Friday, April 23, 2010

The "Fortnight To Go" Friday Random Ten

Had the realization today as I ran to school to print out some outlines for the last few units in my nursing class that I've only got two weeks left to my first year of nursing school. I'll be studying up on hypertension, lower back pain and fractures for my final test, and then of course getting ready to take the HESI test on May 12, the day after my 49th birthday. This will help ascertain whether I've absorbed the material of the last year-- and whether or not I have to take a remedial summer school class. I'm feeling pretty confident that I won't.

In the meantime, I registered for my fall class this week. Had an interesting experience at registration. Remember my mention of the people who have been giving my teacher from last semester a hard time? During registration, a woman kept giving the instructors handling registration a hard time because she didn't get a good (low) number in the registration lottery and wasn't going to be able to get a schedule that she wanted. She managed to talk her way into an amenable schedule-- and proceeded to blubber openly. My friend Martin pointed out that she was the person who had been in his class last semester who he'd finally started to avoid because she was whack. Then my friends Karen and Cyd then told me that she was the ringleader in giving my former teacher a hard time this semester. I had two thoughts-- first, that her bad lottery number was karma. And secondly, if she has a meltdown over getting a schedule that wasn't perfect, how is she going to handle a medical emergency? And where the hell is she going to work where she won't have to play nice with others?

In any event, I put down 25% down to hold my class slot yesterday and managed to make it to the bank this morning with the money I made last night at work before the payment hit my account. Sure will be nice not to be worrying about money constantly. Just a little over a year away.

1. Tenderness- General Public
2. Rock and Roll Music- The Beatles
3. Tomorrow Wendy- Concrete Blonde
4. The World Began In Eden and Ended In Los Angeles- Phil Ochs
5. Walking Slow- Jackson Browne
6. Heart Full of Soul- Chris Isaak
7. Hearts- Marty Balin
8. Across the River- Bruce Hornsby and the Range
9. The Goodbye Look- Donald Fagen
10. Goodnight- The Beatles

1. One of two groups that came out of the split of the English Beat (the other was Fine Young Cannibals)
2. If you're going to steal songs, steal from the best-- the Beatles covering a Chuck Berry song.
3. A haunting song from a group with no shortage of haunting songs.
4. From the monumental "Farewells and Fantasies" collection. You can hear the roots of Ochs' disillusionment and ultimate suicide in this song,
5. From the great "Late For The Sky" album.
6. Great smoky cover of the Yardbirds' classic.
7. A sweet weeper from Jefferson Airplane alumnus Marty Balin-- a hit in the early eighties.
8. I love this song, about a woman who tries to make her way out of her oppressive hometown, ends up back for a while, but is certain to try again.
9. From the terrific 1982 "Nightfly" album by Steely Dan alum Donald Fagen.
10. The closing track from the Beatles' album "The Beatles" aka "The White Album."

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Spring At Last" Friday Random Ten

It's been a busy week. I had my last day of clinicals and had a really good day-- grist for a near-future post. I've got my second-to-last test for my class on Monday, so I've been hitting the books and notes. At least the weather is finally beginning to shape up.

We had a delightful visit with our friend Jodi last night. She and her husband Peter own a record store-- yes, they still exist! Peter was getting the store ready for Record Store Day, so wasn't able to be there, but their one year old daughter Evi was. The last time we saw her, she was only a few months old-- we babysat for them last year so they could go to a Cubs game. Now she's walking, beginning to talk and is a totally charming scamp.

Speaking of Cubs games, I took an afternoon's break from studying and went to the game Thursday. Pictures at the bottom of the post.

