My nursing school story
When I was accepted to nursing school everyone had some advice to offer, whether or not I wanted to hear it. The OR nurses told me the floors are horrible but its only two years during school.The floor nurses told me medical/surgical is where every new grad should start. Everyone told me it was the hardest thing I would ever do. I wrote this article because I wanted to share my experiences and let others know nursing school isn't what people tell you it is, it is what you make it. It may take two years, four years, nine or longer.The journey is yours alone not theirs. Don't concern yourself with time,degree type, making friends, or landing that dream job right out of school. Be the best nurse you can. I wrote this article after spending time with some nursing students this summer, I had the opportunity to share my experiences and inspire them. They told me I should become an instructor. That ended up inspiring me. This article is about my longer than normal journey to become a nurse without letting anyone or anything get in my way.I worked in the medical field for over25 years, and in the Operating Room for most of that time. I was a Certified Surgical Technologist, Phlebotomist/Lab assistant, and an Army Medic. I applied to a community college summer of 2004, but was deployed before I could start my first class that fall. When I returned home in 2006 I manage to complete English Composition my first semester. In 2007 I was about 80% through a second semester taking Chemistry, was deployed again and had to drop the class. I returned home and started my first semester back, in 2009. I was on academic probation due to failure to progress. Two classes in 4-5 years did not look good, but Is till don't know how that was my fault. Of course I showed them my orders but it took one year of good standing to have that removed from my records. I was also making the Dean's list every semester while working 40+ hours in the OR and attending Army training. I am also a single mom with a mortgage.
When I finally applied to two RN programs in the fall of 2010 I was six years into the process. I was accepted to a Diploma program immediately and was so glad to be in a program, but the one I really wanted due to financial reasons was the community college program. I did not get my acceptance letter until April 2011, for a fall start 2011. While I was waiting I took so online courses and had a couple surgeries for injuries occurred during my second deployment. The community college was perfect for me and I am very grateful to the State of Connecticut for waiving my tuition and the VA for education assistance. I was ridiculed in class for a free ride by many student seven in the nursing program. I used to believe them, and feel guilty. Now I say to people like that, "I would gladly trade my permanent physical issues and my PTSD for a tuition payment!" I joke now even though it's not funny, one of the side effects of PTSD is that I don't sleep and so I had more time to study! As if this wasn't enough to deal with my father passed away, and I was about to embark on a major life changing event.
So jump ahead to June 2011 nursing school orientation. "This the hardest thing you will ever do in your life!!!!"That was the first thing we heard sitting in our classroom as terrified future nursing students. The whole time they were terrorizing us I kept thinking, I seriously doubt this is the hardest thing I will ever do in my life, and I was right - it was NOT the hardest thing, not by a long shot. It was very difficult but I loved every minute of it.
I went into nursing school with the philosophy that this was four 16 week semesters, 64 weeks total, with holidays off and breaks in-between. I can do this!! I was deployed for a total of 125 weeks, with one break, worked 12 hours six days a week, and did not get to come home or see my family during that time. Nobody tried to kill me at clinical, that I know of? I sacrificed a lot for two years and now it's worth it. I was on time every day, never missed a lecture, lab,clinical, etc. I attempted to read the chapter before lecture every time, that wasn't always possible but I think that helps so much. I found my way of studying and learning. I tried study groups but that didn't work. I had to reinvent my study methods a few times to fit the semester or instructor but I made it through. I studied for the long haul, never crammed for a test. I did NCLEX questions starting in my first class. I used a content review book and one NCLEX questions book. I read up on critical thinking test taking strategies and took a critical thinking class. So when I got to nursing school I had seen those types of questions before! They lied.
I tried to educate myself on the job market in my area before my last semester. In CT it is very difficult to get a job, especially without a BSN. So I applied to several RN-BSN programs and completed my resume during my summer break. I had my first job interview in December 2012 (I graduated May 2013). I had 4-5 more interviews during my last semester and finally decided on a position in the OR where I already worked.
I started my BSN program 5 days after graduating because it was a condition of hire. I will complete my BSN May 2015.If I were in a position to do a traditional BSN program I would. I highly recommend that route to anyone that can. I understand some of us need to do our degree in phases. In CT there was a hospital this summer that laid off 40 RN's and rescinded all 16 of the new grads they hired. I can only speak for my state, but it's a rough time to be a new grad.
