Paramedic or RN?

Well, here we are again, internet friends. Back to the soul searching and looking for advice from my favorite anonymous third party!

Firstly, if you’ve been following my whining about nursing school, you know I’ve been dealing with several really mean individuals. I’m happy to report that most of them will not be in my class this coming semester. Yay! There’s something to be said about karma, I suppose. Well, that and hard work.

During my Christmas break from school, I picked up more hours at my department. Going back and being able to do something I love…that all by itself makes me happier. Plus, trying out my new ALS skills has been really exciting too. Anyway, with all of these additional hours, I’ve obviously been to area hospitals more often, and to the local nursing homes as well. It just seems to remind me more and more that EMS is where I belong.

That, combined with some major screw ups at my school (losing my tuition, for instance) is making me rethink the whole nursing thing. I’m planning on applying to transfer…the problem is, should I transfer into another nursing program? Stick with it? Bridge to paramedic later? Or scrap it, become a paramedic, and bridge to RN eventually? It seems like the RN-first path means I’ll have lots of years doing things I hate in order to get where I really want to be (pre-hospital medicine, although ER would be fine too). Paramedicine, however, means putting my time and energy into a field I love.

I understand the RN position would be more financially stable, and I would have the opportunity to change specialties and get out of the emergency scene if it gets to be too much for me. But the idea of being a paramedic still pulls at me. So, here we are. Paramedic? Or RN?

 

Overheard at the Station

Cop: Hey, how’s nursing school?

P2P: Good. To be honest, some days I’m sitting in class, staring at my pencil, and considering giving myself a lobotomy with it because that would be more fun and less painful…but, overall, no, it’s not too bad.

Cop: Yeesh. Well, I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy. Good luck to you.

Time For Soul Searching?

I think I’ve finally had enough, and some soul-searching might be in order.

Recently, my grandma unexpectedly got very sick very fast, and was placed on hospice for a short while before she passed away. For about two weeks, any moment not spent in school was spent driving back and forth to distance major medical centers or her residence, spending what time I could with her. Her wishes were to be buried in her hometown in New York. When she finally passed, we had to travel for the funeral. In the middle of all this, I had a major paper due. My teachers were aware of what was going on, and granted me an extension on that paper. Certainly not something I asked for, but I was very grateful when it was offered to me.

When I came back to class, one girl had the stones to tell me, “I can’t believe you used a death in the family as an excuse. Must be nice to have family emergencies to give you even more time to get work done. Instead of just pushing through it like the rest of us.”

Once the urge to kick her in the head subsided, I felt hurt. Most of the drives home from school feel that way too. Which translates into commutes to school that are filled with anxiety and dread. Comments like the one I made above are made just about every day. I thought we were in college here. I thought the bullying was supposed to be over by now.

As hard as I try not to be, I’m a sensitive person. I’m much better at letting things roll off my back now than I used to be, but the right comments at the right time still get to me. So I vent to my friends who currently are nurses up at our little ER.

The popular response? “Yeah, nurses eat their young. That’s kind of normal. But in a year and a half, you’ll at least be making good money.”

That’s what I have to look forward to? A pay check? Let me be abundantly clear. Being paid is not and will never be enough compensation for daily emotional abuse. At least the patients who are mean are sick. Well, sometimes. Regardless, they won’t be in my care forever. But, I will have to be around mean coworkers all the time. And I don’t know that I can do that.

The school work is hard. But I know I can do it. I’ve been more proud of how much I’ve accomplished and pushed through this semester than I’ve ever been before in my life. It’s the fear that my working career will be just like my academic career–full of mean people who will say and do anything to cut you down. I don’t expect to be coddled and held and adored all the time. I don’t belong to that annoying mindset that I deserve a pat on the head and unabated praise for taking a poop every day. Although I’d like someone to joke around with, I’d be perfectly fine with neutrality.

