Survived first semester of Nursing School


You always know it’s going to be difficult, but people are rarely prepared for exactly how difficult it will be — or in what form that difficulty will take.

I am talking about Nursing School: the most notoriously challenging (yet rewarding) subcategory of health care, known to make even the most elite students cry.

To put the challenge into perspective, allow me to cite an example. One of my fellow students, whom we will refer to here as MissBio, is a former pre-med graduate with a four year degree in biology and organic chemistry. MissBio wanted to shift gears from pre-med into nursing because, after watching some professional doctors act callously toward their patients, she didn’t want to end up like that. She felt she could better serve her patients through a more whole-person approach like nursing.

Like me, she is an A-Type personality with a straight A record to back it up. Like me, she thinks like a doctor, not like a nurse, so she (like me) is struggling with the shift in mindset. Midway through the first semester in Nursing School, MissBio felt she was losing her mind, intensely frustrated at her failing grades. She ended the semester with a solid B, just like me. MissBio said, and I quote, “This is harder than anything I did in pre-med. ANYTHING.

That made me feel better. I’m not one to accept a mere B sitting down, but considering that a very large chunk of the Semester 1 student body didn’t pass at all (easily 1/3 the class as rumor has it), I am happily accepting my B and preparing for Semester 2, wiser for the experience.

What makes nursing so hard, you might ask? I think it’s really one of those, “you had to be there” type things. It’s difficult to explain. It’s just really hard.

First of all, Nursing is NOT Doctoring. There are no medical diagnoses (but there are nursing ones) and you don’t prescribe medications. You are there, basically, to provide comfort and aid. That’s it.

Beyond that, there is a framework to nursing that is entirely its own thing. For the first semester, it’s all about Delegation. Leadership. Roles. Prioritization. Rules. Laws. Torts. Privacy. You will learn thousands of acronyms beginning with the basis for all things Nursing: ADPIE. This will become your whole life if you’re planning to be a Nursing Student — because this next acronym is dependent on mastering it: NCLEX.

Think of it like this: Nursing School is like a video game. There are four levels, each one ending with a boss battle, and at the end, there’s one Final Boss Battle (the NCLEX). I have just finished level 1 and beaten the first boss, but there’s a long way to go to get to the end because each level is just a wee bit harder than the last.

Oh! One more acronym: SATA. These are multiple choice questions on exams (Nursing School is notorious for them) which are “Select All That Apply”.  If you’ve never done them, you will quickly learn to hate them. Despise them. Wish there was a law that said they couldn’t ask them. These questions will bring even the smartest, most experienced person to their knees very quickly. They are designed for you to get it wrong. They really are! Get one selection wrong and the whole answer is wrong. Good luck.

The actual nursing part — the “clinicals” — are not usually any big biggie for most people. At least in the first semester. All of our assigned patients were stable (and we were only assigned one). We did vitals, changed bedding, did bed baths, and administered meds and injections with assistance. And of course we did charting and paperwork — because what hospital setting would be complete without tons of charting. Even as a student nurse, I spent more time charting than having actual contact with my patient.

So, yes. Water is wet and Nursing School is hard. Boo hoo for me, right? I’ll be okay.

But props to my fallen brethren who didn’t make it to Semester 2. Gone but never forgotten. Among them, a dedicated EMS worker and an extremely smart Army Medic who were both gearing up to be incredible nurses. Please don’t give up — apply elsewhere and find your niche.

I will keep going and hope to make you proud!

“My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.”― Steve Goodier



About madmargaret

Nursing student, Mac nerd, medical 'genius', recovering addict, singer, ex-actor, and all-around swell egg. Really!
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