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Guitar Hero logo

I’ve been reviewing and reviewing and reviewing for the NCLEX. I finally took it. Now I’m wadding and unwadding my panties waiting for the results.

Then I see this video, and I realize I’ve spent my life in vain. Oh, I’ve tried to play the guitar. I’ve mastered about 10 chords. And when I say “mastered” I mean I can play them but not really move between them very quickly. And I know exactly three (that’s “3”, not “300”) strum patterns.

But even those astonishing skills pale in comparison to this guy. I really really wish I could play like that. Just amazing.

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Zombie Food Pyramid

Zombies might have it right.

I’ve been wondering about my normal diet. I’ve been active for most of my life. I’m now 42, and things are not as springy as they used to be. I don’t have the occasion to run on the playground during lunch. I don’t ride my bike to my pal’s house after school. I don’t have water polo practice after dinner.

The last couple of years have added almost 15 pounds to my frame. All that time studying and reading and being in the lab and not getting exercise is catching up with me.

But when I decide I should eat better, I find out that “better” is very much an opinion. Low fat diets are suggested by everyone from the US government to my Nutrition instructor. But you have a look at what Gary Taubes has to say and you start to wonder. What if we got it wrong? Then you hear Michael Pollan on NPR (is that another sign of age or what?) who also has different ideas about what it means to eat well.

Maybe if I just ate their brains, I could figure it out.

I’m now 3 weeks away from taking the NCLEX.

In the meantime, there are many things keeping my attention in addition to studying. I’ve just had to clean out a bunch of old papers, and tripped over a little thing I wrote in my first nursing class ever, way back in 2003. The class was at the local community college, and was required prior to taking any hard-science prerequisites. The assignment was simply to write about our then-current perception of nurses, since we were embarking on becoming one.

I find it interesting to read, and include the text:

When I think of a nurse, the images that come to me are not necessarily flattering ones. I picture an overweight rumpled female, brusque and distracted, with comfortable shoes and a loud shirt in a colorful pattern that for some reason pleases her to inflict on others. Along with this physical presence is an attitude of superiority, coupled with a lack of patience for those not endowed with her vast knowledge and wisdom. Not to worry, because said nurse will impart that knowledge ceaselessly, not minding the thousand-yard stares that people assume after lengthy monologues have passed the point of interest or intelligibility.

Those are my initial thoughts on what a nurse is, but they’re not the only ones. I also remember the great nurse who cared for me when I was in the hospital during college. I had gone through major abdominal surgery, and she was there helping me walk, helping me make the stupid balls go to the top of the hellish breathing therapy machine, helping my family through the whole thing, and generally speeding my recovery. And she was petite, skinny, and very attentive.

I also remember the guy, Rob was his name I believe, who was in my Psychology class during that same time. He was a nurse, or what was then called a “male nurse”, and visited me during my stay at the hospital. He must have been over six feet tall, built large but not overweight, and nice enough to drop by and visit a fellow student on his break.

I suppose my primary thoughts may also be uncomplimentary because of the ill-press nurses seem to have been tagged with in the media I’ve grown up with. There was Nurse Ratchet in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, Nurse Diesel in “High Anxiety”, Annie Wilkes in “Misery”, and I’m sure a host of others hiding quietly with the lights out in the place where my mind keeps nursing stuff. There they sit with the lights out, whispering to my subconscious.

The favorable view of nurses has undergone more bashing since I have both and RN and an LVN in the family. Both are women that tend to be argumentative as well as opinionated. They suffer greatly under the care of any other healthcare workers, yet claim to be exceptional in their own field. Neither hesitates to share their superior knowledge with others in their field, welcomed or no. They can go on at length on any given topic, sharing expert insights into things they have no knowledge of. That lack never seems to phase them, nordeter their one-waydialoges. Their personalities are very similar in many respects, and yet these women have never met.

The question begging to be asked at this point is “Why then would you even consider a career in nursing?” And I have to answer with a “I’m not sure at this point.”

I do know I feel a genuine desire to help people in medical need. I’ve had an abiding interest int he medical field for as long as I can remember. I have the temperament to remain calm in the face of crisis, a very good memory, and am not disturbed by blood or physical trauma. But these things alone won’t decide if I’m a good candidate for becoming a nurse. There are personality traits that will largely determine my suitability for that role. Perhaps I have the very traits I see in my family members and am blissfully unaware of my affect on other people. Maybe I’m lacking them, and they are the deciding factors in my success as a nurse.

And so I’m investigating the career (or profession, if you prefer), and doing some touring of the Nurse’s ward in my mind, looking for clues about my future and how it might be spent in squeaky white shoes. Take two classes and call me in the morning.

An interesting look back at my thoughts and hesitations at the time. I’m glad I went ahead and continued. I enjoy nursing and the majority of the people I work and interact with. I wonder what I might write now given the same topic….

TossingĀ caps

Cue the music. Cue the crying relatives. Cue the hasty waves from the stage.

I’m officially done and waiting for the date of my NCLEX exam to be set.