Yes, I understand the world is full of mean people. But there are lots of really nice, caring, and wonderful people in the world too. Usually, I’ve found it’s a good mix, even leaning towards the good more so than the bad–at least in my small corners of the world. I’m talking about entering an environment daily that is nothing but cruel. And yes, I know, not all nurses are these awful and mean people. But it seems that that has become acceptable and normal; like kind coworkers are an exception. Therein lies the problem.

So do I keep on with nursing school, and hope that in a year-and-a-half, my career and coworkers will not seem as bleak and terrible as they’ve been made out to be? Or do I cut myself off from all the negativity now, and pursue something else? If I do that…then what else would I do?

Any insight? Support? Slaps in the face? Shaking in of common sense? Suggestions? Any and all of the above would be appreciated.

ECASA es su casa?

In nursing school, we have to make up medication cards for the medications that our patients are on. On these cards are things like dosage ranges, mechanism of action, indications, contraindications, side effects, and many other things. They’re time consuming. And they can do some interesting things to friends’ overtired and overworked brains.

 

Fried Nursing Student: Hey, did you finish your med cards?

P2P: Eventually. I’m not drinking this much coffee because I got a good night’s sleep, we’ll put it that way. You?

FNS: Almost. There was one I couldn’t find anywhere. I looked through all my drug books, all my reference guides…nothing. I’m like freaking out right now. I hope I don’t get in trouble for this…

P2P: That’s really weird it wasn’t in any of  your books…I can’t see how they can fault you on that. What was the drug’s name?

FNS: E-casa.

P2P: Wow…yeah I’ve never heard of that. Like ever. Spell it for me?

FNS: E-C-A-S-A. E-casa.

P2P: Um…Enteric coated aspirin? ECASA?

FNS: …….seriously? Seriously? Wow…I can’t believe…….

P2P (handing over my coffee): Here. You need this more than I do.

 

The Lucky Patch

I work with a paramedic who also teaches. He told me a story one day that inspired me.

Back in the day, he was teaching a paramedic class. It was tough, as good paramedic programs are, but the students were managing. Well, most of them. One student just wasn’t getting it. It wasn’t for lack of effort, or desire, or motivation. The guy worked his butt off, but he just wasn’t getting it. One day, he pulled his teacher aside. He wanted to be a paramedic so badly. There was nothing he wanted more. And yet, despite his best efforts, he was doing terribly in class. It was discouraging, to say the least.

The teacher thought it over. A couple of classes later, he pulled the student aside. He handed him a new, shiny, gold disco patch. That very thing this particular student craved. His eyes widened. Taking it cautiously, he offered a confused expression to the teacher.

“You can’t wear it. You can’t sew it to anything, or display it. You can’t be telling others you’re a paramedic, or giving that impression with this patch,” The teacher said. “But, you can have it in your pocket. You can know that it’s there. And, when times get tough, and you have a moment alone, you can take it out and look at it, and remind yourself why you’re doing this, and why you’re going to make it.”

The student did just that. He kept it in his pocket at school and during clinicals. When he was home, he kept it on his dresser. There were times that he doubted himself, for sure. There were rough nights of studying, long days of class, frustrating shifts of clinicals. But that patch helped him.  He did ultimately make it through paramedic school. Now, he can wear a gold patch on his arm.

 

Nursing school started last week. I have two 3-hour lectures a week, plus an 8-hour lab. When I’m not at school, I’m either driving, working, sleeping, or studying. Which would explain my lack of posts. And my soon-to-be lack of sanity. Things are stressful now, but certainly do-able. But I know it’s a matter of time before my faith in myself starts to wane. Before I start to wonder if I can do this, and how I’m ever going to make it. I look at my 13 textbooks, and the pages upon pages of notes I’ve already written. Once already, in the middle of a 100-page reading assignment (due 32 hours after it was assigned. Along with 15 pages of med math, 15 pages on cultural awareness, 40 pages of pharm, and 30 pages of nursing diagnoses), I began to wonder if this was ever going to end. And we’re only on week one. I have a long way to go.

