imposter, incompetent or ?

  1. I am in my 8th week of BSN program and still waiting for the cobwebs to untangle in my brain. At the end of each day at school (and clinical) I feel a huge "whew" complete with with slow-moving, dragging limbs! Almost every day I feel like an imposter in this nursing program that someone unwittingly allowed me to participate in. As each new week of school compounds on the previous weeks, it doesn't seem to get better - if anything, it gets worse.

    Before nursing school, I learned to feel smart and capable and able to organize myself, stay focused and take on leadership roles. Seems all that is from some past life and what I experience now is the dread of feeling like some incompetent, crumpled wad donning the face of a stoic, competent wannabe nurse.

    I really DO want to be a nurse and have worked so hard to get here ---- why does it feel like the ground is being yanked out from underneath me!? Some insight and wisdom would sure be appreciated here!
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    Joined: May '06; Posts: 122; Likes: 4


  3. by   TazziRN
    Because nursing school is one of the hardest things to do. I remember the speaker at my graduation, who used to be in the Navy. He spent a month in the jungle, learning jungle warfare and survival. I remember he started his speech talking about it and saying, "It was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life. And then I went to nursing school."

    Don't despair, you will make it!
  4. by   GatorRN
    You are not alone in feeling incompetent and like an imposter, I can assure you of that. I'm sure there are a lot of student nurses out there who will whole heartedly agree with you. When I first started nursing school I felt the same way. Nursing school was the hardest thing I ever attempted in my life. But, as time goes on, and you build on the basics, it just seems to come together somehow. Hang in there, keep your eye on the trophy, study hard, and you'll make it through, and become more confident along the way. Good Luck!
  5. by   aklrnbn
    I feel exactly the same way, except I am a nurse (and have been for a little while), feel comfortable in my work, yet I am doing an advanced practice masters degreee, and feel the exact same way as you do! I felt the same way while doing the ICU course 4 years ago, and guess where I work? It does get better, and everybody feels the same way, even if they pretend they don't! Keep your chin up, I'm sure you're doing fine.
  6. by   llg
    As others have said, what you are feeling is extremely common. There is even a major theory that explains it -- at least part of it (The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition as articulated in nursing by Patricia Benner.)

    In your former career, you had moved far beyond the "beginner" or "novice" phase of expertise. You had developed sophisticated skills to assess situations related to your work (and personal life) and take the actions that would meet your needs. When you switch fields, the situations and the skills required to manage them are totally different and based on a different foundation of knowledge and experience -- which you don't have yet. The judgment that you are used to relying on doesn't apply directly and you find yourself in a new and strange culture with a whole different set of expectations. That's why it feels as if the rug has been pulled out from under you. It can be an uncomfortable feeling. You are also having to work harder as you have to consciously think through every situation in detail with little of it "coming naturally" out of habit. That partly explains why you are so tired.

    You should start to feel better with increased knowledge, skills and experience. When in similar situations, I have found it helpful to take a step back every few weeks and reflect about what I have learned. Realizing how far you have come and how much you have learned can provide emotional satisfaction and comfort. It can also help you remain hopeful for the future.

    Good luck,
  7. by   Halinja
    Yup, I felt (still sometimes feel) the same way. I think it has to do with us starting into nursing school later in life. As llg said, we'd moved beyond novice stage in our lives already. And nursing school is HARD. Sometimes I think it is made harder than it needs to be, but that's a whole different discussion.

    That feeling does start to fade, though, hang in there. (Then we'll feel that way all over again when we actually start working!!!)

    I'm in my senior year of my BSN. Every once and a while I realize how much I really have learned so far, and believe me, you learn a lot. Each quarter it seems as if I'm just struggling to get through, but when its done, it is such a feeling of accomplishment.

    You will be so very proud when you've made it through.
    Last edit by Halinja on Oct 12, '06
  8. by   TazziRN
    Quote from Halinja
    And nursing school is HARD. Sometimes I think it is made harder than it needs to be, but that's a whole different discussion.
    I wouldn't want it to be easy. Nurses and doctors have peoples' lives in their hands.
  9. by   Antikigirl
    WHen I was feeling like that in school, I looked hard at myself and asked if I was being taught the way I learn! Come to find out no...I was not learning in the way I was I had to spend time going over some things basically "translated" on my own time so I could figure things out...I did the same for math too back in HS.

    I found I learned best by seeing and doing...not reading and listening. Most of the school was reading and I was having a probelm understanding things and how they connected! Show me something and I can figure it out and find the connections! But this wasn't happening, so I found some books that were easier for me to understand (Nursing Made Incredibly Easy Series), and did a lot of brainstorming groups with other students to see if we all were on the right page and able to connect these lessons to reality! I found I was soooooooooo not the only one!

    Try to find out how you learn best. Break it down into 2 of 4 of these...Seeing, Doing, Reading, Listening. Once that is broken into two you can focus your attention on learning the way you learn! Get a study group if you can...that really helped me! (we would meet after clinicals for coffee...only for 30 minutes or so...very helpful!).

    Good luck, and do take care of yourself are going through this, and deserve some time for yourself or you can get lost in the stress! That too can be a very easy to fall into habit!
  10. by   Halinja
    Quote from TriageRN_34
    WHen I was feeling like that in school, I looked hard at myself and asked if I was being taught the way I learn! Come to find out no...

    Most of the school was reading and listening...
    That is so true! There are definitely different learning styles, yet most 'school' work is taught one way. It may take a little extra time to 'translate' things into your strongest learning style, but it will be worth it!

    I taught a "special needs" child for six years. I put the quotes around the special needs because mostly it was not that he had a disability, but that he didn't learn the way the schools were teaching. With different strategies, he quickly caught up to his grade level and is now at college level.

    And to TazziRN. It isn't really about is it easy or hard, its about do you understand it or don't you. If there's a good way to learn it that comes easily, why choose the more difficult way? The goal is to truly learn the material, so that you can be fully functional.