I took my boards 4 weeks after my last final and felt I could have sooner. School was enough to prepare me, that and all the questions I did. I honestly feel if you study for the long haul, do questions throughout the program that is enough to pass. I love my review courses but they seemed more like an expensive pep rally!! If someone had told me that before I took them I would not have listened, I needed a review there was no room for error. I had to have a license before I could start my job.
I had 75 questions and though NCLEX was easy. I slept an hour the night before, and made the mistake of taking it the same day as my Theories mid-term, ouch! I fell asleep at the testing center, I was bored. I think I closed my eyes during a question because I didn't want to look at the answers while I processed the question and nodded off for a second. I mean who does that? I was relaxed after though.
- Study not for the test, but for boards, your career, and your patient's.
- Treat every class and clinical like it's an interview, you never know who is watching. Be on time, prepared and professional.
- Have a 5 year plan, and be prepared to look for a job before graduation. Writing a resume while studying for finals, NCLEX and graduation/pinning is not the best time. Apply early, and everywhere some places don't post new grad positions but hire them every year.
- Make connections, and network.
- Be nice to the PCAs at clinical they can teach you a lot.
- Be compassionate to your patients there is nothing worse than a mean healthcare worker when you are sick, scared,stressed, and at your most vulnerable.
- Relax and enjoy nursing school, it maybe the hardest thing you do, but it can be enjoyable also.
This is just my story, there is no one way to study or get through nursing school each of our paths are unique. I wish everyone just starting or still in school the best of luck, I think nursing is the best profession. I couldn't see myself doing anything else
"Integrity: The highest courage is to dare to be yourself in the face of adversity. Choosing right over wrong, ethics over convenience, and truth over popularity...these are the choices that measure your life. Travel the path of integrity without looking back, for there is never a wrong time to do the right thing."Last edit by Joe V on Aug 18, '13
About ORnurseCT, BSN, RN
I am a single mom from New England. I have worked in the medical field for over 20 years, and have served in the U.S.Army for 22 years. My background is in the Operating Room, but I have an interest in military psychiatric nursing. I am working on my BSN and plan to earn a MSN in Education. My initial goal was to just get my RN, but after working with some amazing educators and realizing that I love to teach I changed my course. I would love to work at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center and teach part time.During nursing school I was active in the SNA, and mentored CNA students. I believe in sharing knowledge and helping others. I decided to become a nurse because of my grandfather. One summer when I was little I had to share a room with his in-home dialysis machine, after my grandmother caught me injecting tap water into my teddy bears my family knew I was going to be a nurse one day. It took longer than I planned but I won't change my life experiences for anything. In my vast amount of free time I enjoy gardening and visiting New England towns. I also love to travel and hope to visit every continent and major league ballpark in the US.
Joined: Mar '10; Posts: 853; Likes: 251
Occupationsl Health, NP-student; from US
Specialty: 4 year(s) of experience in Occupational health, women's healthAug 16, '13This is an amazing, inspirational story. Thank you so much for sharing! All the best of luck to you on your nursing journey!Aug 17, '13Wow! Thanks for sharing your story! Good luck with your BSN program and thank you for serving our country!Aug 17, '13ORnurseCT, thank you very much for sharing your story, and the tips! You have been through so much and kept determination and focus throughout. You sound like a very strong person! I was also thinking about how Nursing programs are often portrayed as "the hardest thing you will ever do"; it is probably so that the students expect the worst and are prepared to put in their best effort. Good luck to you with the BSN and your job!Aug 17, '13Wow... you are absolutely amazing. With all the things you have accomplished the sky is the limit for your future! Also this is good for your children to see (you said you are a single mom?) and their success as they do what they see you have done. Congratulations! This makes all my problems look small (laugh)Aug 17, '13Thank you so much for sharing your story! Also (and even more than the first) thank you so much for your service to our country!!!Aug 17, '13Aug 17, '13Poo on the people who ridiculed you for getting a free eduction! You deserve it!! Congrats to you and thank you and your family for the sacrifices you have made.
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