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Destroyed by previous experience. Should I try nursing again?


Two years ago, I failed my final semester the second time and had to drop out of my previous (ADN) nursing program. I had been a B student throughout the program up til my failure. So it wasn't about the textbook knowledge. It wasn't about my skills either, as I am very anal about following steps. I just got soooo nervous when I got on the floor. It was like the whole world was watching me, or like the instructor was watching me at some dark corner, trying to catch me doing something wrong. I just couldn't relax and be myself on the floor. While I was with my patients alone, I was totally fine. But whenever the instructor stepped in, I just froze and couldn't function. It was especially worse during my two attempts for my final semester. The first time, my teacher was known to be the hardest ass in my program. The second time, I just lost my confidence completely from the previous attempt. After dropping out, I cut contact with everyone in the program and moved to a different state and started a new life. I worked as a caregiver for a while. And now I work at a local hospital lab.

Recently, I've been thinking of what I really want to do. I thought of building a career in the medical lab field. I am an introvert. The environment fits my personality pretty well. But this field lacks upward mobility. And I really miss the action. Even though I prefer to have quiet time over socializing most of the time, I like the me who was forced to interact with patients more. Granted I got nervous thinking of what kind of patients I would be getting in clinical, but after I warmed up a little with my head to toe, I enjoyed interacting with them very much! I literally never had a single difficult patient during those two years. I like to see things. I like to learn about and witness disease process. I enjoy waving goodbye to the discharged patients. I have been in touch with a local college nursing program. They seem to be willing to take me as a transfer student. But then I start to get worried. I have been slowly forgetting what I've learned, meds, skills, pathophysio stuff, etc. Will I be able to catch up and pick up where I left off just like that? Wouldn't it be dangerous to put a person like me back on to the floor? That would only stress me out even more...

So nurses, basically I want to know: is being a nurse any different than being a student nurse? When you see one on the floor, do you envy him/her or do you think "thank goodness I am not a student nurse anymore?" I need to know if my kind of stress would end once school is over or if it would follow me for the rest of the career... And what would you do if you were me? Would you feel that I would be a bad apple in the field, that you would rather me not to consider nursing anymore?

Any input is welcome. Thank you for your time!

Emergent, RN

Has 28 years experience.

It sounds like you have performance anxiety. I can relate to that, I have it too. I do much better building skills without an audience. Yet, I made it through nursing school and have managed to slowly build up my skills over the years at my own pace. I'm no hotshot, but I'm a solid nurse. I never would have imagined myself working int the ER, but here I am.

So I say, go for it. Maybe research how to deal with this personality type. You can do it!

1) You were not "destroyed." :nono: You had a setback and learned some things about yourself, and now, with your new maturity, are ready to meet the challenge again if you can get a few more tools in your toolbox. :up:

2) One of those tools, which I recommend you get seriously sharpened by a professional counselor, is better self-talk. It's time to lose the "destroyed," and all the other negative words by which you describe yourself to others, but most importantly, to yourself. :redpinkhe:

3) Another, as Emergent notes above, is dealing more realistically with situations so your performance anxiety is relegated to the dustbin where you know it belongs. :woot:

4) Yes, of course you can be a nurse if you have the general intelligence (which shines through your writing) and the willingness to work for it. Bad apple? :facepalm:

See (2) above.

As to your question about whether people look at students and thank their lucky stars they aren't in school anymore: Well, some do, many don't even have that thought cross their minds, and some wish they could be in school again so they could go home at 2pm too. :)

So, nutshell: Do treat yourself to some counseling so you can deal more successfully and joyously. You deserve it. If you had a bad back and had to use it for the rest of your life, you'd seek some professional advice from a good PT who specialized in backs, right? Same thing.

See you around the student boards in awhile! Stay in touch! :flwrhrts:

Thank you Emergent! I am a little relieved, knowing I am not the only person with this kind of anxiety. How did you overcome your anxiety as a student? During my first three semesters (six rotations), I had all the nice and gentle instructors which helped calming me down a little. But I feel that my performance shouldn't be depending on what instructor I am getting.

