Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Chapter

Nursing school has taken over my life. I very occasionally write about it here:  New chapter, new blog.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Not for the Faint of Heart

Eight weeks ago I started on the hardest and most fulfilling journey. My entire previous life ended and I was dropped in the pool and forced to sink or swim. This is probably the best thing I've done for myself in 4 or 5 years and I know that it will go by in a blink of an eye, just have these eight weeks have. It was nothing I expected and everything I didn't know that I wanted.

I've never in my life taken tests like the ones they give in nursing school. I consider myself to be a fairly good test taker, especially when it comes to multiple choice. I'm incredible at recognizing but not necessary recalling information. The thing about nursing school is that you are given hundreds of pages to read, you're forced to attend lectures, and then you have to pass tests by choosing not the "right" answer but the "best" answer. For example,

There are several safety hazards on your unit. Which one would you attend to first:
a) The water tank is leaking in the waiting room
b) A medication cart is missing a wheel
c) A patient in a contact isolation room's call light is out
d) A sharps container is full and about to spill over

All of those things are dangerous and could cause injuries and law suits out the wazoo. I went back and forth between a and c for maybe 5 minutes before I realized that my patient should come first before anything else and that there is no way for that patient to ask for help. Every test is like this and frequently I find myself thinking half the answers are the best answer. Thankfully, I've managed to get B's in my classes and I've begun to find out that group studying helps tremendously. You can only read and go over powerpoints so many times. If you get with a group and discuss different scenarios not only are you applying your knowledge but you are also keeping yourself awake and in a support network. Being awake and having emotional support is really have the battle.

I thought that pharmacology would be easy since I worked at a pharmacy management company and I have heard of so many different drug names before. I found out that pharmacology is definitely not just drug names. I learned that every patient is unique and that you have to use the right dosage, right route, right medication, right time, and right documentation. Nothing is as simple as it looks. There are so many factors to consider and since the nurse is the last one to administer the medication, the nurse is responsible for any ill effects or harm. Oh yeah, and they also have to counteract any harm done if that's possible. It's a tremendous responsibility and as we discussed in clinicals, it's sad how common medication errors actually are. I won't even go there, because you don't want to hear these numbers. I'll just keep studying hard.

Assessment skills-frighten me. Hearing heart sounds, lung sounds, and gastric sounds is only half the battle. You have to be constantly aware. By looking at people really closely you can tell so much about their health.

In nursing school, you are learning so much very quickly. You really don't have time to deal with normal life things like moving, bills, laundry, or making dinner. You get help for your family or you make time. It got to the point where after 6 weeks I decided it would be better for me to quit my job and just focus on nursing school. Brandon has been an absolute angel and is picking up so much slack. I can't wait to be the sugar mama of the family in 2 years. I will make it through! You have to keep telling yourself that. Three students have already dropped out of the program due to various issues. There are many students in my program of various ages with children (from a couple of months to teens), jobs, and you know, lives. I have no idea how they do it and try to remind myself that I have it really easy.

The other thing that gets your through is your fellow students. They are they only ones that truly know what you are going though. My class has a private facebook group that helps to keep us all on top of that  pertinent question, "Uhhh we were supposed to do this, this, this, and what else again?". Also, it is a great way to organize study groups.

Clinicals have been a profound experience for me. Two weeks ago we started going to long-term care facilities twice a week for 7 hours in groups of 10 or so. My clinical instructor is absolutely amazing. She's calls herself a "dinosaur" nurse because she has been a nurse forever. She always reminds us to not forget about the little things. Nurses today are wrapped up in documenting, assessing, but tend to forget that the patient might want to brush their teeth before they go to bed or that they are in isolation and haven't spoken to or touched a human being in weeks.  We always have premeeting and postmeetings where we learn about the body or learn about a few drugs. Then, we have deep life discussions relating to our experiences or research articles that each student presents.

Yesterday, we were discussing an article that talked about how student nurses would care for homeless people as their first clinical experience. In Central Florida, we have a ton of homeless people and many of them live in "communities" in tented wooded areas. They have societal hierarchies, the look out for each other, and if they need medical care they go straight to the ER. Our clinical instructor said that in her community health class they used to drive around to different houses and bring scales along with them to weigh babies or give shots or do whatever needed to be done. They would do something different everyday, learn something new, and they just LOVED it to death. Or as she so eloquently put, "We were like pigs in slop".  A year later, a student nurse went to a man's house to provide care to him and was raped and murdered. The school stopped doing community nursing.

