Can I succeed as a Nursing Student with Obsessive Thoughts

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    I tend to go over things over and over in my head. Good for memorizing stuff but bad for thinking fast and on your feet. I have anticipated a few problems and am looking for help or reassurance that these aren't game breaking issues when it comes to be being a nurse, eventually.

    - My mind processes interfere, heavily, with taking on lot's of information very quickly. I take one bit and it gets stuck in my mind where I go over it, again and again and again. I have no control over this and, since it has it's uses on lecture tests, I let it run. The problem is I can only have so many of these processes going at once. If someone gives me step by step instructions and they come too quickly or are too numerous, I simply won't remember most of them or I will garble them all together. This has happened in lab a few times where I mixed up steps in performing a catheter insertion into a dummy. I have warned my instructor of this hindrance but what else can I do?

    - While in novel situations that require my critical thinking or attention (eg doing a new procedure, studying something new, being scrutinized or watched by people as I work, etc) I tend to lose my ability to work quickly and comprehend words. This has happened in lab with a mock chart where someone in my group asked me to check for something and everyone started looking at me; I lost the ability to read the words, reading through the same sentence over and over, and eventually having to hand this off to someone else. Hard to explain but words lose their meaning, becoming a gray morass when I am stressed or feel hurried (I have always been a slow reader because, to some degree, this has always been in me). What can I do about this? Does this sound familiar to any of you?

    - I learn best through mimicry of others. I had big issues with writing Nursing Notes properly until I looked at other students sheets and emulated them (now I do quite well on those for lab thus far). I often need to see something performed several times before I grasp it. Can I expect people to walk me through things like this in clinical or will I be expected to perform complicated tasks easily from reading or hearing them spoken to me? Does being a nurse become routine or will I be stuck accessing everything, slowly, forever?

    - While people assume I am shy, I can be personable but not while stressed or processing complex data. The same thing that causes me to obsess causes me to become somewhat ruminative when in that state. This has given me a very curt bedside manner; again, if this becomes more routine as time goes, that may go away.

    Thanks in advance. I am curious if anyone else suffers/benefits from this sort of thing too out there. I would love to hear how you made it if so.
    Joe V likes this.
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  3. 16 Comments so far...

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    My first advice is to see your doctor to see what they recommend because it can hinder your success.

    Second, for skills AND theory YOUTUBE is your friend! Watch the videos over and over again.

    One technique to try is thought stopping. My therapist told me to say stop aloud or in my head when I catch myself thinking self destructive thoughts. TRY IT!

    Good luck, you are not alone
    GrnTea likes this.
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    I am a visual learner, and the best way for me to learn is watching a video and practicing that skill. I did this before anyone explained anything to me so when I went in to clinicals I was walking through something I was already familiar with.

    Also, I buddied up with another student. So if I either one of us got in a sticky situation, the other helped out. For the most part though, it is best to be self-sufficient.

    My sister is a nurse, and she says it becomes very routine. She said in the beginning that new students should have a sheet of paper that has their plan written down to follow so they do not get confused.

    Also, try and learn the core concepts ahead of time(Hurst Review). Also, practice the key nursing skills so you have them down, down, down before you are on the floor. (meds, IV, foley, NG tube, wound care, vitals, head to toe assessment in 10 minutes).

    What have you done that helps to decrease the obsessive thoughts? deep breathing, practice skill visually beforehand, practice visually you correcting action during obsessive thought, have a friend help you through it, or speak with a behaviorist to teach you how to handle the obsessive thoughts and work out a program to teach you how to handle/reduce obsessive thoughts
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    Nursing practice is replete with circumstances in which we have to process information and respond very quickly in order to maintain our patient's safety or prevent further harm. Frequently, we have to act 'on the fly' based upon minimal data because there is simply no time to reflect, ponder, or gather more information. If a nurse is unable to act quickly and decisively, s/he is very unlikely to be successful in a direct patient care role.
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    We can't make medical dx here, but your physician or primary care can, or refer you to a specialist who can. I can think of a number of alternatives, all of which are manageable with medication, talk therapy, or both.

