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End of the Spring Semester

The Accelerated Option nursing program has a weird schedule that doesn’t exactly match the regular academic year at Miami Dade College. That said, last Friday was the end of the Spring Semester, and that brought the end of two of the four classes I was taking since March. How did I do?

  • Nursing Medical-Surgical Skills: A
  • Pharmacology: C

I am extremely happy with my grades for this past semester. That C in Pharmacology? I sweated that C! We had a terrible time with that class due to having a really bad “teacher” that was simply not interested in teaching us the material. We mostly learned it all on our own, and with the help (finally at the end!) of our other professors. So yeah, a C there was gold, because it means I passed, and that’s what I needed.

I am still taking Medical-Surgical Nursing and Clinicals for another month, so I’ll update those grades when I get them.

My Clinicals Group

MedSurg Clinical Group

The basic unit of Nursing school, to me, is the Clinicals group. Though we’re all in the same class, and at times have taken classes at different time slots, it is when we go to clinicals that we separate into smaller units and achieve that squad-level tight focus. Above is my clinicals group for MedSurg (except for the guy at far right, we were all together as well for Fundamentals clinicals). These are my peeps. These are the people I spend time at the hospital with, the ones that stand by me, and me by them, when we face medical issues for the first time, when we have exams, when we’re stressed out, when we’re overwhelmed. These are the people that I high-five when we do something cool, when we celebrate the little victories and the big ones. We talk about wildly inappropriate things during lunch, know way too much about each other’s bodies, and are the only ones who truly understand what we’re all going through. These are my friends, and without them, nursing school would be practically unbearable.

Resolving Personal Issues

Nurses care for patients. That is our primary and overriding duty. But in order to care for our patients, we also need to take care of ourselves.

During my Death & Dying lecture in Fundamentals, one of the key lessons we learned is that in order to effectively help patients and their family deal with such issues, we need to have our own issues with the subject resolved. The rationale being that one who has unresolved issues with the topic of death and dying won’t be able to properly offer the help and care the patient will need at such juncture. It makes perfect sense, actually. The greater truth is, however, that this same lesson applies to pretty much every type of care we offer our patients.

This is a lesson that was driven home today for me in my skills lab when we learned how to insert a nasogastric tube. An NG Tube is a type of catheter inserted into the stomach through the nasal passage. It is used to decompress (get stuff out) the stomach, as well as for feeding and delivery of meds in some cases. In most cases, it is a treatment done for only a few days, except in rare cases. My mom was one of those rare cases.

Mom developed a duodenal tumor that shut down her gastrointestinal tract cold. In early February of 2009, I had to take her to the ER when she started feeling unwell. By the time we got there, she began to vomit violently and continuously, some eight times in a one-hour period with no signs of stopping. By the time she was finally taken into the treatment room, she was almost unconscious from all the fluid lost. She was immediately given an IV for rehydration, and when they detected very little bowel sounds, the doctor ordered an NG Tube be placed to decompress her stomach.

Imagine for a moment having a 15-inch plastic tube stuck into your nose and down your throat. Now imagine that while having an almost uncontrollable urge to vomit because you have three-days’ worth of food, liquids, and body fluids stuck in your stomach.

I saw the nurse put the NG Tube in Mom and it wasn’t pretty, even though we all knew it was for her benefit. It did its job, though. For the next 100 or so days of hospitalization over the following six months, Mom would not be without an NG Tube for more than 10-20 days. Towards the end it stayed in permanently; she took it to hospice home care and had it on the night she died.

I have unresolved issues with NG Tubes. Every time I see one a shiver runs down my spine as I recall that moment when it was inserted into her as an emergency procedure, and I remember how long she had it. I knew today we would be learning this skill and I steeled myself as best as I could before even leaving the house. The moment the professor pulled out the equipment, I lost my resolve. I withdrew, physically and emotionally. I hid in the back of the room. I fought back tears. I did not want my classmates or professors to see me this way. When I couldn’t take it any more, when the mannequin looked like Mom to my eyes, when I felt the world collapsing around me, I got out of the skills lab and hid in the bathroom.

I am a nurse student, and part of my training is going through situations like this so that I can face my own demons, fight them, vanquish them, and in the process gain the wisdom necessary to serve others who will be where I was back in 2009, or today for that matter. Putting in an NG Tube is a skill I need to be able to perform to pass this class, so you can bet that I will go back to the lab during practice hours and learn how to properly do it. And for that I need to resolve my personal issues, because ultimately there’s nothing I want more than to be a nurse.