This lead to a discussion about whether homeless people should be given the same care as everyone else...we all agreed that everyone should be given the same level of care. We discussed our encounters with homeless people or people dressed like homeless people asking for money and then putting on their work suit and driving away in their BMW. We talked about things like Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army and how some people even when give job skills and resources, still prefer to be or end up in the woods or on the street. We talked about how mental disorders, alcohol, and drugs contribute to homelessness. We talked about how there were no easy answers.

Then, our instructor ended our lesson by telling us about her brother. Her brother would never give homeless people money but he would ask if he could buy them a cheeseburger and fries. Then, he would sit down with them and talk to them like they were the most important person in the world. He did this regularly. Eventually, our instructor's brother passed away and tons of people showed up at his funeral. During the funeral service a homeless women with tattered hair and ragged clothes came in and walked up to the casket with a plastic flower. She was bawling and throwing her body over the man's casket and laid her flower on top of it. Immediately security guards surrounded her and started to drag her away. His sister yelled out, "Stop! Let her be! Leave her alone!" because she knew that's what her brother would have wanted.

Then, I cried in front of my entire group. I wasn't the only one though. That night, I went home with my heart full of the women at the nursing home who could not speak or move, who I had given a bolus feeding that evening. My heart was full of my resident who was only in her 60s but had trouble verbalizing because of her stroke and was in constant severe pain. My heart was full of the woman who I joked around with while I helped her to the bathroom and she just sucked in the attention I gave her like she was starved for it. My heart was heavy for the woman who had to be given Xanax because she was out of money and being sent home. My heart was heavy for the man who was on 3 liters of oxygen a day who wasn't on any oxygen last year, my instructor noted.

Nursing is not a career. It is real and it is life. You learn that you have to treat everyone as you would treat your mom or dad or yourself because no one really knows for sure when and how they will die. Nursing is raw and it's not for the faint of heart or soul.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My first week of nursing school

The Friday before nursing school started, I got off work at 8pm and brought a load of stuff we didn't need to our new townhouse for the first time. We decided to move to be closer to my school but B decided to stay at our old place for the week since our furniture was there, the internet/cable was not yet on at the new place (and he needs it for work), and we will have to keep the old place until the end of the month (we were 6 days late in letting our landlord know we were moving and we didn't want to be rushed). I decided to stay at our old place on Sunday night and take the long way to school and brave I-4 traffice since our power wouldn't be turned on until Monday. Early Monday morning, I finished some homework that I realized was due that day after looking at our school facebook group and packed some things in my car for the trip to the new place. After school, I drove to the new place around 6pm and walked into the townhouse.

I tried to turn on the lights in the front of the house but they wouldn't turn on! I was starving and didn't have any groceries and stressed out from school so I started to flip out and cry. I called B and sobbed to him like a maniac. He doesn't really know how to deal with me when I'm stressed out like that. He was trying to get me to turn on the breaker but I was stumbling around in the dark, sobbing from stress. I was HUNGRY and had a pile of stuff to unload in my car and had been through a whole day of nursing school and had a stack of homework waiting for me. So, it turns out that the lightbulbs in the front of the house were out but the rest of the house worked. So, the power was turned on. After I composed myself, I went to Walmart (while STARVING) and gathered a ton of unhealthy food that I could pop in the microwave or the stove.  I realized when I got out of walmart that my car was filled with stuff that B and I had packed in my car to bring to the new place and that I didn't have any room for I akwardly stacked groceries on top of all my stuff. Then, when I got home the small metal latch on my truck somehow got displaced and I couldn't close my mother-lovin trunk! On top of all that, I didn't have any cooking utentsils with me other than plasticware, because, obviously, I didn't plan this move very well.

I got home only to discover that I did have power, however, the water was not yet turned on and yeah, the chef boyardee or cookie dough I bought.... I did not have not a baking pan or a pot to cook on the stove. So, basically, I was not prepared and felt like I was camping out on a futon next to a port-a-potty. B and I figured out that the trunk could be fixed by manually inserting the key to fix the latch placement....this was only after I decided I was calmed down enough to talk to him again. Then, I asked my parents to stop over and to bring a pitcher of water...and they did. Then, my dad got all "holmes-on-homes" about the stairs being slightly raised and the random hole in the wall where the past renters removed a security system and so on.  So, I was up late just generally upset and trying to figure out how to live and go to nursing school. 

