Many of us recognize that we have something to give to the world – a caring, nurturing character with a strong desire to make lives better. Of course, we need to learn how to accomplish this desire and going to a nursing school is the first step in obtaining a lucrative and rewarding career in this growing profession. So it makes sense that, early in the process, our minds are overwhelmed with daunting tasks such as identifying what type of specialty to enter, learning about available programs of study, and obtaining enough financial aid. But there is more to nursing school than first meets the mind.
In case you missed it, a book excerpt by an RN was published in the American Journal of Medicine in January that describes a special kind of wisdom that comes from experience. She describes the first moments of a difficult patient situation as a nursing student. It’s something we don’t learn from a text book or a simulator. It’s the first hand account of being a real nurse; someone who has emotions attached to his or her work and is affected by patient outcomes. To help us understand the depth of this facet in nursing, we can look to Crossing the River Sorrow, One Nurse’s Story by Janet L. Richards, BSN, RN. In her book she writes:
“On a Tuesday afternoon in 1973, during my second year of nursing school, I’m looking out the window on the eighth floor neurology wing, stalling for time. One of my patients from my rotation in the ICU has been transferred to the floor, and I’ve come to see her. Her name is Carrie. She’s 20 years old and paralyzed.”
Richards goes on to describe Carrie’s situation and illustrates the sorrow of her young husband, who is described as “slumped against the heater under the window at his wife’s bedside. His eyes blazed, wild with fear and disbelief as he struggled to make sense of his sudden immersion into the alien world of disability.” The author then gets to the root of this story, the student nurse’s own emotions during this trying time. “At my post by the window on that day, I’m aware of my fear. I’m scared that the sadness and horror of what’s happened to my patient will overwhelm us both. But I am a nurse and with grim resolve force myself to enter her room.”
We know that the road is long, but it’s well worth the trek in the end. We consider all of the technical skills to cover, all of the terms and medications to memorize, even the bedside manner tips we’ll learn from mentors along the way. Yet, few students entering nursing school for the first time really anticipate the depth of knowledge they will acquire over the next two to five years. To read the rest of this excerpt and learn more about her story, view the American Journal of Medicine’s A Special Kind of Knowledge
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