Thank you GrnTea! Yes I am harsh on myself. It has to do with my upbringing. I am Asian. I was never praised as a kid. I tried to be nicer to myself in recent years. I am nicer to myself, but to westerners I am still very harsh on myself. I will continue to work on that. I will look up the kind of counseling you mentioned! :)

BeachsideRN, ASN

Specializes in NICU. Has 2 years experience.

Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo. :)

I'm a new grad, new med surg nurse (licensed for 3 weeks). I'm in my 4th week at work. While it is stressful it's not the same type of stress as nursing school. I look back at school and think about how awful it was and am loving my job. Just thinking about instructors makes my blood pressure rise, but working is not the same at all. It's so much better. Even though I'm home less, it's easier on my whole family because I'm not constantly in panic mode, studying and preparing for clinicals.

Here.I.Stand, BSN, RN

Specializes in SICU, trauma, neuro. Has 16 years experience.

Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo. :)

One of my new favorite quotes!! :inlove:

Carpediem1012, BSN, RN

Has 7 years experience.

Agreed! Go for it OP. Do your best to focus on the task, not who is watching. I know the feeling, but as others have said- mind over matter. Best of luck to you :)


Has 6 years experience.

I think you should getting a CNA certification and maybe working some PT or PRN in that role and see how you do.

BeachsideRN, ASN

Specializes in NICU. Has 2 years experience.

One of my new favorite quotes!! :inlove:

I adopted it the first time I saw it. It's the best!

Surprised1, MSN, RN

Specializes in pediatric neurology and neurosurgery. Has 9 years experience.


You've received some sound advice here. You sound intelligent, caring, and conscientious, all of which are important traits in a nurse. You have grown and matured in the past 2 years, so take heart from that and work on building your self esteem. I completely agree with the suggestion to seek some therapy to help you overcome the performance anxiety (which is not a character flaw) because you also will be under direct observation during your preceptorship. Actual nursing is much more difficult than nursing school, due to the fact that you are on your own, making important decisions using your own clinical judgment.

I think you will enjoy nursing and will be an asset to the field. There is nothing like nursing to build one's self esteem. You will quickly learn to be assertive and to advocate for your patients. Good luck!

I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread, sharing your experience, wisdom, and encouragement. Knowing what to work on, I will be turning in my application on Monday. Hopefully I will be joining this field and be one of you soon!

canoehead, BSN, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 30 years experience.

It sounds like you'd be a gem on a unit with patients there for a long time who appreciate some personalized TLC. Keep plugging away, there is more than one way to get to the top of a hill. Starting as a CNA would be wonderful, you'll be familiar with the work and the processes of a clinical setting, and see all the procedures.

Starting as a CNA would be wonderful, you'll be familiar with the work and the processes of a clinical setting, and see all the procedures.

You know, I would love to start as a CNA. But I am currently adjusting my immigration status, which is gonna be done soon. I can work, but not go to school. I tried applying to a local hospital CNA program. But they rejected my application. I think they are pretty cautious about who they want to invest on. I am at the end of this time window where I have to finish my nursing education soon once I am allowed to legally, or I will have to redo the whole program again.

LesMonsterRN, ADN, RN

Specializes in LTC. Has 25 years experience.

I was writing this whole reply in my head and then read Emergent's reply; I couldn't have said it any better. Just look at the experience as a temporary setback. I also think that working as a CNA, if it's possible at some point with regard to your immigration status, will go a long way in helping your overcome the performance anxiety. Good luck and keep us posted!

Straight No Chaser, ASN, LPN

Specializes in Sub-Acute & Long-Term Care Nursing. Has 5 years experience.

Just FYI, many states will let you sit for the CNA exam once you have finished your first semester of nursing school. :-)


Specializes in Urology, ENT.

I was in the same boat you're in. I barely think about that situation now, and when I do, I'm not overcome with the same anxiety and guilt for failing.

When I started at the nursing program I graduated from in 2012, I sought counseling 2 weeks in. I told them about my anxiety, explained how I lost faith in myself, and how I wanted to effectively get over it. It took me three semesters before I "got over it," but even towards the end of nursing school, I took everything as minor milestones (my nursing program was 5 semesters). I didn't consider anything really big until the week of graduation, when I knew I was definitely graduating.

As GrnTea said, you're more mature, and now you're smarter and wiser. Go for it:)