1. Terror Couple Kill Colonel- Bauhaus
2. When I'm Gone- Ewan Maccoll
3. Queen of Hearts- Gregg Allman
4. Mixed-up Confusion- Bob Dylan
5. L.A. International Airport- Susan Raye
6. Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine- Country Joe and the Fish
7. If You See Her, Say Hello- Bob Dylan
8. Ramblin'- The Marshall Tucker Band
9. To Ramona- Bob Dylan
10. The Stars of Warburton- Midnight Oil

1. Didn't discover Bauhaus until later in life. Sure glad I did.
2. Maccoll, who was the father of the late Kirsty Maccaoll, wrote "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" for his wife Peggy Seeger, Pete Seeger's half-sister. This is his take on one of my favorite Phil Ochs songs.
3. A slow, smokey number.
4. From the terrific "Biogragh" box set.
5. Loved this one country/pop crossover when I was a kid, but had no idea who did it until I tracked it down a year or so ago.
6. These guys are best known for the Woodstock "Fish Cheer" and the "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag," but I love this one, about a woman who has, as they say, a "morally casual attitude."
7. From "Blood On the Tracks," Bob Dylan's marriage breakup album.
8. I've got a soft spot in my heart for these country-rockers.
9. Some older Dylan.
10. My favorite Midnight Oil song, about a trip across the Outback.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Most Important Things

As my first year in nursing school draws to a close, I have been pressed for time. I haven't blogged as much as I want to.

A month from today, I will take the HESI test-- a test to make sure my knowledge base is where it should be at the end of the year. I'll be getting online tonight and as much as I can until then in order to take practice tests.

Today, after class, I went to talk to Mrs. Murphy, my nursing instructor from last semester. I talked to her about her husband of 34 years, who passed away recently. I never knew he was a policeman. We had a good chuckle together, talking about the cop/nurse stereotype (about half the cops I know are married to a nurse). She told me what a great father he was-- that he'd been on disability for the last five years, which allowed him to spend a lot of time with their daughter, who was in college.

I told her about an experience I had this semester in my clinical where something she'd taught came up-- while working with a patient who'd had a heart/kidney transplant, I'd had an "aha!" moment, where I suddenly really understood Erik Eriksen's stages of development. In the last years of your life, according to Eriksen, you go through either "ego integrity" or "despair." Either you spend your last years wrapping of things in the knowledge that you've done a good life's work, or you spend it bitter, despairing of the things you haven't accomplished and never will. My patient was going through Herculean measures to live, but cheerfully dealt with it; he wasn't done with life just yet. There it was, right in front of me, just like Mrs. Murphy had taught me. I'd planned on telling her about this, even before I found out her husband had passed.

Then I talked to her about this semester's class. I told her that the people who'd managed to get in her class from last semester's class told me that there was a group in this semester's class that was really difficult and hostile. She closed the office door and we talked about it. She confided to me that she'd never had this situation arise in 20 years of teaching. She told me that it was in such stark contrast to last semester's class; she told me that last semester's class had been the best one she'd ever had-- that the synergy and diversity of the class had generated a lot of positive energy. I told her that I completely understood-- that I realized that this was the group of people from nursing school that I still studied with and that I knew I'd be friends with once I got in the field.

We talked about the group in this semester's class that are being difficult. I told her that as a former teacher I knew that some years you would get a rough group. I also pointed out something I'd alluded to in a previous post-- that they are pathetically naive; it will be interesting to see what happens when they get into the field. You don't get to choose your boss. You adjust to your boss-- your boss doesn't adjust to you.

I also pointed out two things to her: first, that I and all the other students she's had have loved having her as a teacher. And secondly, I quoted my mother, telling her "This too shall pass." In a month, she'll be done with this group. They'll be in for a rude awakening when they hit the workforce. And Mrs. Murphy will continue being a great teacher. It's them, I told her-- not her.