But, that paramedic’s story stuck with me. I have a little pin that I fasten to the inside of my innermost pocket on my uniform. It has been with me at every class and every lab, and I plan on keeping it on me for the rest of my nursing school career. It’s just a little thing to keep me going, to keep me focused. Somewhere out there, way off in the distance, is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime though, it’s nice to keep just a little torch by my side.

*image credit

Yay for Educational Institute Screw-Ups

Did I tell you about the time I almost got thrown out of nursing school before it even started?

As you know, I got into nursing school. And as I mentioned in a previous post, I’m horrendously nervous and somewhat dreading it. That being said, of course I want to go and give it a try. I didn’t work my butt off for a year just to quit before the game even started.

This morning, I received an email from my school informing me (and the professors it was cc-ed to) that I was to be removed from all classrooms, labs, and clinicals on account that my vaccines were not turned in. Considering I faxed all this information over about a week ago, I was livid.

There’s a long, boring story behind this. There were many phone calls, a 90-minute round-trip drive, and lots of arguing and confusion. We finally realized that there were a few problems. Firstly, all the hospitals and clinical sites in the area are cracking down on the health requirements in order for students to spend clinical time there. It used to be okay in the past to just have your primary write “had the disease,” and have that fill your chicken pox vaccine requirement. Now, you need a titre. Only the hospitals didn’t tell the school that until a few days before the vaccine deadline. So now there are plenty of students in my shoes scrambling to get their titres in. I actually had mine done, but the proof was sitting at the bottom of a pile of faxes in the health office. Initially, the health office refused to go through all the faxes just for my records. Until I told them that I lost my seat in nursing school because my information wasn’t entered into their computer. After that, they were completely cooperative…which I’m shocked and grateful for, considering I was pretty annoyed at the time.

The other issue at hand is that when I received the pertussis vaccine as an infant, I went into anaphylaxis. So I can’t receive the pertussis vaccine, including the Tdap. I can receive regular tetanus vaccines, which is what I’ve done for my entire life. However, the Tdap is manditory for the nursing program. The health office knew I had a medical exemption to it, but the nursing program computers only see that my Tdap is incomplete, not that I actually have a valid medical reason for not getting the vaccine.

So it was a long and stressful day. I’m glad to have it over with. Several stupid little mistakes nearly cost me my spot in nursing school. Just…wow.

If You Don’t Smoke Now, You Will. And If You Do, You’ll Be Smoking Crack.

In my bedroom closet sits new notebooks, pens, a binder, two sets of teal scrubs, some dorky looking white shoes, my backpack, a “nursing equipment pack”, and 13 textbooks. I begin nursing school in two weeks. After such a trying and arduous year of pre-reqs, one would assume that I’d be excited, or feel accomplished. Instead, I’m nervous and filled with dread.

I was beyond thrilled when I read my acceptance letter. Finally, all the late nights, long commutes, and hard work was paying off. When I tried on my scrubs, it all felt so real. In two years, I will actually be a registered nurse! Then came orientation. 100 of us gathered in the auditorium. During the presentation, a girl raised her hand with a legitimate question to something that had been said that was confusing. The department head turned slowly towards her and very matter-of-factly said, “Are you listening at all? This does not bode well for your future as a nurse.” A cold wave washed over me as I shrunk a little in my seat. I glanced down at my watch. We were 10 minutes into orientation. 10 minutes into the unofficial start of my nursing education. Fantastic.

Later, the staff brought in a few nursing students who were about to enter their second year. The staff then left so we could ask the questions no one wanted to ask in front of them, and so the students could answer them without fear of correction or reprimanding of the staff. It basically came down to this…there is a double standard between the day and evening programs. I’m in the evening program. Apparently, the day program had pleasant, helpful staff, while the evening program  had bitter, cold faculty. In addition, the day program was allowed to take many of their tests open-book, while the evening program took all of the tests closed-book. We were also warned that the pedi section is ridiculously difficult.

“There’s this thing we joke about, called ‘The Pedi Pounds’. You will gain weight during this section. It’s inevitable,” One girl said.

“But don’t worry,” The man standing next to her interjected, “You’ll all be fat and suffering together.”

