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Spring has sprung on the Regis Campus.  I don’t know if I have ever been so excited about the prospect of visiting an arboretum at least twice a week.

This week I have taken time to stop and do just what the age old proverb suggests: take time to stop and smell the roses.  Okay, so…I have yet to find any roses on the Regis campus, but have been able to delight in the beauty of the Magnolia and Cherry blossoms.

Magnolia Tree behind Carroll Hall

School has been rough.  Let me rephrase that…managing to keep up with school, work and life has been rough.  Two weeks ago I was plagued by what can only be called exam fatigue.  Three tests and a medication calculation quiz in three weeks was more than enough for me.  Add in the fact that prior to test number 3 I only got four hours of sleep [yes it is my fault for not having better time management] I couldn’t help but have a mini mental breakdown after we went over the exam in class.

I will explain.  We have been taking  tests the old fashioned way this semester [read: scantron, paper and pencil].  I have mixed feelings about this.  First it seems a bit deceiving to me as the N-CLEX is not presented in the same fashion- Shouldn’t we get used to taking tests on the computer if that’s how the nursing boards are presented?  On the other hand after the disastrous experience we had first semester with computer proctored tests I am more than happy to sharpen my pencils [or double click the mechanical] and fill in bubbles. The one thing that I really liked about taking the computer proctored tests is that after hitting submit there is no waiting time.  Take it or leave it, there is your score. In order to accommodate our anxiety that comes with waiting for test scores, our instructors have gotten into the habit of going over the tests with us.  I am sure that they do this more for themselves than for us-seems as trying to get 24 adults to concentrate on a 2 ½ hour lecture [when preoccupied by the questions: did I get that right? What was the right answer?]  is impossible.

Long story short [too late, I know]  I was more than a little upset with my performance on test three.  As far as I was concerned it was my fault that I had not gotten all the answers right.  As soon as I turned the exam in I sat at my desk, knowing what questions I had gotten wrong.

Studying nursing isn’t like math, or science.  There is not one equation to follow that will always yield the correct answer.

The fact is there usually is more than one correct answer.  What I am trying to say is: reading and understanding the material sometimes isn’t enough. You can visualize the place in your notes where both answers were scribbled.

Now, the hard part…Which answer is more correct?  Yes. The teachers know that there is more than one right answer.  So how do you pick the right answer?

I think that this must be one of the hardest parts of nursing school.  Learning how to take a whole new kind of test.  While I have yet to master the test questions [work in progress]  I have managed to learn a few things about myself that I hope will aid me as I continue in the numerous exams that are sure to come.

  1. Don’t read more into the question than you are supposed to.
  2. Don’t add in extra factors just because you think they are relevant.
  3. Trust your instinct. If something in your gut tells you what the answer is, believe it.  Unless you have a really good reason why…don’t change that answer [ Thanks to Lisa Zenoni for that gem]
  4. Double check that your scantron bubble answers line up to the answers you circled on the paper test.
  5. Give yourself a break.  Getting a 100 on a test will not guarantee you will be a good nurse, or that you will pass the NCLEX.

I was reminded this past week, that sometimes life happens.  The CHOICE program is unique in that it allows students to continue working their jobs, and takes into consideration the fact that sometimes ‘life happens’.  With that said, being a part of the CHOICE cohort does not mean that things are made easy.  While there is an understanding that we [students] are responsible for other things outside of school, Regis expects that we will make our studies a priority. 

Our first term was hard.  Sitting in Pharmacology trying to learn about drugs that treat things I had never heard of was more than difficult.  I had a hard time understanding how we were supposed to remember all the information…I am happy to say that some of it stuck!

Last weekend at work the heavens parted and the proverbial angels sang…okay well maybe I was the one singing but I had my first big ‘ah-ha’ moment since starting school!

Our charge nurse came into the nursing report room and indicated that one of the floor nurses patient’s red man syndrome was resolving.

