I got to thinking today about what five things I could tell nursing students that would make them feel better--or at least a little less bad--about clinical rotations and classes. Here, then, with a special shout out to my fellow Texan Rob, currently kickin' ass and diggin' shallow graves (see his blog in the listing to the right!), is my list of Five Things You Must Know About Nursing School:
1. Nobody Wants You To Fail. They Just Want You Not To Be Stupid.
Even the toughest professor I had (Pediatrics, booyah!) would forgive stupidity if it was followed by a fast "Oh, duh, I wasn't thinking." Trust me. I had plenty of those moments and still graduated. The professors who seem most intent on weeding out students are those who are also excited and stimulated by people who want to be challenged.
2. The Nurses You're Paired With During Rotations Don't Hate You; They're Just Nurses.
We say things once and expect you to get them. We want you to conform your schedule to ours; after all, you're usually leaving halfway through the shift, and we're there all day. We double- and triple-check everything that you do not just because you're newbies, but because we care about you not learning something wrong. But we (well, most of us; there are some toxic weirdos out there) really like nursing students. We want you to do well, and we like teaching.
3. That Said, Someday You Will Be Just Like Us.
I used to swear that I would never be the brash, outspoken, cynical, irreverent, bitter person that I saw over and over and over during rotations. I'm not as bitter as a lot of those nurses, but everything else, I am. I have become incredibly tough-minded and efficient, with a short-term and mid-term memory that would put most Mensa members to shame. You will be that person, too--it's part of becoming a nurse. Just make sure the bitterness comes last in the list rather than first and you'll do fine.
4. Doctors Don't Hate You Either; They're Just Busy.
Learn to say it in the fewest words possible. Never apologize for paging someone, or forget to thank them for returning your call. Have the chart with you before they call back. If you must interrupt rounds, be sure it's for something major, like the patient's stopped breathing and you can't intubate them. Doctors like efficiency, and they love nurses who are one step ahead of them.
If these skills don't come immediately, don't fret. They take practice.
5. Eventually, This Will Be Over.
Everybody has a breakdown in nursing school, and everybody has a crisis when they're a new nurse. It's okay. You're riding the steepest learning curve known to man. In time, it'll smooth out and you'll feel finally like you're swimming with the current rather than fighting to stay afloat.
In the meantime: sharp pencils, extra pens, and notecards never hurt anybody. And have some fun learning this stuff, okay? It's actually really, really cool to be a nurse.