The next day was a short day at school so after school I stopped at our old place and loaded my car with more necissities that I realized that I needed. Apparently, I am high-maintanence and I didn't know it until I didn't have what I needed to pots, pans, shoes that weren't sandals, the list goes on and on and on. I stopped at the Target by my house and got a toilet bowl cleaner and trashcan for my bathroom because the 1/2 bath on the bottom floor was uhh...turned into an outhouse to explain it politely. I got home and the water was turned on so I flushed the fully loaded toilet in the 1/2 bath. It didn't go down so I flushed it again. The next hour involved me cleaning up sewage with a beach towel and then realizing that dryer was missing it's nomb and that I didn't have a pliers. I ended up washing the towel and draping it over a bunch of chairs on the porch to dry. At this point, I'm not really upset...just sort of laughing at the whole ridiculous situation.

The next day at school was extremely long because I was in labs all day.  I met this awesome lab teacher who was smart, fiesty, and scared the crap out of all the other students because she had such high standards for care and asked us questions that made us think hard. I thought she was awesome because I knew that she would make me a super nurse under her direction and I hope she becomes my mentor eventually. I believe she will be teaching my clinicals. There was something about her...she just was so SMART and HONEST and STRONG and I just want to give her a great, big hug despite the fact that she doesn't seem like a very touchy person.  I came home around 8 at night and did homework until 1 in the morning and then woke up around 6am in order to get to yet another day of labs. On Thursday, I was falling asleep in my last class and then had to drive home at 6 in the evening. It took me over an hour to get home. Thankfully, B came over that night and made me feel a lot better and less alone. I fell asleep early and had a 12 hour day of work the next day. My patient had some GI problems the night before and was extremely, extremely confused (she has Alzheimer's) but we actually had a very relaxed day despite all that.

On Saturday, B and I had a moving truck and packed up all of our major furniture with B's mom, my parents, and our next-store neighbor. It. was. exhausting. and it took the whole day. Today, I had my sister and her friends over to help us unpack. It's much better than it was but it is really, really abhorant that I haven't even touched my homework yet this weekend. Do NOT move while starting school. This week was pretty much insane. The whole week I was thinking, "There ain't no rest for the wicked", because I will not have a break for a long, long, time.

Tomorrow I will be doing homework all day and I hope my mother-in-law will come over and help us with more unpacking. This may take a few weeks or more until I feel like a normal person. Or never. Welcome to nursing school!

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Year-End Review

Now that I'm off work with a pile of homework waiting on me, I suddenly feel inspired to blog. The "Year-End Review" is actually one of my favorite types of blog posts. I get so busy that I can't even remember what I did 3 days ago and when it comes to the past year...forget about it. I actually have to use photos, my blog, and twitter to remember what the hay happened.

January 2011-
I was still unemployed in January. I had quit my horrible call center job to focus on the GRE and applying to graduate school in October. This month I improved my GRE score by 100 points and I went to 3 Physician Assistant school interviews in Orlando, Fort Myers, and Jacksonville. The week that B and I traveled to Fort Meyers and Jacksonville we both came down with a horrible flu. I had to get a flu shot this year for nursing school so maybe I can avoid the shakes, sweats, and being unable to eat. I learned that I should have pepto, coke, decongestants,  and popsicles in my house at all times just in case.  I ended up at alternate at 2 schools and rejected at one. The competition was extremely fierce and I decided to go the nurse practitioner route instead but I'm glad I got to have this experience. Also, those pearls are really cute. I need to get them out and start wearing them more.

B and I started doing Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred but stopped when we got massively sick and I started picking up random shifts through my current job as a Nursing Assistant through an agency.

Please admit me!

February 2011-
Our landlord replaced our old appliances with slightly newer ones. I got a kick out of this because every new appliance in our house beeped. This is very good since my fiance can be very ADD and has been known for burning things he's heating up.

I went to Melbourne because my aunt was there visiting some other relatives. I had a great time joining them for  "therapy". That's what they call getting some drinks out at a local restaurant where one of my relative's teengaged son works. I love my aunts and I hope they can attend our wedding this year!

For Valentines day we had sushi at Amura's, frozen yogurt at mochi, and drinks at home. It was the first time in 3 years that I didn't have to pull a nearly all-righter on Valentine's Day due to school. As weird as that sounds,  it was becoming a tradition.

I started working more hours and I went to my friend's engagement party. We celebrated my sister's birthday and twitter says I was, "a total bitchin' rockstar from Mars". I was quoting Charlie Sheen.

