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.