Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In Reflection...

So it's been nearly a month since I've been done with nursing school. I've sat down to write this post several times and really just wanted to do this post so that I can remember how I felt and what I went through while in nursing school. It's a long one and probably will sound more like complaining but it is what I went through over this past year or so.

I had decided to go back to nursing school before my senior year at Purdue. In my previous degree we were required to do internships in order to graduate. My first internship was AWESOME. I had so much fun (also where I met Adam) I was outside all day, doing the "labor" part of the job and I LOVED IT. But my second internship was in the office and I was more or less a paper pusher and glorified kindergartener who colored plans and counted rebar. I quickly learned that this is a great deal of what Project Manager does. Sure there were some more intellectual parts but for the most part it was boring and didn't use my strengths. And to top it off the economy was slowly failing and with a wedding around the corner and future husband in the same industry it just didn't seem like a good plan.

I talked with both Adam and my mom and we discovered that if I finished my degree in Construction, I could go on and get a second degree at an accelerated pace in nursing. So I finished up my whole 18 credits left at Purdue and began researching nursing schools. I took vacation days at my job to shadow different nurses and fell in love with the caring aspect of nursing. It would also provide me with the ability to be at home more with my children while still providing for my family. I'm not someone who wants a career in the slightest. In a perfect world Adam would make about $40,000-$50,000 more so I could just stay at home, raise our kids and home school them. However I married for love not money and that just isn't in the cards for us, so Nursing was the way to go.

I chose Marian University's Accelerated Online Program because it offered admission 3x a year, and there wasn't a waiting list. When I had talked to IUPUI it was going to take me 3 years for the prerequisites (for some reason concrete and static and strengths of materials didn't apply to nursing...haha) and still there was a slim chance with my GPA (3.6) that I would be able to get in right away. Since the online program was new there was no waiting list, it was only 15 months so I was set...right??

Well the last 15 months have been anything but easy. What comes with a new program, is a bunch of headache and being a guinnea pig and trying to work out A LOT of kinks. This program in my opinon was no where near ready to go live and have students go through it. I truly feel that I taught myself nearly EVERYTHING about nursing. Which is why I could possibly feel so unprepared for the NCLEX. But either way this has been the most frustrating experience of my life.

There were so many hiccups it was unbelievable. I really just have issues with the fact that they felt it was ok to either have no lecture or 8 minute lectures or even lectures where the teacher just read from the slides. There was no teaching involved at all. It would have been just as easy for Joe Wannabe Nurse to read the 8+ chapters per week and take the exams. If I were the one who started this program I would feel really bad charging 16+ students an arm and a leg for such shitty instruction. After all teachers are supposed to teach, not just sit back and get paid right? Also I just struggle with how teachers felt they were really doing their job well when the class average on exams were in the low 70s. For me this was clearly a teaching (or lack there of) issue not a student or two who didn't understand the material.

Anyways, through all the sleepless nights, hours of studying, and missing out on many many family and friend functions I made it through, although barely. It was a struggle every step of the way that really taught me the politics of how things operate. People are often times pig headed and refuse to listen to others for prideful reasons and just pure stubbornness and the need to feel powerful over the "students". Never mind that several of the "students" were older than these "teachers" and had more life experience. They often treated us like we were 18 even though the youngest person was 23. We were all second degree students, many with jobs, husbands and even kids.

I know I probably sound like a bitter betty and I really probably am. Some people are able to look at the big picture of the fact that they have a nursing degree and thats what matters, but for me I feel like I wasted a bunch of money for a degree that doesn't really mean a whole lot because I don't feel prepared at all for the nursing world or for the NCLEX for that matter. But what is life without a little struggle?

So clearly a month after graduation I'm still quite bitter about everything. I wish I could just be thankful that I have a degree and that I'm one step closer to making real money and providing for my family. But for me there is a lot of hurt that has gone along with this program. I am hurt in the sense that I am truly disappointed in the way some humans are. I am bitter because I felt I gave a lot and struggled every day for almost 2 years for a program that didn't seem like they wanted me to succeed. I truly feel I graduated by the grace of God. I think this program will be great in 5-10 years but there needs to be some serious changes to the program, mainly teachers treating this program as though it was an actual classroom where they need to teach the students about the different aspects of nursing!

In all reality the way this program is set up is ideal. For the first two main nursing clinical classes you are required to attend your "clinical" times at a specific site where they teach you how to do an assessment, draw labs, give meds, or change beds etc. Things you just can't learn online. After this portion of the class you attend you typical clinical rotation at a hospital or nursing home where you practice your new nursing skills on actual patients.

Where this program was the most strugglesome (I know not a word) was in the didactic portion. In all other online classes I had taken outside of this program (around 5 or so) the teacher had made up their own set of notes (not the ones provided in the teachers edition of the textbook) and lectured as though they were in front of a class room, following the notes and allowing appropriate time for students to take the notes along with the lecture. The discussion boards which are often used as participation points, were insightful and helpful to the learning of the material.

Sounds like a great way to learn doesn't it? Well it was, until I started this program because this program was the COMPLETE opposite! We were given often 6+ chapters to read in a week (this is the accelerated nature of things and thats ok) but where the issues came in was either there was no lecture, an 8-10 minute lecture or a lecture where the teacher just read from the textbook's provided notes. Hence why this program was completely self taught. There was no direction in what to focus on which made it extremely difficult. And to top it all off the exams were very much geared toward the application of nursing concepts (which makes sense) but when you barely understand the content, it can be rather challenging.

All of this being said, I have to say as much of a struggle this past year and half has been, the many sleepless nights, countless tears and days upon days of frustration I am a stronger person because I went through this program. I am still grateful that I was able to get into a nursing program and not be put on a 2+ year waiting list, and that hopefully in a mere few weeks I will be able to truly help providing for this growing family of ours. As much of a struggle as it has been I really am thankful to be done with school and only focusing on passing my boards.

One of the positive aspects of this last year and a half has been the strength it has brought me and the relationships that have formed through the frustrations. I would not have made it through this program without my classmates who are forever going to be in my heart. Each and every one of them is a beautiful person who is truly gifted in compassion and caring. They will all make fabulous nurses and I hope that we can all remain in touch throughout the years. I truly wish each and every one of them a lifetime of happiness and no more struggle!

So in reflection on my experience of nursing school, it was a struggle, one I often wanted to quit, but in the end I made it through and have developed some lasting friendships that have changed me for the better. I grateful for the many things I've learned both clinically and otherwise for without them I wouldn't be half the soon to be nurse I intend to be. Even though I'm quite bitter about the whole experience I can't say I would change my mind about going somewhere else because each and every frustration will hopefully have been worth it in the end.

So Marian, while I feel you have your work cut out for you. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to earn a nursing degree and getting one step closer to my dream of being a nurse and a somewhat stay at home mom! :)

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