Red man syndrome…Red man syndrome….I know what that is. Right? I think I know what that is.  “Wait!” I said.  “Red man syndrome is reaction to an I.V. antibiotic, usually Vancomycin.  It is caused by the release of an excess amount of histamine.  It causes the body to flush, or turn red [clever name right?].  The reaction can be treated with an anti-histamine.  A nurse can continue to give future doses of the medication but should pretreat with an anti-histamine and run the medication  at a slower rate.”  Awesome!  I actually had the ability to recall some of the information I had learned over a month ago. “Right? Did I get it right” At least I was hoping that it was a case of accurate recall.  The charge nurse looked at me “Right, very good.”

It is away that those three words could mean so much to me-It may have been the fact that the person saying them has been a nurse for over 40 years-but I think it also had to do with the fact that she had a smile so big I could see her molars.  It was as if my ability to remember, comprehend and explain the situation, symptoms, and implications was as surprising to her as it was to me!

I couldn’t have been happier!

Working in a hospital while going to nursing school is one of the best things in the world!  Every time I go to work I have the opportunity to ask questions, test my own knowledge and learn-learn-learn!   I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

But it was pre-measured!! Yeah, yeah, famous last words Charlene!

This week we started work in the Nursing Lab.  Interesting to say the least, and if I am being completely honest it is also a little [or a lot] uncomfortable.  For Nursing Assessment we started the night doing a general survey of our lab partner, and then moved onto completing a head to toe skin assessment.  Lucky for me my partner Judy was/is way more comfortable in a sports bra and shorts [thanks to many years as a river raft guide] it is going to take a while for me to warm up to the idea of wearing less to class…I do think that from now on the majority of our lab work will allow us to remain completely clothed [a girl can dream right?]

We also had our first Saturday lab this weekend.  I was more than exhausted getting there [having just worked a 12 hours shift] but was excited that we got right to it! This weeks assignment: Contact lenses, hearing aids, quick release restraints, bed baths, foot and oral care.  We have an amazing professor who was/is kind enough to allow us to use her as a ‘prop’ [for lack of a better term] She started the morning by letting us remove her contact lenses.  As she only had two eyes [expected anatomy], two students were up to bat.  I opted out of this opportunity afraid that I might do more harm than good. In my experience exhaustion can lead to clumsiness.

After it was like Christmas, or a Birthday, we each got a rather large bag of lab items that we will be using over the course of the term.  I don’t think I have ever been so excited to see a Foley catheter or I.V. Start kit—Oh the life of a nursing student.  After taking a full inventory of our new toys we were let loose—split into pairs to take on the days tasks!

We have been told on a number of occasions that labs are the ‘great equalizers’  that we are all learning this stuff together…Which makes me wonder, why do I feel like I will never get the hang of these things?  I guess this was the first time that I really realized that having an ancillary job in the hospital means that I have significantly less knowledge than some of my classmates. I can think, talk, and understand things….actually completing tasks is a whole other ball game.  Charlene and I were partners, working together to complete the aforementioned tasks. Charlene was first up as the ‘patient’.  Right, so, I have to say I am terribly sorry for any discomfort I may have caused.  Giving an adult a bed bath, and trying to brush their teeth is a lot more difficult than one might think.  However I do have to say that I successfully removed a bed pan from underneath her [with warm water in it-just to get a ‘feel’ for what it will really be like] Please note, we were wearing shorts and sports bras for this activity.

Now, when it came time for us to change places, dear sweet Charlene was so kind as to introduce herself as Nurse Revenge. Yikes!  Luckily it was all in good fun [I think!] or at least I thought it was until it came time for her to try her hand and the bed-pan exercise…Dr. Szutenbach was busy helping another pair of students so Nurse Revenge decided that she would go ahead and add the warm water to the bedpan herself…with the disclaimer that it was ‘premeasured anyway’.  Yeah right!!  While Dr. Szutenbach was using the pitcher to pour a little water into each pairs bed pan, Nurse Revenge [thinking it was premeasured] poured the whole thing in! Ugh, have you ever had to sit in your own urine, not enjoyable [even if I was wearing shorts, and it wasn’t really urine].  After a little shock, and awe we had a good laugh about the whole thing.  I know it really was an accident, but it ultimately gave me a better understanding what it might be like to be a patient…a byproduct of us learning how to be nurses using each other as ‘patients’.

