She never expressed an interest in nursing.
I mentioned it as a career possibility during the high school years. She wheeled around and said, “Mom, you hate your job. That’s all I ever hear!”
Be careful what you say around your kids.
No one was more surprised than I when the voice on the line identified themselves as the School of Nursing, and asked for you. Telling no one, you went and changed your major to nursing!
My inspiration was a fictional storybook and nursing cap, yours was an interest in embryology and a desire to work in neonatal intensive care. I had no clue what I was getting into. You lived with it every day of your life, and you chose to take it on, anyway.
That’s my girl!
Now, six semesters and a summer session later, you’re a senior. This time next year, you will be a registered nurse.
Does that scare the hell out of you?
It scared the hell out of me, back in the day. The closer to graduation, the more I studied and the less I knew. I was afraid that I would hurt a patient because I didn’t know enough. I thought I would never know enough. I told you the story of leaving clinicals with the intention of quitting for that very reason, with eight weeks left until graduation.
I was scared.
But you don’t have to be scared. You don’t have to know everything there is to know. You will learn what you need to know. The whole point of a nursing education is to teach you how to learn. What you are learning now is only the foundation of a lifetime of nursing education. You are learning how to think like a nurse.
And it’s already happening. I hear it in your phone calls. Your thinking process is being transformed. When you call me on the phone and tell me you knew a patient was in trouble before the vital signs changed, you are thinking like a nurse. Critical thinking takes place at the subconscious level! Intuition is what you feel when your mind sees subtle changes and starts problem solving before the crisis begins.
Rebecca, you are thinking like a nurse.
When you fight to suction a patient in distress when those around you seem to have forgotten the “comfort” aspect of “comfort care”, you are thinking like a nurse. (And don’t ever, ever, EVER lose that passion.)
This is an important year and this opportunity to learn, to be a student, will never happen again. Take advantage of every minute:
- Absorb everything you can. If there is an opportunity to observe, be there. If there is a chance to assist, do it. If there is a procedure to be performed, volunteer. Your hand is the first one up for everything. Nothing will build your confidence faster than having a procedure “under your belt”.
- Your professors are a wealth of information and experience. USE THEM! (Yes, even the ones you think are boring!) They are professionals committed to educating the next generation of nurses. They are not out to get you, trip you up or fail you. Your success means they have succeeded. Understanding that they are on your side will make a huge difference in how you approach this year.
- Oh, and you are not going to harm anyone. Follow the rules, to the letter. Let the world around you be going absolutely crazy, but not you. You stay calm, collected. Check every med. Every time. Every armband. Every time. Question every order that seems off. Every time. No short cuts. Ever. Yes, your clinical preceptor may seem frustrated. Tough. It’s your practice, you go by the rules and you will be fine, and safe.
You are going to have times this year, probably many times, usually after clinicals, when you will be ready to chuck the whole thing and go work the drive-thru window at McDonalds. Does the phrase “Why the hell am I doing this?” sound familiar? I still have these moments, usually in the middle of a hairy shift in the ER. They pass. Every time.
And Rebecca, it’s all worth it. All the stress and the work and feeling like you want to bang your head into a wall with frustration. It’s all worth it.
Do something. It seems silly. Get a piece of paper.
Write your name.
Rebecca, RN, BSN.
Haven’t you done that yet? From the time I was nine years old I was writing Kim McAllister, RN on everything I could find. And when things seem crappy and you are wondering what the hell it’s all about, write out your full name with the credentials after it.
Because that’s the prize. There is four years of work and a lifetime of pride wrapped up in that signature. Keep your eyes on those letters and what they mean. It will make things easier to deal with when you are in the throes of finals week, or exhausting clinicals.
Of course, there is always the phone and I am always ready to commiserate on crummy test questions and boring lectures.
Oh, and one more thing.
I am so proud of you. More than you could ever know.