Leaving at home has some perks. My sister's birthday cake. 

March 2011
I procured private health insurance, an IRA, and started planning our engagement party. We also started to look at houses to buy. For my job, I became CPR/AED/First Aid certified for 2 years through the Red Cross-little did I know that it's not accepted in nursing school and I had to retake it later.

I honored my old girl scout troop leader by attending her funeral. I dropped and broke an entire gallon of milk and cried over it. B got his Ipad and I stood in line with him for a long time. We went out to a pub for St. Pattie's Day.

April 2011
We worked on our wedding registry but I think we need to go through it again and narrow it down before invitations get sent out.

I did the South Beach Diet with the patient's wife that I worked for at the time. It worked when I did it. I hauled both our cats to the vet while B was at work. I also went to the dentist and doctor for a health issue.
I got a free sunless tan but it left a giant white spot on my inner elbows.

I went to a concert with some friends and was cranky and falling asleep by like 12. Didn't really plan that one out too well.
I took this picture of my cute friend before the concert. She thinks that she looks 12 here.

May 2011
Worked a ton of hours this month. I also started taking a nutrition class online which was my last prereq for nursing school. We celebrated B's birthday with friends and went to a few shows at the Fringe Festival the next day (his choice: Dr. Who's Line Is It Anyways?). I also got to see my amazing friend Sara, who was in town from New Mexico.

At the end of the month, I went to Vegas for a bachelorette party. It was fun but frankly I'd rather go back there and do the tourist thing rather than the partying thing.

June 2011
We ended our overly expensive gym membership and got a cheap one (should have done this all along).

B and I went to two weddings in one weekend. It was fun and a bit crazy. B and I got lots of ideas of what not to do and what to do at our wedding.

We made an offer on a beautiful house this month. The offer wasn't accepted and we decided to wait  to buy a house. This worked for us because I start nursing school this year and we got a new car (read: expensive).

I screwed up my sleep schedule keeping up with work and my online class. I procrastinated a ton but got an "A" in the class.

July 2011

We celebrated the 4th of July with my family and made something delicious food including a blueberry crisp-yum.  The Casey Anthony trial ended and finally stopped wasting my time watching it. My mom retired from her job after 25 years and I was so happy for her!

We interviewed and picked a wedding planner whom we love to death:
Michelle Butler Events

I had to take my patient to the hospital and was off a few days while I completed my last assignments for my class.

August 2011
We shopped around for a new car at Carmax and we bought one. Then, we realized we could get it cheaper through the "car guy" at my parents' credit union. So we returned the car. We cleaned out our entire garage and after about a week we were able to get a brand new 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe for very reasonable. I said good-bye to my very first car.

Good-bye, Buiy!

Hello, sexy Santa Fe.

Photo credit: Hyundai Santa Fe

I still wonder where Buiy is sometimes. Poor girl was falling apart.

Started working full-time with a new patient. I studied really hard for the TEAs prenursing test this month.
We started looking at wedding venues and B designed, printed, and mailed out our awesome party invitations.

September 2011:
I ordered a pretty dress for our engagement party. Our party was at the end of the month and it was probably the best thing that happened this year. The company and food were wonderful and it went so smoothly.

At the end of the month we rescued an adorable stray kitten and B traveled for work a ton.

October 2011
I threw my old, dumb phone away. B and I got iphones! I love it and instagram likes it my job.

I tried on a few wedding dresses with my sister and found a few I might be interested in. Maybe.

We took a mini-vacation to Sanibel with some family on B's side. Guess what? We took the backroads late at night after work and a deer ran into our beautiful new car. We learned the meaning and value of car
insurance this month. FYI-don't take back roads at night in rural Florida.

The tow truck driver drove us back home at until about 3am that morning and told us the craziest stories. The next day we took our other car to Sanibel and had a great time! While the car was in the shop B rented a Chrysler 300 and that was actually a lot of fun to drive.

The cottage that we always stay in.
So peaceful for walks on the beach.

Halloween involved handing out candy at my parent's house and my sister and I dressing up in combinations of ridiculous old costumes.
I keep myself entertained.

Oh yeah, and I turned 27. I got some wonderful gifts from my family and generally was in disbelief of yet another birthday. I'm now in my "late" twenties. Groan.

Almost there...

November 2011
I got into nursing school! I went to an orientation and 2 RN boot camps in addition to working full-time. It was very hectic. 

We went to a gator game...we go to tons of gator games so I'm not sure why this one stuck out in particular. Maybe because I got an iphone and could document it. BTW, not such a good gator football season this year! Ready to move on...