It’s been very hectic, and I’ve been a bad poster, but what can you do? (Stop with the mailbombs already!)

I’ve a ton of blogs to catch up on, and I’m hoping my time will open up soon. Working on getting my resume done and in to Big Ol Hospital and get a job offer is top of the list right now….

I received an email tonight from someone either starting or possibly applying to my school nursing program. She got my contact info from one of the faculty there (with my permission).

Her email was (slightly edited):

Hi Markie,

I got your email address from XXXXXXXXX. I’m a prospective nursing student and looking for someone who can share their experience with the program while also managing family life. I have a nine month old son and am trying to get a feel for how one balances motherhood with class, studying, internships, etc (I know it’s a relatively short, but intense program!). Unlike working full time, I know being a student is not a 9-5 job. I’d love to hear any insight you are willing to share. Some thoughts running through my mind…

– What’s a typical day like?
– How much evening time is spent in class or internship?
– Do weekends end up being spent 100% in the library / lab?
– What is the most appropriate childcare option given that we’ll want to keep costs to a minimum while I don’t have a salary?

Thanks so much for your time!

Best Regards,
Possible Student

I wrote back to her, and said:

Possible Student,

Thanks for dropping me a line. If by “prospective” you mean “just starting”, then congratulations on getting in.

I have many opinions about the program, but will try to limit them to the topics you’ve asked about. šŸ˜‰

To give you some background, I have a BA in commercial photography, over a decade in software development, a wife, two daughters, and an hour commute to campus. First off, I don’t think you can safely apply the word “balance” to nursing school. I haven’t gone anywhere else, and I hear it’s tough anywhere, but I suspect the intensity of the 18 month program is above and beyond whatever the norm is.

I half-seriously joke that my wife has been a single mom during the last year and a half. The program will literally take any spare moment you can possibly devote to it. There are always chapters to read, papers to write, projects to work on, quizzes to study for, postings to make, skills to practice, study groups to attend, etc etc. I was a smart slacker prior to this program. I could coast with A’s and B’s without a lot of effort. This program has kicked the spit out of me. I’ve worked harder and more than just about any other time in my life. Continuously. I learned to let go and settle for a B in order to keep myself and my family sane. You simply will not be able to compete with the available time that the unmarried students can throw at the curriculum. Balance is not an option, but success is.

On the other side of the coin, if you really want to get into nursing, and have that desire to help people in some way or another, this program will get you there. The fact that you have a spouse and a child will be to a great advantage. You have emotional ties and commitments that are simply not teachable or able to be conceptualized by people that haven’t experienced them. You’ll bring that to your practice, and your patients will very much appreciate it. It will make you a better nurse.

How you can go about doing it with the family is an individual gambit. You will absolutely need a supportive and understanding partner. A network of friends and family that you can pledge your service to once an RN to lure them in is invaluable.

-Typical day
You cannot expect to actually accomplish much in the way of studying while caring for your son at the same time. The days in the first semester are very long, with a minimum of a couple of hours of difficult reading each day. Not hard to understand so much as hard to absorb. Yes, you know it, but can you repeat it or explain it to someone else? Can you answer questions about the subject matter if quizzed? Knowing the material is different from being able to recognize it (that was a hard lesson for me).

– How much evening time is spent in class or internship?
The classes for us ran into the later evening, 8 or 9 pm. This will vary depending on the instructor and the schedule you get. It will also fluctuate as you move through the program, and do things like go to workshops outside of class and clinicals at a hospital or other site. For instance, you’ll take a parenting class during Pediatrics or Labor & Delivery. That you’ll schedule yourself, and could be at night or on a weekend. Classes themselves are long. As in 3 or 4 hours. You may have 2 or 3 of those in a day. Sleep time will become a rare thrill (remember the first few weeks of your son’s life?).

– Weekends
They can be spent studying, or spent studying. You might be in a study group, or do better on your own. At least part of every day will be studying in one form or another. There’s just no way around it if you expect to pass the courses. A ‘C’ grade in a class will get you on probation. Do it again, and you’re out of the program. The only option is to get a ‘B’ or better. There is simply too much material to cover NOT to study.

– Childcare
The best thing is family and friends. Expect to feel like a selfish pig through the program. You can’t spend the time to cook extravagant meals to say thank you. You won’t have the money to buy presents or take people out to dinner as thanks. You’ll have to promise to answer their questions for the rest of your natural life in exchange for babysitting in all likelihood. Abusing family like that is difficult, and even harder on friends. But it can be done, and it’s only 18 months.

I may be painting a bleak picture, but I want to communicate that it’s not an easy road. The cost of doing this is high. But the rewards are great. You don’t get to change or save someone’s life routinely in a lot of different professions. This will be a strain on your relationships, do not doubt that. But we had two marriages and no divorces in our class. I’ve been blessed with my wife and daughters supporting me throughout the program. Your son will forgive you, and won’t even remember this period.

