Monday, September 21, 2009

Nursing School, One Month In

Today I had my first test in nursing school, about a month after I started. I also had my first "clinical" last week-- an experience in a hospital, working with patients. Here are my observations and comments so far.

I have come to really like my teacher, Mrs. Murphy. Her enthusiasm for both nursing and teaching shows. She really appreciates the diversity of our class and the consequent range of experiences we are able to bring to our classroom discussions.

My classmates are an amazingly diverse-- and increasingly closeknit-- group. There's Raj, who is from India. He must be in his mid-thirties. Karen, who, like me, is a parent, is my "buddy"-- the person I've buddied up with to make sure that if one is absent, the other makes sure to get any handouts, etc. that were passed out and let the other person look over notes. Eric must be about 20-- he graduated from Lane Tech, the high school nearest my home. Jackie is a high-strung, but likeable former dancer who's married to a Chicago cop/reserve soldier. Cyd is the person closest to me in age, and in fact my daughter goes to school with her son. Nicole, who we've all been looking out for, helping as we can, started divorce proceedings a week before starting nursing school. One guy I've hit it off with is Bisrat, a friendly, supersmart guy from Eritrea (it's near Ethiopia).

There are people of every ethnicity and walk of life. We range in age from about 20 to nearly 50. For some, this will be a first career, others a second career, and for some of us, even, third careers.

Thursday afternoon, a group of ten of us began our "clinical" experiences. We all gathered in the lobby of Illinois Masonic Hospital to meet Mrs. Murphy. I chuckled, remembering the last time I'd been in that hospital, 21 years ago, after the stupidest thing I ever did. We went over some school material, signed a form that we understood that we needed to protect the privacy of patients and records that we worked with, and went upstairs to the geriatric ward.

We were shown around the ward and then were paired off with another student to start working with the electronic charts. I was paired off with Bisrat, and we spent about 45 minutes looking through our patient's chart. We tried out the various features-- there are incredible advantages over the old paper charts. For instance, while looking at a value for something like white blood count or blood sugar, we can check what the normal value would be. If a med is listed, we can click on it and look up a dossier on the drug-- what it's for, dosages, side effects, etc.

One of the things that both Bisrut and I started working on was the "big picture;" what do all of the things we're seeing add up to?

At the end of the day, we had a meeting. We were all exhausted, but had learned a ton.

I spent portions of Friday, Saturday and Sunday preparing for my first test. One of the things I'm enjoying about nursing is that it is not overly based on memorization (though there's some of that) but on knowledge of concepts. In short, we're learning how to think like nurses.

I could tell this morning that we all nervous. There would be 50 questions, and there was a month's worth of material for those 50 questions to come from.

One of the things I've learned after several rounds of college (this will be my fourth college degree) is that you learn about the teacher during that first test. I've been teaching my kids this. As we finished the test, one by one, we gathered in groups out in the hall, discussing the test. The consensus-- we had kicked ass on it. We had figured out what the important information was out of the ocean of information we'd received in the last four weeks. We discussed the merits of different answers: e.g. in order to reorient a confused older patient, do you post a calender of weekly activities or speak in clear, calm, short sentences? The order in which to bathe a client (head, arms, chest, etc.). What not to do for a diabetic client (trim nails-- it risks a cut, and diabetics typically have trouble healing. You file the nails instead).

We talked about the various answers that we'd gotten wrong or right, and realized that we'd all done pretty well. I began to realize that this group had walked into the classroom a month ago as a bunch of separate strangers. Today, we walked out into the hallway as an increasingly tightknit and confident group of friends, fellow students, and future colleagues. I walked out of the building with the feeling that I'd really made the right decision early this year when I applied to nursing school.

18 comments:

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

We're rooting for you Mr. Yen. Stayin school and make something of yourself this time around. ;o)

kirby said...

I worked with two amazing hospice nurses who showed me how to care for my mom while she was dying, but I think their job was really to take care of me. There isn't praise enough for someone that would enter the nursing profession. Nurses earn every penny they make, but deserve so much more. Good luck, Johnny Yen.

SkylersDad said...

I wish you continued good luck JY, keep at and best wishes.

Mnmom said...

Can't help thinking about the song "who threw the overalls in Mrs. Murphy's chowder". Ever heard it?

I echo Kirby - I've been lucky to come across some wonderful nurses. A few stinkers too, but by far they were all wonderful, and make such a difference in painful or unfortunate situations.

Coaster Punchman said...

I'll have to read more about your experiences. I think I need a new career and health care seems the way to go in San Diego.

LegalMist said...

I'm so glad to hear it's off to a good start!

It sounds like fun, even... I hope that holds for you. :)

Churlita said...

That's so great. They don't use paper charts anymore? That would probably take some getting used to for me. I guess it has been 9 years since I worked in the clinic.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I've learned more than I thought possible just from reading your post. You must just be soaking in the information. Well done, JY!

bubbles said...

Congratulations on getting through the first test and clinical! I've heard about the electronic record keeping, it is supposed to really cut down the error rate and decrease cost. I can not imagine the change management effort for people already in the profession, though. Interesting.

Erik Donald France said...

Amazing stuff. I couldn't never do that, though a brave friend did in the 80s. Congrats, man! And a smart move, to boot.

Distributorcap said...

you are terrific - this is not easy and i give you all the credit in the world - i am so roting for you

Powderhornhockey said...

You have a big piece of it, nursing is not just a job it as a process and a way of thinking. When I first started out I was told nursing was where compassion and knowledge met. Even though we have gone form paper to computers that hasn't changed. You may have some late nights ahead and some bumps, but you are going to be OK.

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