On Sunday, I took a couple of my textbooks, my notes and my little Powerbook and headed to a local cafe. I ordered up a big cup of house blend and plowed through several chapters. In addition to a couple of chapters on pharmacology, I had to read a chapter on sleep and rest. It was more than a little ironic.
One of the first casualties of starting nursing school has been sleep and rest. As I read the chapter, it described how a patient may have problems in a hospital because firmly established sleep schedules are being disrupted. I had to chuckle at that. I haven't been to bed or up at the same time any two days for months.
When I started nursing school, they kept emphasizing that you should work no more than 20 hours a week. I knew from the start that this wasn't going to happen. Kim fell victim to the tough economy and was laid off in June, right around the time I had orientation for nursing school. She's training now for a new career selling life insurance and annuities, so there's a light at the end of the tunnel. For now, though, I have to keep working full time.
This week was particularly hectic. Since Kim has to be in a suburb about 35 miles from our home here in Chicago early for her training, she needs to be out of the house early. This means I'm dropping my daughter off at school and picking her up in the afternoon. In between, there is class, schoolwork and work. My meal schedule is chaotic. Dinnertime is a crapshoot-- sometimes it's a bowl of soup at work.
It has been rewarding, though. Today during the break in the middle of our two hour class, two classmates I've become friends with were talking about it all. We talked about how tired we were-- they, like me, are parents. I reminded them, though, of how far we come in just a couple of months. It was a little astounding, the list of knowledge and skills, right off the tops of our heads, that we could come up with, including:
- How to take a pulse, and the difference between and apical pulse and a radial pulse, and when you would want to take both at the same time
- How to read a medical chart
- The difference between hemoglobin and hematocrit levels, and their relationship (hematocrit should be about three times the hemoglobin
- How to take a blood pressure and what to do when you can't take a BP from either arm
- What to do before administering digoxin, a med for increasing heart strength (check potassium levels and take an apical pulse for one minute)
- Why not to put all four rails up on a paitients bed (it can be considered a restraint)
- What normal heart rate and respiration rates are for various patients
- How to measure oxygenation
- How to handle a "hand-off"-- to take over a patient during a shift change
We are, right now, 1/8 through the nursing program. As much as we've learned, we've only learned a fraction of what we will learn. We realized that the "things" we are learning are only part of it-- we're learning to think like nurses.
Several times, I've told my kids that the friends you make in college are generally the friends you have for life. Going through one more round of school, I'm reminded why: when you go through an intense experience with a group of people, you depend on them for encouragement and support. The time away from family, the lack of sleep-- you lean on your school friends a little.
Tomorrow-- actually, today in about 6 1/2 hours, I have to be at school with my classmates to go to the computer lab and spend the day learning about doing meds. We'll talk about a lot of things-- our kids, our classmate who keeps missing class and we're now officially worried will have to drop from the program, how tired we are and when we'll get together for a study session. But I know that we will have one thing from this all-- not just a nursing degree, but the knowledge that we earned this. We have come from these different places to do this thing and bring in such different skill sets to move toward reaching this goal. I spend my days feeling like a zombie sometimes, but I love what I'm doing. I realize now that as exhausted, broke and anxious as I am now, I will look back to this time in my life with fondness.