Sorry to drag on so long about this, as you can see I’m pretty passionate about the whole thing. Please feel free to reply or you can call me on my cell if you’d like to talk XXXXXXXXX

I’m very curious to see if she goes ahead with it or not.

The End

Okay, I like “nigh” better than “near”. So shoot me.

Less than two months to go in school.

I start my final rotation in two weeks. This is the equivalent of a BSN “capstone” their final year. Since our program is only 18 months, our final bit is called the “internship”, and lasts seven weeks.

By mid-December I’ll be done with everything for my RN. I’ll have the option to complete additional hours and sit for an additional certification (which I plan on doing), and then I’m released to take the NCLEX.

In the meantime, I’m finishing papers, taking quizzes, completing projects, giving presentations, attending classes, going to clinicals in Psych/Community, and taking finals. None of these things should be too difficult, but if I forget or mess up to any appreciable degree I can mess up my chances of getting out free and clear.

So often in nursing school there seems to be this huge boulder over our heads, ready to smack us down if we do the little-est misstep. I know NNR has been feeling similarly. (I feel you!)

On a happier note, stop by Kim’s place for the latest Change of Shift! I’ve been too distracted to even read more than a couple posts in the last two offerings, but get thyself over before the wrath of Dog descends upon you.

New Change of Shift logo

The AmericanĀ President

As Michael Douglas said in The American President, “My fear exists on several levels”.

I find this to be true for me as I approach graduation. I’ve done fine in school. I’m not the best student in our group, but I’m a strong “B”, verging on “A”. Considering the constant pressure of texts to read, internet group postings, papers to write, drugs to study, videos to watch, skills to practice, articles to review, quizzes to study for, exams to study for, practice tests to take, and all the rest of the stuff that comes along with being in school, I’ve never had to deal with so much happening at once. Even working in software with multiple timelines at once I didn’t have so many things to track simultaneously.

And then there’s the big HESI (comprehensive test which is an indicator for ability to pass the NCLEX). This Friday I take the Big One. It has all the content that they can fit in. Geriatrics, Pediatrics, medication calculations, anatomy, drug interactions, Mental Health, Community Health, Med/Surg, nutrition, lab values…. If I don’t pass I’ll have two more opportunities to try. Third strike and you’re out. Out of the program.

So long and thanks for all the fish. Been nice knowing you. See yah, wouldn’t wanna be ya. Elvis has left the building ** cue “God Theme, intro to 2001 a Space Odyssey” **.

And even if/when I get past that test and graduate, there’s the NCLEX looming out there. Sure, just another test. Except that it’s the barrier to my new career. After a year and a half of pre-requisite classes. A year and a half waiting to be accepted into a program. A year and a half of nursing school.

And as flattering as it is to have a job offer at this point, if I don’t pass, that could disappear because of it. Let’s face it, if they can pick and choose, they’ll pick and choose someone who passes their boards on the first attempt.

As much as people say “don’t worry, you’ll do fine”, it doesn’t help. Great, just one more person that thinks I’ll have no problem passing.

If I pass, it’s as expected. If I fail, people expected me to pass.

My fear still exists.

This latest rotation of Mental/Community Health is apparently preying on my mind. I walked into a patient’s room in the hospital, and saw a familiar pink character on the TV screen as I walked by.

Energizer Bunny

When I looked over a few seconds later while talking to the patient, there was some other character about to do something vile with Lithium to the bunny. I’m thinking to myself “Have they decided the bunny is manic, and they’re trying to level him out?”

It turns out there are batteries named Lithium.

Energizer Lithium batteries

Duh. I guess I don’t watch enough TV.

New Change of Shift logo

The latest Change Of Shift is up at Someday Nurse

I missed making a submission this time, but drag your backpack and lunchbox over and have a read.

Competent nurse

I read this article as part of a reading assignment, and thought it was a great breakdown of why nurses are important, and what we do to contribute to a patient’s wellbeing. It’s short, but very good at giving some perspective on what nurses actually do for patients. You can find it here.

I’m going to assume that the nurse in the letter is not the guy pictured above.

Does anyone else have problems explaining exactly what makes a nurse important? Does your support system think the breadth of your job is giving shots and pills? Fluffing a pillow? Wiping a dirty ass butt patient?

Next time you’re explaining, it might help to point out some things:

Doctors treat conditions for the most part, not the patient. You see a doctor for an ache, a pain, a disease. Said MD will talk to you to find out what’s going on, then prescribe medicine or a procedure to address the ache/pain/disease. Then doc leaves. In comes the nurse, to teach about and administer the medication, teach about the ache/pain/disease, prepare you for treatment or perform the needed procedure. Your next visit from the doc may be far away, but the nurse will be around.

Seems like the perception of nursing is still behind the times. I guess it’s not surprising since all the docs on TV do nursing stuff and have so much time to spend with the patients. The nurses in the background are relegated to unwanted tasks and nasty stuff the other “professionals” don’t want to do. If Joe and Jane Public see docs acting that way on TV, that’s what they’re going to expect.