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The Making and Life of a Registered Nurse in the Era of COVID-19: Chapter Four–My Nursing School Years

Like her, I aced the entrance exam and was admitted to the nursing program where I was to start in the fall. They accepted all my credits from not only my bachelors degree but my associates degree as well. The only class that was not transferable was my anatomy and physiology (A&P) class. When I took it over ten years ago, it was a single semester class, now it was a two semester class. So I knocked out those two classes in the summer before I started the fall session. Thanks to my extensive medical background not only were the two A&P classes a breeze, so was my nursing degree. The only speed bump in the road was due to my health and not my grades. Over the 12 or so years that transpired, I had kept my mind active with a lot of varied reading. My years as a customer service manager also came into play. As a result of my work experience, I was much more comfortable and confident in patient and family interactions. I have never regretted my choice in becoming a nurse. It was the right career choice at the right time in my life. During the first year, I was able to keep my management job which required me to work 45 hours a week. They worked with me at the store and because Tuesday and Friday were short days at school with just morning labs, I worked those two nights and I worked Saturday and Sunday as well. Try working 45 hours in 3 and a half days. I worked a shorter day on Sunday so I would have time to do any school projects or papers. I did OK for the first year but my health was becoming an issue, and I was catching everything that came by me.

By the second year, I was actually missing clinical time. I did not know that it was going to be a problem until they broke the news to me at the end of the semester that I would not be able to move on to my final portion because I had missed too much clinical time and did not meet my requirements. I was pissed because this meant that I had to repeat not only all the clinical assignments and papers but it also meant that i had to take the class over again as well. Especially when I had gotten an “A” in the class work. I thought this was unfair and I considered looking into another school but unfortunately, the program was not compatible and would basically have meant that I would have to start from scratch. Oh, the hell to the no!! So I swallowed my pride and repeated the semester. I also gave my boss an ultimatum and he quickly found a replacement for me and I was able to switch to part time. I eventually gave my notice and picked up a job as a telemetry technician at my wife’s hospital. I had to take a two-week course and I was hired without an interview after I passed their test.

The last two semesters went off without a hitch and my job as a telemetry technician was one of the best decisions that I have ever made in regards to a job or career. It gave me a firm grasp on reading EKGs and rhythm strips, something that I use every day as an ICU nurse. I found this year to be extremely beneficial for it gave me a distinct advantage over all of my new fellow nurses as well. Thanks to my having already a job working as tele tech, my new boss opted to hire me without an interview. So as soon as I graduated from the nursing program, I was hired to the same floor my wife was working on. By this time, she was now a charge nurse, so we were not able to work on the same nights. So after all that hard work, we were right back where we started from, albeit, I had a better paying job now.

I want to backtrack a little and discuss my health. Because I was getting very little sleep and working so much, my immune system was taking quite a hit. I ended up getting sick several times and I had to go to the emergency room on two separate occasions. The illness that caused me to miss so much clinical time was a bad case of oral thrush. I basically could not eat anything but Jell-o for two weeks. Because I was contagious or so they said, I was not able to go to my clinicals. Was this an effort to get more money out of me, who knows, considering the number of applicants had taken a hit in the last few years? It does make one wonder.

My advice to all nursing students, if you are working full time, try switching to part time work if possible, or find a program that offers more scheduling flexibility. The only way I got through the program was that I had a really good science and medical background, and I also had a really good memory. I would get up early on the day of the test so I could read through my notes once. If it was a very hard subject I would read through them a second time. That was it. Another piece of advice, try to lose some weight before you enter the program because you will gain weight while you are going through it. I found that the biggest waste of time were the care plans, and care maps, and all of the projects that we had to do. I know why we had to do them but they have little or no bearing on nursing today because they are pre-made or computer-generated now. If you factor all the time I spent doing these projects and papers, it easily amounted to over half my time in the program. It seemed like they enjoyed scaring the hell out of you with all their damn skills, like washing your hands. I think this stress is applied unnecessarily.

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