    Of course you can do this. But don't do it without help, any more than you would try to manage, oh, diabetes or something without it. That's why it's out there, to help you.
    i♥words likes this.
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    you may need professional help to determine if there are tools available to help you control your impulses. I recommend talking to a professional
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    Quote from GrnTea
    We can't make medical dx here, but your physician or primary care can, or refer you to a specialist who can. I can think of a number of alternatives, all of which are manageable with medication, talk therapy, or both.

    Of course you can do this. But don't do it without help, any more than you would try to manage, oh, diabetes or something without it. That's why it's out there, to help you.
    Exactly.

    I'm not sure why here and in other places I see people say they have anxiety, panic attacks, OCD and the like but insist on treating themselves. Like you said nobody would ever say "I have diabetes but I will just deal with it on my own."
    GrnTea and SoldierNurse22 like this.
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    Many people with obsessive thoughts have over came them utilizing different skills and techniques. The best way to learn these is from someone specially trained in this area: LPC, PsyD, MD, etc.

    (I worked in psych for 2 years before pursuing nursing)
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    Thanks for the responses.

    I have looked on YouTube and found a lot of videos and have tried to commit to memory the various steps so that they become routine. The problem is I have anxiety over what happens if something comes up that I haven't memorized a fix for in advance (which has happened in lab, despite my efforts to memorize potential complications and steps to correct them). Sometimes, stuff I am not ready for pops up and my only options are freeze up as I try to make sense of the overwhelming stimuli or act on pure instinct/adrenaline and let my motor functions run without my mind. The latter will work for things like CPR where it is a matter of memorizing exact steps but I am finding Nursing to be quite a bit more complicated than CPR.

    As far as why I am trying to handle it on my own, the simple truth is I am poor. My insurance barely covers my physical health, let alone my mental health, so I am working to keep it patched together and jury rigged just long enough to get out and get some sort of job where I can afford to get treatment. Till then, the only alternatives are group therapy (which I have found to overwhelming) and one or two sessions, tops, with a religious organization like Catholic Charities or the like. Mental health is subjective and physical health is objective, so I think insurance providers and people, generally, don't consider it as much. Even I tend not to, since mental problems aren't really "observable" the same way a wound is.

    In the interim I am memorizing the Nursing Process (The whole ADPIE thing; I have tried to memorize it and apply it. Because applying it is hard I have essentially taken to watching slasher movie scenes and trying to apply/write up a mock diagnosis for the injuries suffered in scenes in the movie - it isn't much good for the real world, I imagine, but has helped me get an idea on the differences in the step and let me practice my nursing approved abbreviations like PRN, AEB, and so on). I hope if I nail it down well enough any problem that comes up I can just push through it and fix.
    Last edit by Athariel on Oct 1, '13 : Reason: Mispelled the word "is" as "it" in the last sentence of the Second Paragraph.
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    Quote from HouTx
    Nursing practice is replete with circumstances in which we have to process information and respond very quickly in order to maintain our patient's safety or prevent further harm. Frequently, we have to act 'on the fly' based upon minimal data because there is simply no time to reflect, ponder, or gather more information. If a nurse is unable to act quickly and decisively, s/he is very unlikely to be successful in a direct patient care role.
    I am discovering this to be the case. I am much better suited to being someone who takes orders and submits to a superior than taking the reins and running on my own. I can act on the fly but it is either critical thinking or action with me, not both. I suppose Nursing has a lot of different applications beyond direct patient care. I want to work with patients (my liking and wanting to help people is part of the reason I signed up to begin with) but if I am going to be a danger to them I suppose I could try for a position where I am filing stuff and not threatening others. I will have to look into the options available post graduation, then. Thanks for the candor.

    I suppose a followup question, generally, would be in a worst case scenario, assuming this is a permanent part of me, are there places in Nursing for people who have my issues? Should I have shot for LPN instead so I would be under someone? Or maybe have just stayed away from healthcare entirely?

    Hopefully not the last option as this was kind of a gamble towards making a better life and I have no Plan B if I fail here - I just go back to square one with Student Debt on top of all my old problems.
    Last edit by Athariel on Oct 1, '13 : Reason: Added additional questions I had forgotten to Copy/Paste, initially


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