Wednesday, September 5, 2018

5 tips on #nursingschool in your 40s

Hello, it's me again! Your "always doing, always trying" favorite twyn mommy.

I've been busy.

I know, you know.

I GRADUATED NURSING SCHOOL Y'ALL! 
It feels great, it really, really does. 

Introducing #club40. More on them later.


I think there is, however, in the back of ALL of our #newnursegraduate minds, the looming state board examination known as NCLEX. I have not gotten my "authority to test" (ATT) yet, and it's killing me slowly. I wanted to take my time studying, but I honestly just want to get the thing done and over with, too. So I wait. And I blog!

There's no way on Earth for me to recount all the funny and misty and awful stories I have from nursing school, at least not in the first post-post, so I thought I'd start with a "tips" post just to get the ball rolling.

1. Do find a right partner in life. Like, ASAP. 
So the first thing that set me apart from my fellow nursing classmates was the fact that I was a mom. There was definitely a minority of us. I would say, out of 88 classmates who started with us, maybe 8 were moms? So that puts you in a select group right away. And of those parents, a few of us were over 40, and that put us in a more elite group of special masochists. So inevitably someone who is likely not aware of the band Bananarama's existence will find out you have children and say "OMG I don't know HOWWW you DOOO it!!!"
My response to them was always this: My life is actually easier than yours right now. You are trying to mix in finding a mate and when to time children if you so choose, how you are going to pay for a wedding/house/car/dog, and who you are at the very SOUL of you, all the while trying to figure out whether we should add IV fluids or discontinue foley catheters. All of that other stuff is set for me, I just have to do this. 
Now it IS true that it WAS hard on me and my husband (see here), and maybe I didn't see the kids as much as I usually do, but for the most part we are a strong unit and the only thing we missed was couple-time together. We often traded-off kid duties in between work nights - who had to do what - and then divide and conquer.

2. Then find the right study partner in your nursing school life. Like, ASAP. 
As I mentioned above, the crowd started to mingle in the first summer/semester of nursing school, and people started to find their people. I didn't intend on hanging out with the mommies and over-40-set, but it just so happened that we had the same goals, the same priorities, and understands what one means when one texts "C has a fever" thirty minutes before lecture is about to start. So we naturally gravitated towards each other. I found some awesome millennials to study with, and a fantastic clinical bestie who was old enough to be my - cough - niece, maybe - but at the end of the day I found my most reliable study group to be the one filled with ladies who couldn't study past 10 pm and whose LAST goal in life was to make it to the class-organized pub crawl.
My inevitable trio of ladies each had different strengths and where one could be organized about what was due in class #1, the other could be organized about what "SIMV" meant and the third could put together research like a badass mofo. Yup, that's how we rolled.
I don't care how independent you think you are, and how great a student you USUALLY are, find a partner in nursing school. You have to talk things through. Especially at post-post conference (which, if you didn't know, is the time after you meet with the clinical professor to discuss what happened with your patients that day to talk with your friends about what REALLY happened with your patients that day.) Also, you will see each other on the hospital floor again someday, so you might as well be buds now.

3. Speaking of what a great student you USUALLY are, check your GPA at the door. 
I'm smart. No, honestly, I'm like book smart and test-taking smart and also have some really beautiful degrees. That sh** don't mean a thing in nursing school. And you'll think, like I did, that it doesn't really apply to you. But it applied to EVERYONE in nursing school. There were still plenty of type-A classmates who got (mostly) straight A's, but they had to WORK for it. And I WORKED my A$$ off for my grades as well, which were still mostly A's, but THE HARDEST A'S OF MY LIFE. Check your GPA at the door. How you do on assignments and tests doesn't matter as much as your level of understanding. I found my understanding of psych, for example, to be quite strong, so I ended up studying less and less for each test. I was doing better and better relying on my own understanding of the material and my judgment calls. At the end of the day, nurses make a LOT of judgment calls. So you have to be a critical thinker. If you memorize the way the magnesium and calcium channels work in the muscles it's not going to serve you as much as understanding what happens to the whole body if you interfere with them. As our first nursing professor chanted to us on our first day: "C's get degrees!" And I thought she was nuts but she was absolutely right to tell us that. Remember it's not about the grades, it's about your future patients.

4. Speaking of patients, for Pete's sake, GET TO KNOW THEM. 
Your patients will be your best teachers. I remember during one of my first weeks in my first rotation, one of my classmates was bored. I told him to go talk to his patient! I got a little "mom" on him, but it was true! Even if I found myself with nothing to do, I would talk to my patients or their family members. They SO appreciated it, and it taught me a lot about their disease processes. I would simply say, "What is it like to keep kosher in the hospital?", or "How did you first find out you had aplastic anemia?" It meant that my professors never found me sitting at a computer screen, which helped them to trust the work that I was doing, and now that I'm studying for the scary NCLEX exam, I have pictures of people in my head for certain diseases. They say you shouldn't answer questions based off of clinical experiences, but it helps my UNDERSTANDING, the importance of which you learned about in tip #3 above.

5. Remember your 'other' life and what's truly important. 
There are advantages to having lived a little before going back to nursing school. Education is truly wasted on the young. It baffled me when classmates wouldn't show up for lecture but then would be cramming in an all-nighter before an exam. If you had gone to class, you wouldn't need to cram the material? But that was my bit of wisdom and zen. I had done this umpteen times already, and I didn't have anything to prove to anyone, so it was easy to remember what works for me and how I was going to succeed.
For me, how I was going to succeed, was with my friends and family. The grandmas. The hubby. The bestie. The mommies. One of our professors told us "whatever you did before nursing school to unwind, KEEP IT UP!" And for some that was running/working out, for some it was drinking/food, yoga, meditation...you name it. For me, it was hanging with friends. Specifically, my mommy tribe. They were my rocks and kept me grounded. My bestie took the kids every other day to help me study.  The grandmas took turns on extended breaks. They reminded me that I was doing a cool thing, but that at the end of the day, what my kids ate for lunch was also swimming around in my brain, and that's ok.
Look what my bestie made me. 

Have you ever seen a more supportive tribe of ladies? 


Speaking of rocks, back to hubby... he and I have an agreement that anything we do is ultimately to better our life together. I had to always remember at the end of the day that he is the one who wants to hear how the exam went first, he is the one who's paying the bills (at the moment), and he is the one who is going to give me his CBC results after every physical until one day I tell him to stop eating ice cream haha. Keep your eye on the prize, which is a better life for yourself and your loved ones. That's why you are pursuing a new career in healthcare, isn't it?

Ok I hope this gave you a little peek into the last year and a half (ok three years) of my life! What a doozy! Back to studying, I know, I know...back to studying....

Also, here are some 'after' pics of that nursing-school-project of hubby's...see before pics here.  He did the floors, the dry-wall-wall, the ship-lap-wall, the door, the mouldings, the closets...he learned a lot this year too!





And now you see why I'm loathe to study....le sigh....#lovemybedroom

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