My game face. Defensive because I knew we were going down.

I went to the doctor to get hospital compliant for nursing school and got every shot you can think of. I became certifed in BLS by the American Heart Association this month per nursing school requirements.
December 2011
I ordered my nursing school uniforms, books, and we finally ordered our rings. I love my engagement ring and it only took me over a year to get it! The stone is from a heirloom ring and the band is actually from an estate sale. 

I went to 2 more RN bootcamps and a final nursing orientation. We started looking at places to rent because my nursing school is a long drive from where we live currently. 

My mom and fiance discovered a lovely townhouse while I was at work one day and convinced me to put down a deposit. I can't wait to see it because I've never seen it before (though I trust my mom and fiance completely with this matter).

Christmas was OK this year but I worked practically through all of it. So I would go to work all day and then to a Christmas party and then to work again the next day for 4-5 days straight. After I got a day off I think I slept for a million hours. I had a great time with the family as always though. I'm so blessed to have them.

These are amazing and easy. Making them again next year!
Mexican hot chocolate cookies-yum!
All the fam at my M-I-L's.

On our annual "lights" around Orlando tour.
Merry Christmas!
In summary, the pros of 2011:
-new car
-my mom retired
-had an awesome engagemeny party
-engagement and wedding rings 
-picked a venue
-got a wedding planner
-went to Sanibel for a quick vacation
-spent time with family around Bdays and holidays
-got into nursing school
-found a new townhouse to rent

the cons:
- new car got bucked up (but fixed, yay insurance!)
-worked a ton
-spent too much money on nursing school books and everything else (though we knew the wedding and school would be expensive)
-the Gators had a horrible season
-couldn't find a home for the kitten and ended up taking it to the humane sad. 

It was actually a more productive year than I thought. The next week is homework and moving. Pray for me!! Seriously.

I Haven't Done That Since High School

This morning I went for a slow jog and then came home and made a brunch for  B and I. It's his first day back to work and I wanted something healthy and protein-filled to start my day with as I will eventually start on a truckload of homework that's due on the first day of nursing school. As I was making it I was thinking that I would do something totally off-the-wall and crazy and actually eat at the dinner table for once in my life.

Since we've been packing up our house to move this week, our dinner table is finally uncluttered enough to actually eat at it. Most of the time we eat in front of some type of back-lit screen at the coffee table. This is not good for several reasons. If you are distracted by a TV or a computer, you're far less likely to realize when you are full and to continue to eat just to be entertained. It's not good for my laptop either for obvious reasons (I know, it's awful, guilty as charged, but I plan to stop). Today, at the dinner table I ate with no one else, by myself, with no distractions, complete silence, and yes, it was kind of boring, but kind of nice to pay attention to what I was putting in my mouth. Nowadays, I don't think my parents do much table-sittin. I think my dad does for breakfast so that he can read his paper and have his coffee but you're pretty much on your own for lunch and dinner. I realize when we were kids it was just to teach us table manners, but now that I'm an old, overweight lady, I see there are way more benefits than that.

Also, I look back fondly at the meals my mother used to cook for us these days. If I were at my parents' house yesterday rather than work I would have had black-eyed peas with onions and green and red peppers. My mom is from Ohio and is definitely not a southerner but she loves her black-eyed peas. When we were kids she would serve us a meat, vegetable, and a starch. Some of the meats might be Salisbury steak, chicken, or meatloaf. Our starch was always potatoes and very occasionally a roll. We never ate rice growing up and I guess maybe this was because of my mom's midwestern upbringing. She never served casseroles either which I see a lots of southerners make these days.  We always had vegetables and I LOVE vegetables. We had lima beans, green beans, peas, or corn, and usually they were out of a can. If it wasn't this formula, it would be  what I would call a "theme meal" like fajitas, tacos, or spaghetti.

 Brandon loves rice and hates every green vegetable under the sun except lettuce. B and I ate out a lot in college and if we cooked at home it was usually something more elaborate. The other day, B made lentils with sliced chicken sausage on rice. This is actually a very healthy meal but where's my beloved green? I miss the green! When we first explored cooking together we would make copycat PF Chang lettuce wraps, or my famous Carne Asada tacos (actually it's a Tyler Florence recipe).  I never really saw the value of these simple meals until now. I was lean and trim in high school and I think that was because I sat at the table, ate my vegetables, and oh yeah, team sports may have helped with that too.