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Nursing School on Steroids – Part Five: New Location, Bad Start

Posted Feb 23 2010 11:07pm

So many things went wrong with my second year of nursing school that I’m not sure where to begin, so starting with the lab instruction is as good as anywhere. At the other campus I enjoyed almost private instruction as the ratio was about five nursing students to one teacher. Our instructor was a wonderful older woman. She had been an elementary school teacher and took the kindly approach of teaching; that of patiently working with students until they got it right, no matter how long it took and with no pressure. When I left her classroom I felt confident that I had learned how to master all the things required of first-year nursing students, like how to give an injection and gag patients with a tube put through their nose and down their throat and into their stomach to suction nasty things out.

Lab at the new campus was a whole different story; for starts, there were about 50 students in it. It was huge. No more personal attention. When the lab instructor gave a demonstration of something we were supposed to learn at the dummy patient’s bed, all the hotshot students would race over and huddle around to watch in awe the nursing skill of the day, leaving out us older, slower moving (and much more polite) students. We’d wait until they’d left and tried to figure out what we were supposed to have learned. Just about the time we’d manage to get in position, we’d usually hear, “Time’s up! If anyone didn’t get a chance to try it, come back between classes and you’ll get a chance to practice all you want.” But that didn’t usually happen. Not because I didn’t need the extra help, but my free time never coincided with the free time of the lab room, and many times when I’d go back there, the lab was locked. Or, it may be unlocked, but no one would be available to help me figure out what it was I was supposed to know.

The week following the lab when we had learned the new skill, we would be tested to see how well we knew it. There were so many of us, we were broken up into groups and given designated times to check in. There were usually several other nurses, (some instructors, some not) who would take part in the testing to help out. These nurses were unfamiliar with us students, and it was hit or miss on whether they were going to be kind and helpful, or critical and only interested in showing how brilliant they were and how dumb we were. For the first time since starting nursing school I dreaded nursing labs and nursing lab tests.

I was also still nibbling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and withdrawing from prednisone, so the stress of the nursing lab compounded my nausea. My shoulders also were still bothering me, and I continued to return to the surgeon for cortisone shots which he gave me without hesitation. He even didn’t question my activities in the hospital on my clinical days when he’d see me hustling away, pushing gurneys and wheelchairs and lifting patients. I was also becoming increasing aware of pain in my thumbs and wrists, especially my right; and my problems with my nose and breathing never ended with the packing being removed; I was now left with a deviated septum which caused practically a totally obstructed nasal passage.

In the meantime, I was working off some of the steroid jitters and energy by keeping busy with the state student nursing association meetings and preparing to attend a national conference with the other officers. I was also holding student nursing association meetings at my own school which included motivation sessions for pre-nursing students on the virtues of nursing school and if I could do it, they could do it. But I didn’t yet realize the politics at this nursing school would make that untrue; that a nursing student’s success here was dependent on the wishes of the teaching staff, not the students’ accomplishments. This I would learn very soon.

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