Nursing school is hard. You hear that it is hard before you enter, but you have no idea of the magnitude of the difficulty until you are in it. Tomorrow, I start my second year of the ADN RN program at my local community college. I can’t quite believe that the craziness all starts again. I’ll admit I don’t feel ready for it. Summer wasn’t what I hoped it would be, with my own hand surgery in July and with now the added complication of my elderly mother being in the hospital with pneumonia and heart failure.
The only consolation in looking at the hard work ahead–both personally and scholastically–is that I will be toiling with an amazing group of people, my cohort, the Class of 2016. While I knew some of them at the start of last school year (we all have to take the same pre-requisites, though some take them at different campuses), we got to really know and depend on each other during the course of the last school year. We truly did band together, making and sharing study guides and offering encouragement, support, and laughter via Facebook as well as at school and in the hospitals. Even when the strongest of us faltered, the others were right there and “had their back” with such kindness and compassion; I can truly say it would be an honor for any of my cohort to be my or my family’s nurse down the road. I hope the new first years form such bonds and come to rely on each other.
Unfortunately, though, nursing school is so hard that not everyone makes it through. Each of our cohort made it through the first term, though some did struggle with lab/practical skill testing and dosage calculation. (Yes, you can be dropped from the program for lapses in those areas.) Winter term, while bringing us four new faces in the LPNs who were bridging into our program, brought the first painful cuts to our cohort. Winter and Spring terms are especially hard and more like a marathon than a sprint. You not only have two clinical days where you have to be at the hospital at 0545 (meaning I was up at 0345 when I had to go the hospital 30 miles away) after having spent the previous day writing 2 papers and doing other clinical paperwork, but you have 3 “classroom” classes…nursing, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. I found pharmacology relatively easy and straightforward, thanks to an amazing textbook (thanks, Lehne!) and a wonderful lead instructor (thanks, PN!). Patho was difficult due to an incredibly dense text and a struggling freshman instructor. (The text was so bad, I actually wondered what further schooling I would need to be able to write a patho textbook myself!) Nursing, as a class, is hard because it seeks to get you to develop critical/clinical thinking, and that is not an easy task for a first year student. Test questions are often obtuse; there is usually more than one “right” answer…you have to pick the most right! While I maintained my 4.0 throughout the first year, it was a nailbiter in NRS each term. I think only one other person managed to get all A’s in the first year; we did start out with a solid group of people who never had gotten a B in their lives. One very smart young man, by the end of the year, was just hoping to pass. Yes, it IS that hard.
Shock reverberated through our small cohort when 4 people did not survive Winter term due to grades. Two failed nursing; two failed patho. It was a blow that was hard to recover from, to lose any of our number; the first weeks of Spring term felt subdued as we felt the palpable losses. I personally tried to help two of the students, going over to their homes for marathon study sessions. One was a very dear friend who had incredible faith in me and encouraged me with such conviction, and her kind smiles every morning meant the world to me. Our final term of the year found us shy one other member of the cohort. While I hadn’t known him at all before nursing school, we became friends, and I enjoyed our conversations before class and at breaks. I would PM him late at night to both encourage his study and to get some rest. (We are both night owls.)
So, before I start my next, final year before becoming an RN, a shout-out to my friends who will be very missed:
LisaW — A kind and gentle soul whom the world needs as a nurse. I was amazed to watch you in action on Teen Night; your compassion and way of being with others are natural to you. I hope you decide to try again. You are one of the best of us!
AshleyT — I didn’t get to know you well, but I didn’t want to lose one of our new LPNs so soon!
AlonzoS — The life of the party to be sure! A big guy with an even bigger heart. I hope the world treats you well, my friend, for it is a better place with you in it.
LauraM — Smart and beautiful with a fiery spirit, an amazing combination. She was the ringleader of extracurricular activities, the instigator of “Friday Fellowship” (setting up places and times for get-togethers after class…at local restaurants and bars [yup, you can tell the nursing students as ones who are drinking at 1100!). No one organized things like you, Miss Laura! Friday get-togethers were never the same!
DavidJ — A newfound friend whom I hope will be a friend for a long time. An all-around decent guy (as all our future male nurses are) whom I always enjoyed chatting or PMing with. I will still give you a rematch at air hockey…though pinball and air hockey are my thing!