Thursday, July 27, 2006

professional milestones or how I became a nurse, part one

Science Woman's post and subsequent query about professional milestones has decided the topic of today's blog. That long road to "RN" and what has happened since.

The reason I originally wanted to become a nurse was actually pretty convoluted. As you recall, as a child I wanted to be African missionary Mary Baker. In high school I became enamored with India. At the time anyway, India was closed to American missionaries. Two ways around that were to be an English teacher or a medical worker. So I chose nursing, having no idea what that would entail.

I enrolled in aforementioned Bob Jones University as a nursing major. The first year they throw the hard stuff at you: Chemistry, Bio-chem, Anatomy and Physiology. Okay, I know some people reading here are thinking that isn't hard.

For me, just being at college was hard. I never took class notes one time in high school. I often skipped out on homework and required reading and was one of those "bad" students who only studied for tests on the bus on the way to school.

I was used to about ten hours of sleep and was getting less than eight. In addition, I had some mysterious stomach ailment that caused me to wake up nauseous every morning. (No, I wasn't pregnant. I didn't even know what sex was.) I would sleep through Biology first hour, go to the bathroom and throw up, sit through Chemistry second hour in the same lecture hall where the prof pointed me out in class and wondered when I would start taking notes. By virtue of going to summer school, I managed to pass all those classes.

The second year, we started clinical. I must have blocked this experience. At BJU, the RN students wear navy blue polyester dresses covered by a white pinafore, and an old-fashioned white cap. The girls who were really studious did their homework after required bedtime using a flashlight.

Halfway through second semester, we started labor and delivery. I really loved this rotation, but it's also the part where I failed. I was watching the fetal monitor on my patient, noticed the decelerations (danger!), but remembered that we had been told that can be a result of artifact from the machine and said nothing. The nurse was at the bedside in moments and the woman was rushed for an emergency c-section. I had to stand in front of a remediation board of about 10 people including the director. My punishment was being babysat by my nursing instructor. One of the few nice ones.

The babysitting went okay until one day when my nursing instructor was "helping" me teach a new mother to breastfeed. The infant wouldn't latch and it wasn't going well. My attention strayed to what the new father was watching on television and we made a few comments to each other. Believe it or not, this turned into another remediation for watching television instead of helping the patient. The verdict was that I could complete the semester, but I was unlikely to pass.

After much soul searching, I decided to change my major to Christian Missions, which is a harmless liberal arts degree with a fair amount of religion thrown in. Up to that point in my life, that was the hardest decision I had ever made, only complicated by family and friends who encouraged me that I could finish nursing if I trusted God. I completed the degree, getting a BA in four and a half years and taught school for a few years at a small church school in Utah, not giving much thought to nursing in the intervening years.

Although I enjoyed my two years molding young minds, I knew that it was not where I was meant to be. I resigned after my second year and moved back to Pennsylvania, where I moved in with my brother in his bachelor pad and got a job at an airport car rental.

It didn't take much of that to motivate me, and I started thinking about nursing again. I submitted my application to Penn State University, their branch campus was the closest nursing program, and waited. I was as surprised as anyone to be accepted. This turned out to be an excellent program. It had recently been started from a local hospital's diploma program and the instructors were trying to fit what they used to teach in three years into the new two year associate's degree program.

(continued later.)

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