frustration. When we rectified the situation, he turned out to be a very nice person. I had come full circle from when I talked to my coworker/friend who was a nursing student. By the end, I had experienced 12 hour shifts, working graveyards, and managing 4-5 patients. Even then, I still questioned if this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was so burned out and exhausted.

I applied to the unit. Was offered a job on a different unit. And I declined. I was so scared because I had no other job offers. But in my heart, I knew it's not what I wanted to do.

After School 

I studied a lot for the CRNE (Canadian Registered Nurse Exam). I did over 1000 questions. I studied on my own but also did a few study sessions with my friends. We texted practice questions back and forth because we had different books. It was one more hurdle. I had really poor sleep the night before the exam because of anxiety so I ended up being exhausted. The exam was hard. It was really hard. A lot of us had no idea how we did on the exam. The next 6 weeks were brutal.

I also applied for a job that I did want and was even more shocked when I was offered the position.

I passed my nursing exam.

I graduated with distinction. So did a lot of my classmates.

I love my job. Most of my classmates got a job right out of school. Maybe there is some truth behind what the instructors said about our school.

There are a few things that I wished I knew before I pursued nursing. It really pushed me to be outside my comfort zone of being a follower. Nursing school shot my self esteem but did teach me resilience. A support system was so important to me. They're the ones who pushed me not to give up. I did not realize the critical thinking that's involved in everyday nursing. Things like recognizing when a med a doctor prescribed isn't correct, choosing an action that's different from what another nurse suggest because I did my own assessment, or knowing when to advocate for your patient to be seen by a doctor even though he/she had already been told there's no concerns. Learning to go with my gut instinct. Being confident in my actions and having a sound rational behind it. It really is challenging and rewarding. And I also did not expect to meet classmates who turned out to be solid friends.

In the end, nursing school, was definitely worth it.

1 comment:

  1. love this blog post!! Nursing school is definitely a once in a lifetime journey. I don't think anything compares to nursing school (well maybe med school lol). I hope my SIM lab goes ok. Did you hear... J McDonald is teaching level 6 now? It's gonna be a tough one this year!