I love the nursing profession. But the educational journey can be extremely painful and difficult. I believe that nursing school is very cruel and unusual punishment. I speak from experience because I am a survivor.
The road to becoming a nurse is not easy. It is rough with many turns, bumps, traffic jams, hills, stoplights and potholes. There is no GPS that will tell you shortcuts, there is no key on a road map that will give you hints and guidance, and there are no cautions or warning signs along the roadside.
Difficult, challenging, hard, troublesome and complicated are all words that usually don’t bring a smile to a person’s face, but these words describe nursing school to a “t.” Every single day of nursing school carried many challenges and adventures for me. I was constantly tested and tormented with the huge amount of information I was expected to absorb each day and night. I never lost sight of my nursing dream during the horrific time period of education. I kept my joy, passion and desire alive.
Everyone who has attended one day of nursing school knows exactly what I am speaking of. Attending nursing school can be compared to falling off the side of the earth for a few years. There is nothing like it. It stands alone. It cannot be compared with anything else. It is in its own league.
As I look back on this nightmare of my past, I see it as a period where a lot of growth occurred for me. I am sure that many people can recall a time in their life where they felt a little different afterward, a little older, a little more prepared for the world and a little “taller.” As I sat in that huge classroom with 80 others, I knew that I was achieving what I was meant to achieve. What I didn’t know was the torture and anguish it would bring me on a day-to-day basis until my goal was met.
The first day, the first class, the first speaker and my first pencil are all fuzzy and dream-like in my memories because I was in a state of shock. I was frightful, scared, nervous and nauseous, to say the least. I sat and stared at the front of the room with determination, purpose and extreme concentration – so much concentration that I can’t even tell you what the speaker said. I guess it wasn’t extremely important. I’m sure it was something to the effect of, “These next few years will be hard, brutal and intense. On some mornings it will be hard to pull yourself out of bed. On some nights it will be hard to study for your upcoming test, read the recommended reading, practice clinical skills and all the other mumbo-jumbo we expect you do. But there will be no excuses. We are here for you. And we expect you to be here for yourselves.” Most of the speeches by the professors involved those points.
I felt like they were trying to put the fear of God into us. And they did. They succeeded very well. They scared us so much that we felt like quitting before we even started. We were made to feel like we were doomed to fail and that passing was unimaginable.
I became brainwashed into thinking that nursing school was hard and difficult, which meant that my nursing license that I yearned for was unattainable and beyond my reach. This way of thinking caused me severe emotional pain. My dreams were crushed and my goals were erased from my thoughts before I even opened one of my 30-pound nursing textbooks.
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I was young, and I was fresh out of high school, very innocent and scared of anything that involved change. But I learned fast and rolled with the change quickly, because if you didn’t you weren’t going to make it far. I learned that change and difficulty were words I had to get used to. These words I did not consider “nice” words, but they were words I had to deal with and learn how to cope with.
I can remember when my life consisted of huddling in the corner of the library with a stack of 10-pound books and a week’s worth of scribbled notes. This was my life for a few years as I conquered nursing school. I thought I would never make it. I thought I would never survive. But I did. I now have the initials “RN” behind my name, which I proudly earned.
I endured nursing school, but it took my strong willpower, my strict self-discipline and my intense focus on my chosen goal to survive and accomplish the task. Nursing school was not and is not “easy.” But the reason for that is very simple. To obtain the title of a nurse should not be a simple step. It should be complex, and it should be painful.
Before entering nursing school I dreamed of being a nurse; yet, I never looked beyond the point of touching lives and being significant in the lives of others. I was never fully informed of what came with the title. No one clued me in or explained the true concept of the simple word “nurse.” Nurses treat, care and nurture. All these things cannot be taught from a book. But these things have to be experienced and learned through the aspect of nursing school.
It was challenging, it was difficult, and it was easier said than done. But it was also worth it.
Elizabeth Mills survived nursing school at Gardner-Webb University and is now an RN at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.source