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Why nursing school?

August 24, 2011

It’s been a fairly productive day so far and I need some time to sit and recuperate so I may as well write about something I’ve been asked a lot lately: Is going to nursing school a good idea?

My symptoms started when I was 17, and I have been taking care of patients since I was 18 (wow 7 years already). There is no doubt in my mind that I am built to be in a care giving profession. I am always at my happiest when I am with a patient; be it in a hospital, their home, a nursing home, or in the field. It is physically and emotionally exhausting at times, but its worth it. Nothing fascinates me more than the science behind patient care. Despite that though I have had times where I’ve questioned my decision to start pre-health and go on to the BScN program.

I do not mean to diminish the nursing profession by saying this, but nursing is my second choice. Before my health got to this point I initially planned on becoming a paramedic. Emergency care is how I got my start doing first response with St. John Ambulance, and a piece of my heart will always be in emergency care. I gave up aspirations of being an Air Force medic when things started to turn south again for me. That decision was beyond heartbreaking. Going from being physically ready for basic training and waiting for my appointment to do my entrance tests to being so exhausted I could barely lift my arms and think straight was devastating. That was an extremely depressing time for me. I thought I would have to give up being a care giver completely. Once my health improved again, I decided it would be best to try the civilian route. I applied for the local paramedic program, but I still had doubts because of how low my health had dipped. I put in a second application to the local college for the pre-health program. I was constantly asked which one I would settle on, and I always kept saying paramedic. The offer of acceptance for pre-health came first, and I accepted it before getting wait listed for the paramedic course. It wasn’t merely because the pre-health offer came first. As painful as it was, I had to come to terms with the fact that I would have a great amount of difficulty in the paramedic program because of my health.

I have no illusions about the physicality of the nursing profession though. I finished my personal support worker course in 2009, and I remember barely being able to walk at the end of a clinical day. I expect no less from nursing. But that experience as a PSW is what is convincing me that I can be successful as an RN. I did have flareups while I was doing my PSW clinicals. I was at a disadvantage then because I had no idea what was happening to me. Now that I have a clearer picture of my health, I know what steps I can take to keep myself in better shape and what warning signs to look out for. That knowledge is also making me much more cautious in approaching accessibility services at my school and discussing my situation with my professors. My first clinical instructor for the PSW program was the most notoriously difficult, and I made no effort to hide my health from her (at one point she even treated me during a lunch break). I will not make that mistake again. I was ridden harder than other students and given more difficult patients (both mentally and physically) and at one point was bluntly told that I would be a failure because of my health (that ended up being reverse psychology on me because I graduated top of the class). Looking back, I’m thankful for that experience and it just helps encourage me even more, but I will not put myself in a situation again where I am put under undue stress like that. I will manage my symptoms on my own and keep them as private as possible until it is absolutely necessary to inform my teachers. As much as I would like to be completely open with my situation with anyone that cares to hear it to help educate people, I can’t because it will lead to workplace discrimination. Nurses are expected to be completely healthy, despite the constant exposure to infectious diseases, physical labour, and unholy work hours. Unfortunately nurses are very unsympathetic to each other when it comes to their health. Many nurses have the attitude of “if you have any sort of disability at all you should not be a nurse and I do not want to work with you.” It is understandable in a way since many have had experiences with other less driven nurses who use a disability to slack off, but I’d rather avoid the attitude all together. I’d rather be treated like any other nurse than have to struggle harder than the rest to prove myself to be the exception to the rule.

Now that it has been a few months since I accepted the pre-health offer and start classes soon, I’ve really come to be quite excited about becoming a nurse. There are so many more opportunities for me in nursing, and I’m really looking forward to specializing in MS. If my health does take a turn for the worse and I can no longer do direct patient care, I can still work in other nursing fields. I will always crave the adrenaline rush of first response, so I’ve decided to go back to volunteering in first response. It will be months of sitting through training sessions until I have enough hours under my belt to recertify as a medical first responder, but that’s fine with me. I miss being around like-minded people, so the training will be enjoyable. All the rush and satisfaction of emergency care without the mandatory work schedule. What more could a girl want? It will be nice to be able to take care of patients while I’m stuck in theory-only classes for a while at school.

I do have my concerns about the theory classes considering I’m prone to periods of cog fog and fatigue. I’m not worried about being unable to type due to tremors and whatnot thanks to dictation software (at least I don’t have trouble deciphering my chicken scratch hand written notes). I’m just going to have to put in a bit of extra effort now and then to keep my studies up to snuff. I am a perfectionist though, and while I only need a 2.6 GPA in pre-health to get into BScN, that’s just not good enough for me. I want to be top of the class again; accepting that award was one of the proudest moments of my life. I’m fine with putting in extra effort; I’ve been brushing up on my subjects throughout the summer and now that I have my textbooks, I can start covering the course material on my own ahead of time. If I stay a few steps ahead of the class, then I won’t fall as far behind if I get bogged down with health problems. I will have to try to schedule my ultrasound, MRI, and appointment with Dr. Kickass on a light day class-wise to avoid having to provide a doctor’s note for missing a lab, but if it comes to that I guess I just have to hope that the teacher respects my privacy and keeps it between her and I.

As for bringing a collapsible cane with me in my bookbag, I will likely hold off on that as well. If I can avoid it completely I will. I just hope that if it does get back to the point where I need a cane again, I will be far enough into the course and have proven myself more than competent. If that’s how it turns out, it will be less uncomfortable for me to be open about my condition.

So is nursing school a good idea? I don’t see how it isn’t. Even if I end up only being able to take care of patients for a year after I finish, it will be worth the effort, energy, and money in my eyes.

 

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