As we parted, we hugged and I could tell that it meant a great deal to her what I'd told her. When I started nursing school, I'd been struggling to deal with the death of a friend. Mrs. Murphy helped guide me on my first steps in this adventure that I've found uplifting in so many ways. It's helped me heal from the worst thing that's ever happened to me, and I know that besides raising a couple of kids, the most important part of my life is still ahead. I know that she's got a long road to heal from this, which is certainly the worst thing that ever happened to her. But I hope I made it clear to her that she's in the "ego integrity" phase of her life-- that as much good as she did as a nurse in her career, that as a teacher she's probably doing the most important things she'll ever do in her life. I know it was important to me.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The School Report, April, 2010

Just about a year ago, I was working my waitering job and started chatting with a woman who was seated at the bar having a drink and eating dinner. It turned out that she was just finishing the first year of the same two-year nursing program that I'd just found out that I'd been accepted into. She told me that she was preparing for a test students take in that program at the end of the first year; if they don't make a certain grade on that test, they must take a summer school course.

The woman, Elena, had advice for me-- primarily not to buy the overpriced book package that Beck's books and the school offered. She asked me to email her the book list and she would tell me which I needed immediately, which I did not need immediately and which I really didn't need at all. I took her advice and over the past year, she was 100% accurate.

A few weeks later, I saw Elena again in the restaurant. I asked her about the test, called the "HESI" test; she had passed, avoiding mandatory summer school.

Over the past year, I've run into Elena many times at school. And all of a sudden, I'm sitting where she was a year ago, and she's about to graduate. The last time I saw her, it reminded me of just how fast this year has gone, and how fast the second year will go. In about four weeks, she'll be done with nursing school and I'll be taking the HESI test.

On one hand, it's been a rough ride; my wife was laid off from work last June and didn't find work again until November. She was recently laid off again. Financially, we're hanging on by the skin of our teeth.

On the other hand, I have thoroughly enjoyed the nursing program in a way I had no idea I would. It's nice to be heading into a profession where your critical-thinking and people skills are appreciated, not resented. It's exciting to realize that with the profession I'm heading into, the sky is the limit-- that the learning never ends, and that you can keep moving forward and upward as long as you want.

I also realize that like my first round of college, 25 years ago, I've acquired a set of friends and allies for life. The people I met my first semester, who I learned the basics with, who I sweated tests with, worked with my first patients with, are going to be friends for life. This has become quite clear this week.

Since all the first year students have class at the same time, 9:00 am to 10:50 am on Mondays and Wednesdays, my old classmates, who were able to get Mrs. Murphy as an instructor again, stay for 10 or 15 minutes most days in the hallway kibbutzing. What they've told me this semester was distressing. There is a big divide in the class. A group that had another instructor last semester has become very openly hostile to Mrs. Murphy. The other instructor is the instructor I have this semester. While her style is definitely different from Mrs. Murphy's, I find both instructors to be excellent. In talking to my old classmates, we came to the conclusion that this is not Mrs. Murphy's problem (though it is, they tell me, definitely upsetting to her), it is the problem off the dissenting students; they've failed at a basic adult skill-- knowing that you work the hand dealt you. If they think they can find custom-fit instructors, wait until they get into the work world and discover that you don't find custom-fit bosses.

Two weeks ago, we discovered the Mrs. Murphy's husband had passed away. He had not been feeling well, and went to the hospital, where he had a fatal heart attack.

Immediately, the people who she gave so much to-- us-- huddled together to give back. My friend Bisrat, who is still in her class, organized flowers and a card. Most of the group in the picture above, including those who are no longer in her class, contributed and expressed support. To our disgust, the little group of dissenters in her class this semester refused to support her.

As my mother says, "This too shall pass."

As this first year of nursing school winds to a close, I can't help thinking of how grateful I am that I made the decision I made last year to apply to nursing school, and for how grateful I am that thusfar the first steps of the journey have been wonderful. A couple of months ago, Paul, one of my teacher friends mentioned that the principal who laid me off, precipitating my exit from education, is retiring. I laughed, thinking that it's good that this woman will finally stop inflicting herself on the education system. And I told him to tell her I said thank you-- that I'm enjoying the hell out of myself.