Transforming Uncertainty

This morning over breakfast (yes, a real breakfast!), I happened across a post from my university’s student blog that resonated:

I was asked today what it was like to be a graduate student. The actual question was: “I could never go back to school. I’m too old. How do you do it all and still keep a smile on your face?”

Actually, if they could see the jelly of uncertainty, the butterflies of “Just what have I gotten myself into” under the skin, they would wonder that I could ambulate and make any kind of sense come out my mouth.

“The jelly of uncertainty” is such a perfect phrase to sum up how I’m feeling about this term. On the one hand, I’m super excited to finally delve in to some hands on clinical skills, to start to feel like maybe I could be a competent health care provider. Tomorrow I’ll have a full day of learning about IV pumps, NG tubes, central lines, and tracheostomy care.

On the other hand, after listening to yesterday’s lecture in my leadership class about quality improvement and prevalence of medical errors, the responsibility inherent in being a health care provider is almost overwhelmingly terrifying.

Of course, this student goes on to elaborate, just as I am, that despite the butterflies or jelly or what have you, that really, we can’t imagine doing anything else. In truth, nursing school is an exercise in learning how to cope with and transform the fear and uncertainty that we face everyday as much as it is about learning those clinical skills. That uncertainty is real and I think serves as an important check and balance.

Last night I watched this video in preparation for an afternoon session of inter-professional education. On our campus, we meet once a quarter with students from the medical, dental, pharmacy, physician assistant, nursing, radiology technician and nutrition programs. The goal is to develop relationships while we’re still in formation, to better understand and communicate our profession and scope of practice, and how to collaborate together, with the ultimate goal of preventing needless deaths like that of Josie King.

It brought home for me just how crucial it is to be willing to speak up when something doesn’t feel right, to push past the uncertainty. As a nursing student, it’s hard to distinguish between our own uncertainty and our nascent clinical judgment. I’m hoping that this term I’ll feel more confident in being able to trust in that newly emerging clinical judgment. For now, back to studying.

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