I don’t know about the rest of my cohort, but this week I felt like I was bumbling around, trying to create some semblance of routine and sense of order. Our clinical location is different than our lecture location, so I’m still figuring out what time I need to wake up and be out the door each day, which days are better bike days versus bus days, how much of my stuff I actually need to schlep around with me…and which nights are better for
slacking off self care versus the ones when I should be in bed by 9pm (on second thought, also self care). In this period of transition I find myself returning to my background as a Montessori educator, as it provides such useful frameworks for understanding the dance between teaching and learning.
Maria Montessori wrote about what she called “universal human tendencies,” characteristics of all humans which drive our engagement with the world we live in. In my training as an elementary teacher, we spent a lot of time thinking about these tendencies and the ways in which they are manifested throughout the lifespan. For elementary children, it meant that as their Guide/teacher, I was facilitating their propensity for group work, community-building, and nurturing their insatiable curiosity about the world around them.
The first three tendencies–Order, Orientation, and Exploration–particularly resonate for me right now. I’m eyeball deep in trying to create systems and frameworks for understanding this world I’ve just dived into. I’m learning a new language (medical-ese) and being introduced to an entirely new way of seeing and moving through the world (clinical judgement, anyone?). I’m still exploring all of the ways one can be a nurse. I find myself observing my faculty and clinical instructors and even taking on their language, temperament and mannerisms to see how it feels and determine which pieces I might want to carry into my own practice as a nurse-midwife.
The next several tendencies–Communication, Activity, Manipulation, and Work–are all at play in these early weeks as well. So much of nursing is about connecting all the different people collaborating for the goal of optimal health for our clients, helping manage the flow of communication. Nurses are the ones helping people regain or maintain the capacity to live healthy, functional lives. We thrive on having something to do. I think all of us are eager to learn those psycho-motor skills of taking vital signs, palpation, auscultation. There’s a thrill that come with learning to take a blood pressure with gracefulness and economy of movement. It’s incredibly satisfying and I’ve certainly developed a deeper appreciation of the ways in which the physical act of nursing can almost become a dance.
The last four tendencies–Repetition, Exactness, Abstraction, and Self-perfection–are all present as well. In fact, I think one of the things about being an adult learner is that we often strive for these things right away, sometimes to the detriment of our learning. It’s all too easy to get sucked down the rabbit-hole of exactness as a student nurse. Our clinical instructors use that phrase a lot…I imagine they’ve seen cohorts like ours year after year, struggling in the beginning to let go of the need to know all the details and see the bigger picture instead. But ultimately, what I see us all striving for is that ease and grace that so many of the good nurses out in the world bring to their work.
So I continue to settle into this new role, finding my favorite study spots, throwing out organizational ideas that aren’t working, asking lots of questions, and practicing, practicing, practicing.
I think I actually am starting to feel, maybe just the tiniest little bit, like a nursing student.