Monday, August 21, 2006

Why I love students and GNs, and why you should too.

This past week, I was at the fifty-seventh minute of the eleventh hour of my shift when a GN I hadn't met before approached me and introduced herself. Turns out she wasn't looking for me, but we had a nice chat anyhow.

I asked her if she was getting a thrill from signing "RN" rather than "GN" after her name, and something amazing happened. I don't think she realized it, but she stood up a little straighter, her face glowed, and she said, "Yes. I'm really proud."

Turns out Dad and Mom had both been working three jobs to put her through school. She did very, very well and passed the NCLEX first shot, and now got to sign "RN" after a name composed mostly of consonants. You bet she was proud. Her whole family is proud of her, and rightly so.

And *that* is why I love new RNs. It's not just that they keep me on my toes during preceptoring with questions I've never thought of. It's not that they're seemingly inexhaustable and willing to work hard, because everything is so fresh and interesting. It's not just that they come up with questions about procedures and policies that make me go, "Buh?" and realize that there's a better way to do things. It's that they are so damn *proud*.

They've worked very, very hard for two or three or four years, often while mastering English as a second language or relearning algebra that they'd gladly forgotten twenty years before. They've busted ass through difficult courses with instructors who were, at best, flaky and at worst, actively discouraging about nursing as a career. Some of them turned their backs on lucrative jobs doing something else in order to answer a calling they'd ignored for too long.

They have every right to be proud. And seeing a new nurse's face light up when you ask about the "RN" thing is marvelous. It reminds me why I do this.

Nursing students do everything that a GN does, but more so.

I remember coming on to the floor on the first day of clinicals my first semester. I was so frightened I thought I'd throw up, and seriously considered running away. As the semesters wore on, I got less nervous, but I got much, much more tired. I see that process now with students.

The nursing students we get are excellent. The one exception that I complained about bitterly last year was just that--an exception. The SNs ask questions about anatomy and physiology that require that you keep your chops up. They cheerfully volunteer for tasks that seasoned nurses hate, because it gives them experience. Inserting a rectal tube is a brand-new, shiny job when you're just starting out, after all.

And they're cheerful. On very little sleep. I had classes Monday through Wednesday, starting at seven in the morning and going until three in the afternoon, after which I would spend at least a couple of hours in the lab or the library. Thursday and Friday, clinicals started at 6 am and often didn't end until after 4 pm.

The students I work with have schedules at least as harrowing, and some of them drive two hours or more to our hospital, but you never hear complaints. Maybe a wan smile or two, or somebody might crash and burn for a day or so toward the end of the semester, and have to be revived with coffee and chocolate, but they show up smiling, work their butts off, learn new stuff every day, and graduate.

What with the shortage of nursing instructors and the lack of places in programs, you have to be exceedingly bright to even get into a nursing school. Where I am, two-year programs produce most of the bedside nurses, and the entrance exams are very, very tough. The programs are competative--perhaps thirty people will finish from a starting group of over a hundred and fifty. The women and men who graduate with an associate's degree should be proud of themselves.

And I'm proud to work with them, both as students and as new graduates. I hope I'm as good to them and for them as they have been for me.

Thanks, guys. I'll see you next semester.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Jo. I'll be starting nursing school soon and this was very encouraging.

RN Moxie said...

Thanks for putting into words everything I'm doing - sometimes it's so hard to explain to people.

This is hands down the hardest thing I've ever done in my life and it's good to hear what you're saying and that there are still nurses out there who feel the way you do.

PaedsRN said...

I love students too. I used to write the "RN" in ridiculously huge letters after my name for about two months following graduation.

What's a GN, as distinct from RN or student?

Jo said...

PaedsRN, a GN is a Graduate Nurse. It's a stateside term for a nurse who's finished training but who's not yet passed our competency exam.

overactive-imagination said...

I sure hope I get a preceptor with as great of an attitude as yours.

Your words were very sweet. Thank you...espeially since I have read some nursing blogs with nurses complaining about the SN's questions.

I already know that I will be one of those SN's that ask numeous quetions.

shrimplate said...

My last semester of nursing school I was still working full time as a nurse-aide/unit-secretary/monitor tech in a general ICU.

They let me come in an hour early at 0600 on my school clinical days so I could leave at 1400 and drive to my 8-hour evening clinical at another hospital, finishing up at 2300.

This was every Thursday and Friday. Friday night clinicals. Even the instructors hated those.

I continued my running and ran a slow but comfortable (3:30) Boston Marathon.

I have no idea how I managed to get it all in.

The instructors took great pride in the number of their nursing graduates who passed the boards on the first try, and they deliberately weeded out people who would have probably been just fine if they were helped along a little, but were suspected of testing poorly.

Each semester started out with about 180 students but ended up with half that. All the rest dropped out or got the hatchet.

PaedsRN said...

Aha! Thanks Jo.

AMorris said...

As a motorcyclist, I've found nurses to be a wonderful lot. Of course there's always that cranky old bat that worked on John Adam's presidential campaign and won't loosen those cotton wraps under the ace bandages, but they are a tiny minority. I've had some very competent and funny nurses in my many visits to white-coat land and I appreciate them all.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. My first week back at nursing school is coming to a close, and your appreciation and pride is so wonderful to see. It definitely makes the SNs feel a lot better. A little (compliment) goes a long way.

Unknown said...

I'm a student about to start my preceptorship--I sure hope I make her/him just as proud! It's so valuable to us to have nurses who are approchable, understanding, knowledgable, and willing to help. Thanks for appreciating the students!