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I remember nearly passing out while watching my first circumcision.
I remember my friend Anna accidentally stabbing herself with a needle the first time we practiced giving injections.
I remember the 95 year old woman that I worked with two weeks in a row that passed away before I arrived on the unit for my third week.
I remember cutting the umbilical cord of a newborn baby boy moments after he’d been born.
I remember the feelings of doubt I had after administering powerful opioid pain medication via a direct IV push into a patient’s vein.
I remember a lot from my two years of nursing school. I graduated with an Associate’s degree this past June and passed the NCLEX exam in July to earn my Registered Nursing license from the state of Washington. As time has passed and the dust settled from this experience, I have reflected on why I chose to do nursing school in the first place, and if those same reasons are the ones that were with me as I finished.
I chose to pursue nursing school during our post-Fisher Investments travel years. We had hiked the Appalachian Trail and ridden bicycles down the West coast. We had freedom, but we were struggling to find meaning and purpose in guiding our next decisions. As a result, we made a list of valuable life experiences that we were interested in. Learning a medical skill was high on my list. I had looked into jobs in healthcare previously only to be immediately turned off by all the high barriers to entry for employment. Whereas in finance, the hiring manager basically said, “You are a bright and driven guy, we’ll teach you what you need to know to be skilled in our field”, the healthcare world said that for each position there was a requisite amount of schooling that must be completed before even having a chance of getting started. With our current freedom, and our list of valuable experiences, I dove into nursing school.
I remember nearly turning around and driving home on my way to the hospital for my clinical rotation. The instructor felt that creating awkward, stressful situations would make us better nurses. It was an unpleasant experience and one I came to dread.
I remember talking with classmates after a lab exam with a class average that was nearly failing, trying to figure out why we were all in such a stressful situation.
I remember talking for a couple months about only finishing my LPN portion of the program because I was so frustrated with the experience.
Then, as I neared the latter part of my first year of school, I re-framed my perspective on why I was in nursing school. I wasn’t in school so I could become a nurse. I had learned quickly that while there are great things that I could do as a nurse, I wasn’t one of those people that felt that nursing was a life calling. I felt just as strongly about being a nurse as I did about a lot of different careers. Given that the end goal of becoming an RN was not motivation to get me through the program, I had to see things differently or get out.
I realized I was fortunate and lucky. Every day that I went to the labor delivery unit, to the psyche ward, to the OR, to the emergency department, to the medical floor at the hospital, or to the children’s clinic, I was seeing people, life, and the world in a new and unique way that most people rarely get to experience, through the lens of a student. I was privileged to be in these situations and I didn’t realize it because of how I had framed the experience. With the initial goal of becoming a nurse, followed by the realization that I wasn’t actually overly interested in becoming a nurse, I was consequently struggling to enjoy the experience. Once the experience of learning for the sake of learning took hold, my motivation was renewed. I was awarded scholarships for my second year. I smiled more, and I had more fun as I experienced everything that was available to me as a nursing student.
I look back on the experience of nursing school and I remember the 31 other students that went through the program with me.
I remember going for walks around campus with Kristin in between classes.
I remember going to Chipotle with Maile for lunch on our long days of lecture.
I remember the joy my clinical cohort had in learning that I had finally cleaned a poopy patient after a year and a half of never encountering feces – thanks Lactulose.
I remember dinners at our place with Anna and Kristin as we talked about nursing school and experiences, boring Julie to tears.
I remember the confidence I had in the hospital by the end of the program, knowing that I knew the basics of taking care of another human being, not only emotionally, but medically.
While a nursing career may not be in my future, I am deeply satisfied with my choice to learn about this part of the human experience. I saw people and the world in a new and valuable way. I saw people at their most vulnerable, and did my best to make them feel special and cared for. I made new friends.
I don’t have a definitive answer regarding what life is all about and what is the best way to use the time we have, but I feel good about how I’ve spent the past two years. I know myself better, I know how to help others in new ways, and I am more prepared for experiences to come as a result of my nursing education.
I hope I remember these experiences for a lifetime.