They were cramming for pharmacology and very anxiously awaiting the grades from a principles test. Some were crying even, and all of them were so stressed out it made me want to pull my hair out along with them. The girls were so pale and tired from lack of sleep. The comment was flying amongst them like, "Oh. My. Word. I had no idea nursing school would be this hard!" "This is crazy, who writes tests like this?" "I know for sure and certain I am going to fail. I completely bombed our last test, I know it." "These teachers are a bunch of quacks. I hate this place." "How in the world am I supposed to learn all of this stuff?"
At first, I caught myself smiling inwardly. Aww, look at the cute freshmen worrying about pharm. I am so glad I am not one of them anymore. But then midway between flipping a page of my notes and stuffing a bite of salad into my mouth, it hit me how condescending I must have seemed to them. My goodness, it was not so long ago that I was in their place. I thought those same thoughts, felt those same things. I came home crying almost every day from exhaustion, I freaked out over every little thing, and I just knew in my heart that I was going to fail out because I got a 79 instead of an 80. Nursing tests were once the hardest things in the world to me, head-to-toe assessments and care plans were like speaking a new language. The site of a blood pressure cuff used to make me quake. I remember being so stressed because finals were in four months! I would never be ready!
Somewhere, somehow, between my first semester and my senior year, things got easier. I fell into my own comfortable routine. NCLEX tests don't freak me out anymore, and I have my own studying techniques that work for me. I can take care of more than one patient without feeling like I am going to kill anyone just by looking at them the wrong way. The instructors know me by name when I pass them in the hall and I can say hello without wondering if they are conspiring against me. I sleep better now. I guess I can't say that my senior year is easy--it is far from it--but it is...better. I guess I kind of forgot what it was like to be brand spanking new to all of this. I wish I could take each and every one of these first semester students by the hand and teach them all of my tricks, and somehow convince them that it will get better eventually.
How could I forget so soon? It is kind of a humbling experience.
I used to wonder why nurses can be so unsympathetic toward students. I would think things like You used to be a student! You have been through this, you had to write care plans, you know the stress of nursing school. You should remember what it's like to shake in your boots overhanging your first bag of normal saline. Don't laugh at me, please. Give me a little bit of slack. I'm not perfect like you. And then today I realized that I was becoming one of them...and I'm not even done with school yet! I am so ashamed of myself. If it is so easy to slip into acting superior over freshmen because I know more than them as a senior, how much easier do you think it will be to be like that when after I graduate and have my RN under my belt.
I don't want to be one of those nurses. I want to be the nice one, the one students feel they can come to for anything without fear of being laughed at for asking a seemingly stupid question. Even when I am busy, I want to be the one that takes time out to give a little hint on giving insulin or to give a word of encouragement.
So, to those new students that I pass in the hall every day, I would like to apologize. If I seem arrogant, or like a know-it-all, or being condescending, I don't mean to be. I am just SO happy that I am not in your shoes anymore! It is hard to describe the feeling without sounding superior. You are right. The first semester at our school is known to be as hard as heck for a reason...because it IS hard as heck. The tests ARE terrifying and overwhelming. They DO pound information into your brain until your hippocampus feels bruised. Your first head-to-toe assessment check off IS something to be nervous about. Pharmacology IS a crazy hard class. You don't sleep, you don't eat, you don't have a life. You work hard for every single grade you get. You guys are amazing. If you can make it through this semester, you can do anything. I tip my hat off to you. If there is any way at all that I can help, or if you need a shoulder to cry on, don't hesitate to ask. Remember to breathe. You can do this! You can make it to your last year too!
Please, don't ever let me forget my first semester.