In honor of Nurses Week… I now understand why we have an entire week dedicated to a hardworking, selfless, and compassionate group of people. And it doesn’t matter what level of nursing you are either.
As a Student Nurse, you are faced with hours of lecture, hours of clinical practice (God forbid you miss one clinical day!), and hours of homework after that. Of course, you’re prone to the social aspect of college life, and you want to squeeze in time with family, friends, and your own fitness goals. On top of that, you try getting the CDC’s recommended hours of sleep for your age group (which is typically at least 7 hours for the average adult). I had calculated the different number of hours I spent in college sitting in lecture per week, which would range from an average 16-21 hours. Clinical rotations and discussions would take up at least 20 hours. Homework, not including studying, would take about 16 hours. Then you include studying, which was pretty much the rest of the week because in nursing school, you never knew when you’d have a pop quiz for extra credit. And honestly, every point mattered. And it’s said that with every hour of lecture should equal about 2 hours of studying outside of class and completing homework. For instance, a 4-hour (or 4 credit) class, you should expect to study at least 12 hours out of the week. This didn’t include any of the time that you had to take to meet with group members and work on group projects, or go out of you way to spend an hour at a nursing home facility with a resident to complete a care plan for them (curse you Well Elder project!) And finally, all the student committees that people would push onto you so you’d become a “well-rounded” student and help make your college better.
Have you noticed that I haven’t made a comment about your own activities of daily living? Showering, eating, exercising, and socializing all become these tasks that we somehow integrate with our studies. I remember walking up and down the stairs of my college during our ten-minute breaks just to say “at least I walked today…” When I would study at home, I’d do 20 reps of some exercise I could do on my yoga mat every time I finished a section. Then when it was time for me to move onto the next subject, during my 20-minute break, I’d do Blogilates. You laugh now, but for me, that’s all I could manage to fit in when I was preparing for tests. On the weekends is when I’d go out for runs, or when I managed to finish everything early. “Socializing” became study sessions that involved a glass of wine and pizza. But shout out to all you nursing students for doing your thing! Nursing school is its own beast, and it can only be conquered by someone as strong and dedicated as you! I got through it, so can you!
But now that I am an official Registered Nurse, an Army Nurse at that, I have found more time for myself. It is a great feeling when you can go to work, make a difference, and then come home and relax. Granted that I do not live with my husband and I don’t have any kids yet… This just means I still get to enjoy “me” time. I am, however, excited to see how mixing family and work will be, and I know I’ll be able to power through that obstacle because of my awesome time management skills. (Thank you Nursing Gods for this hard-earned blessing). And the Army has also taught me some awesome things about nursing that I probably would have never learned anywhere else. I’ve learned to accept patients that come from combat zones and I’ve had to be the friendly face that gave them comfort in an unfamiliar place. When we’re working, we don’t think about these things. But when you look back on who you’ve helped, I can guarantee you almost every time, you’re that friendly face that made a difference.
Being on “my own” hasn’t happened quite yet. I am still in a residency type program where I have another, more experienced, nurse backing me up as I go about my day. Which is what I love about team nursing. You don’t have to take on everything by yourself because you know there’s a skilled LPN/LVN or tech/medic (very helpful people!) to have your back. I think that media has somewhat skewed society’s view on what happens in hospitals. For instance, Grey’s Anatomy… Please understand that it’s very rare that your Dr. McDreamy is the one that comes in and starts your IV and gives you medications. As nurses, we are your messenger. We are the power players of the game, with our one goal: to get you better. And doctors are the ones telling us the game plan. I’m not trying to talk down on doctors at all, but I do want people to understand the role that nurses play in the hospital. I’m not going to be the one to tell you your diagnosis. I’m not going to be the one to make decisions for you. But I am the one that will be there when you need someone who will listen to you with an unbiased opinion. I will be that person who will ask you what I can do to make your day just a little better, while you’re lying in our hospital bed during what could be one of the worst times of your life.
When I first graduated nursing school, I had the honor of having nurses in my Washington family give me words of inspiration. Many of which were the same words of inspiration that hold true for every Nurse, no matter if you’re a Student Nurse, a Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse, Registered Nurse, or a Nurse Practitioner. Every one that I’ve met with one of these titles, is probably one of the hardest working human beings I know. The top three most helpful pieces of advice I’ve heard are:
In the three years that I’ve been emerged in the nursing realm (as a SN and RN), I’ve had the privilege of working with experienced nurses who give me nothing but amazing career advice, insights on personal experiences, and real down-to-earth stories. Many of my experiences as a SN tested my boundaries for whether I could take on the title, and I am glad that I am still powering through as an Army Nurse. There are days where I feel like I could have done better, but that only makes me try harder the next day. I come in with my game face on, ready to conquer my assessments, charting, and navigating my way through medical jargon. Because I am privileged to work with my patients and help them through their illnesses. I am privileged to work with an amazing organization, the United States Army, and help treat the Warriors that I can so proudly call my Brothers and Sisters in Arms. Being a nurse is difficult, but I wouldn’t trade my career for the world.
Happy Nurses Week to all you amazing nurses out there! We appreciate everything that you do!