Car-Free in 2012 (It Seems)

Back in 2010 I had this idea to go car-lite, then eventually car-free. I had a tag for it on my blog, I was taking notes on expenditures to validate my findings, and I was generally pumped up to do it. Then my bike got stolen, my class schedule changed, I lost impetus and it all fell by the wayside. Fast forward two years.

Much like in 2010, right at the start of classes in January my car was put out of commission, this time with the brakes ceasing to work instead of me getting my license suspended. My school is just on the other side of the bay from Miami Beach; it took me 6-7 minutes to get there by car, and being right next to the hospitals, it gets excellent public transportation coverage. So the next day I took the bus, decided it was doable on a regular basis, and after purchasing the reduced-cost bus pass for students, I made the switch entirely to public transportation.

I have not regretted it at all. Even though there are mornings when I arrive a few minutes late because of missing the bus, I still take it over the hassle and costs of driving.

In February, when my clinical rotations started, I happened to have my wife’s car available those two weeks, and when I didn’t, I car-pooled with a classmate. My next clinical rotation was at a hospital that is only 3.1 miles from my house, so now I get to commute by bicycle twice a week.

And I absolutely love it. I wake up early, yes, but then I ride for about 20 minutes around Miami Beach as the sun is rising. I get to take pictures in dramatic light. I get to arrive fully awake and ready to rock, whereas my classmates all arrive sleepy and groggy. Then in the afternoon I get to ride at a leisurely pace, stop along the way (maybe for a beer, maybe for a donut) and get home still with ample time in the day and some 7+ miles bicycled in m pocket. Seriously, what is not to love?

My car has been parked for two months and I have had absolutely no need for it. I have learned to live with the extra time public transportation/bike commuting requires and decided that the savings in cash and driving aggravations more than make up for it. I get in incidental exercise twice a week and help the environment just a little bit.

At this point I am considering selling my car and using that money for bus passes during the year. That means I’ll save the money I’d spend on repairs, parking permit, insurance and tag renewal. Even with a possible clinical rotation during the summer some 30 miles south (and an accompanying 3-hour public transportation ride starting at 3 AM), I am sure that it is the right thing to do now.

And how does this tie in with nursing, aside from the obvious connection with going to school and clinicals? This is role-modeling at its best. Although I have yet to take my Community Nursing class, I know it is an area with appeal to me, and one where I will seek to integrate my love of bicycles as much as possible. What I’m doing now can be considered research; it’s walking-the-walk so that I can talk-the-talk in the near future.

So, two years later, but look at that, I have achieved my goal of being car-lite, and eventually car-free!

End of First Semester

Just so you get an idea of the speed at which my program moves: I am writing this on March 11, a Sunday, and already I am one week into the second semester and one week away from my first exam. No time to breathe!

Anyway, on Friday, March 2, I finished my first semester of Nursing School and I did really well!

  • Nursing Fundamentals: A
  • Adult Health Assessment: B
  • Introduction to Pharmacology (Math): A
  • Nursing Fundamentals Skills: A
  • Nursing Fundamentals Clinical: Pass

It feels like I’ve been in school forever, but it’s only been two months. Two really hard, challenging months. I’ve gone from being a naive enthusiastic student with absolutely no practical knowledge of nursing, to an apprentice, enthusiastic student with the fundamental skills and knowledge of nursing. I’ve already helped patients on the floor at a nursing home and at the hospital, not to mention at an accident and during a potential emergency. I’ve given medications, I’ve redressed wounds, given bed baths, changed beds, cleaned whatever needs to be cleaned, been yelled at by a hooped-up-on-narcotics patient, gotten to know patients well enough for their families to recognize me out on the street and for me to wonder about them and their status in the days in between clinical rotations.

I’ve already studied far more than I ever thought I would, and realized it’s not enough; I’ve already felt like I have learned nothing and I’ve wasted time and money because I’ll never be able to do this right; I’ve already cried for no particular reason simply because of stress; I’ve lost so many hours of sleep that I simply don’t think I will ever catch up. And I’m only two months into my education.

And I friggin love it.

I had one weekend of freedom, and already the second semester has started. I am now taking Medical-Surgical (Med-Surg for short) Nursing Lecture, Skills and Clinicals, and Pharmacology. Bring it on.

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