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.


Churlita said...

it was probably really nice for her to have someone to talk to about that. I'm sure since her husband died, she doesn't really have anyone to vent to anymore.

You are such a positive person. You will make one hell of a nurse.

SkylersDad said...

I agree with what Churlita said, she is lucky to have you as a student and as a friend. Anybody would be lucky to have you as a friend!

mi said...

it's clear she's the sort of teacher who will be there for her students, even long after they're settled in their professions - much like i imagine you to be with your former students once they reach adulthood.

i think it's wonderful you had a chance to be in her "good group" from the previous year, and i'm sure, just as you told her, "this too shall pass" with the current group.

btw - i changed my blogger name to my real name, so i am no longer known as ikw on my posts.

Erik Donald France said...

Good luck on the HESI test -- and beyond! Salud!

LegalMist said...

I'm glad you were able to be there for her. I'm sure it meant a lot to her.