Judy and Nicole were in the ‘patient room’ next to us, and while you might want to remind yourself to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain it was to our benefit that they had the curtain open.  Charlene and I watched in awe as Nicole performed her bed bath and other assorted duties seamlessly.  She was a natural!  It was also amazing that she was willing to share tips and tricks that she has learned over the years working in labor and delivery.  While seeing someone who is so proficient makes me doubt my own abilities it also goes to show that, after time the things we are learning now will become second nature.  We be worrying about silly little things, instead-we will have the opportunity to spend the one on one time with our patients having genuine conversation.  I am more than ready for the day that I don’t feel like a fish out of water…unfortunately I think it is going to be a while!

It’s hard to know where to begin.  The task at hand is seemingly simple, which is probably why I am having such a hard time completing it.  It seems nearly impossible to find a way to sum up the last 8 weeks of school—with the first eight-week term behind us, and official grades on their way I am starting to get into the swing of things.  Instead of trying to remember each and everything that has happened over the course of the last two months I am going to make a list of some of the most important lessons that I have learned thus far. I figure this will be an easy way to recap, and catch everyone up to where we are now. After this entry, I predict my posts will be more reflective of current events and experiences. So here I go…the top 12 things I’ve learned so far. [In no particular  order]
  1. Reflection is key.  Good luck getting through the first term if you don’t know how to reflect on your past, present and future.  If you haven’t had a lot of experience doing so, buckle up…you’ll be asking yourself a lot of philosophical questions.
  2. The nauseas feeling you have in the pit of your stomach when you get into school is still there after orientation…it might be a good idea to keep some antacids on hand, because it seems to remain throughout the first couple of weeks.
  3. If and when you get an email telling you to go pick up your ATI book, be warned.  The ‘book’ is a case of ‘books’ if you’re not carful you might give yourself a hernia.
  4. You thought you were bad before? Get ready; you will be trying to diagnose everyone and everything around you!  And yes, I am fairly certain nurses make the worst patients.
  5. Never underestimate the power of laughter. During our final day of Roles, we presented group projects on nursing theorists.

    Florence Nightingale Doppleganger

  6.  Nervous?  Don’t worry, so is everyone else.  It is important to realize that while each of the 24 students in a cohort are unique; entering into the choice program automatically creates a bond between you.
  7.  ASK QUESTIONS!  This is the time, and the place!  One of the best parts about being in the CHOICE program is that you are in the company of 23 other students who work in the healthcare industry in some capacity.
  8. Speak up!  In our class there is a whole range of experience.  We each function in a unique capacity in our given setting.  We are transporters; translators, home-health providers, social workers, mental health counselors, unit secretaries, paramedics and nurse’s aids [just to name a few], and we all bring something to the table.  Soliciting the opinion and experience of classmates is an amazing part of being in this program.
  9. It would be easy for our program and cohort to be overlooked.   Lo, and behold, we are considered a valuable part of the Regis community, even though we are only on campus part time, and have classes in the evening.  I have to say; I feel more welcomed on this campus than I ever did the first time around in college.
  10. Ask a librarian.  In the midst of cramming for a pharmacology test, working fulltime, and attempting to maintain some semblance of your life before nursing school you will have to write papers. These papers will vary in length but will all require references.  Why spend hours on end searching databases in hopes that you might find one good journal article? The school, and Jesuit learning system as a whole has amazing resources for their students.  My advice [as an English major] use the help that is offered.   All you have to do is ask.
  11. Be open-minded.  Working in pediatrics has provided me with a fairly limited scope into the world of healthcare.  I was apprehensive about going into an assisted living facility and working with a population that I knew nothing about.  I am SO grateful that I went in with an open mind, and an open heart.  Each visit I made to my service learning site provided joy to residents, but also gave me a better understanding of what it means to be a part of the Jesuit tradition.
  12. Make sure you take time to give yourself kudos for getting this far.  It is easy to get caught up in the motions and forget just how amazing the opportunity to be a part of the Regis tradition really is.

CHOICE-BSN '11

 

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