A recent Instagram post reminded me of a blog I wrote several years ago as a nursing student. As we are on-boarding new graduates and seeing a wave of new students making their way into the units this month I found myself reminiscing those pre-RN days. Sometimes I do this with fond memories and mostly I’m glad they’re gone. While I don’t miss being in school I do love that in the healthcare profession there is always something changing and something new to learn. I remember the emotions that come with a steep learning curve and think back on them now as I will soon journey from progressive care to intensive care nursing. I embrace the coming change, and challenges with it. I can’t help but wonder if the expectation I have now will match the memory when I am able to look back on this moment from a point further along the road? In any case, it should make for some interesting scrub pocket treasures and a machine full of pearls:
It’s always been sort of fun for me to find out what ends up at the bottom of a washing machine. The treasure trove of lost coins, pen caps, and various papers and gadgets over the years has evolved and evidenced the tales of my week. As my interests and career paths have developed, so has the range of random findings. To date, I think the worst one was a Sharpie pen and a small bag of Miracle Gro. That episode left some interesting tie dye marks on my favorite jeans. As I started my journey in nursing, I discovered it was not uncommon to find latex gloves, alcohol pads, a pen light, or my flash drive wound in with the wash. Most of these are fortunately discovered before they make it to the dryer. Unloading my latest loot, I began to wonder what other subtle changes evolved when I became a nursing student.
I think my first indication that things had changed was when I began noticing the vocabulary in shows like Grey’s Anatomy and House MD. The story lines started to make rational sense. Cor pulmonale, banana bag, pneumothorax, orders for antibiotics, suddenly the plot was familiar and much more complex. Yeah, and my friends say it’s all about McDreamy. Seriously? Then there are the ever famous calls from friends and family. “I have this pain and I’m kind of tired, what causes that?” First, observe the word student in my credentials. Second, call your doctor. Third, refer back to statement one. I’m curious, does every student nurse learning IV skills analyze the veins of people they meet? When did I start giving the “what’s up” nod to avoid a handshake during flu season? Why is it that the definition of appropriate meal time topics seems to depend on if I am hanging with my medically minded or non-medically minded companions? Heaven help the awkward silence when I slip up and confuse the two! Definitely, my behaviors have changed. I’m beginning to see people in a way I haven’t before. Noticing sadness and witnessing joy where I never expected it. I struggle with what to do and say when my patient’s family comes to say their last goodbye. My heart smiles as a whole department celebrates the ICU patient grinning and crying as she returns to say thank you. The odds were she wasn’t going to make it…until she did. I cheered for the 32 week preemie going home wrapped in the loving arms of his parents and cried for the one next door detoxing off drugs he didn’t choose to take. Of course, there are also the infamous student moments. Spiking that bag seemed really easy until I realized the angle was wrong and I punctured it, showering myself in 0.9% normal saline. In moments like these, what can you do but laugh? At least my patient did during the saline fiasco.
I heard a longtime nurse say, “nursing school will be the hardest challenge you will ever love.” It sounded cheesy and cliché to me until I lived it. Sure enough, I’ve had days where I come home exhausted and in tears. I’ve had days where my heart is so full of joy and excitement one body almost can’t contain it. It’s an emotional spectrum, and one that leaves its mark. As I celebrate the halfway point of my journey through OHSU School of Nursing it has become apparent to me in more ways than one that I absolutely love what I do. I love every tired, funny, hysterical, crazy, amazing moment of it. One of these days I will also learn to clean out my pockets when I do the laundry. Until then, I’ll let the trail of washing machine treasures tell my weekly story and see how the next chapter unfolds.