Summed up, we were lined up for two years of hell. The evening students just might have more hell to go through than the day program. Just before the staff came back into the auditorium, the female student who warned us about the pedi pounds said this…

“If you don’t smoke now, you will by the end of school. And if you do smoke, you’ll be smoking crack.”

Oh. Splendid.

I work with one paramedic who is also a nurse at a city hospital. And I know a few nurses up at our local ER too. They’ve said that nursing school works like that…they try to intimidate and scare the student nurses. They’re trying to weed out those who aren’t really committed. Many paramedics have said the same thing happened to them in medic school. “Hang on,” they tell me. “It’ll be rough,  but you’ll be okay.”

I certainly hope so. I would like to survive this program, and have enough knowledge to give me a good start to being a great nurse. As stupid as this sounds, it would be nice to make a friend here too, as I have yet to form any real friendships at this community college.

Oh yeah, and it’d be nice to get out of this without a nicotine or crack habit.

I’m Tryin’

They had been tearing, snapping, gouging my heart. They were harsh, painful things I could never say to anyone, yet for some stupid reason, it was okay to say those things to myself. It’s just that twisted, unfair way that we treat ourselves.

 As I drove into the school’s driveway, past the “Mount Green Community College” sign, I fought to keep my vicious emotions locked up tight in my rib cage. That January morning was my first day of classes at my new school. A month earlier, I had lived in a dorm at a regionally renowned private university in New York. I had transferred for a number of reasons, but as I pulled into a parking space, I only saw fit to call myself a failure.

I dragged my shoes across the mat placed in the main hallway, hoping to rub off the majority of the sand and salt they’d collected in the parking lot. Internally, I pleaded. Please, just let me prove I can do this right. Just prove that you are not a failure. I raised my eyes to the ceiling, maybe turning my plea into a prayer. A poster in the window of an office in the floor above mine caught my attention. In it, a pretty young woman was dressed in scrubs. A stethoscope was draped around her neck. She offered the world an accomplished smile. In big, bold, white print, the poster read, “BE A NURSE.”

 I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’, came my reply.

 I was determined to get into nursing school in the fall of 2012. In order to do that, I had a boatload of pre-reqs that needed completing. The only way to do that was to take courses over spring and summer, and take the maximum amount of credits in the fall of 2011. Each morning, I passed through the school’s doors, hoped that my academic efforts would one day wipe away the emotional battering I subjected myself to, glanced up at that poster on my way to class, and silently replied, I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’. Spring gave way to summer, and I drove 40 minutes to school with the windows down, trying to soak in as much of the lovely weather as I could. Then, I kissed my summer freedom goodbye, and paid my homage to the poster on the way to my five-hour lectures. Come fall, I had a GPA I was proud of. I nodded at the poster, hoping I wouldn’t blow my chances at nursing school in this final stage. My schedule was packed with 17 credits (four of which were microbiology. If you’ve taken that class, you feel my pain), and I had no wiggle room. The pressure was on; it was time to see how badly I wanted nursing in my future.

 After having poured everything I had into those classes, I finally had a nice long break from school. With only two weeks until the application deadline, it came time to take my TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills. It’s comparable to the SAT’s for nursing school. Has nothing to do with knowing the difference between Earl Grey and English Breakfast.) When that critical morning came, I took the long way to the exam room, passing by the poster of the smiling nurse. I’m tryin’. I’m so close. Three hours later, test results in hand, I headed towards the parking lot. Jingling my keys, I smiled that same accomplished smile I’d seen on that cheery nurse’s face every day.

 Currently, I’m putting the finishing touches on my application. In a few days, I’ll be back in my car, cruising down to school. I’ll pull into that driveway, just like I did a year ago. The words “Community College” on the sign won’t kindle any troubled feelings. Those left with the passage of time. Head up, I’ll stroll through the front doors, and head down the hallway. My fingers will be crossed, and a nervous but relieved smile will stretch across my face as I hand in my application. And I’ll cast a glance at the poster. I’m tryin’. I’m tryin’.