The Final Five: Day 1

NFASM_Final Five Countdown 1A mini-reflection series to celebrate the final five days of my undergraduate nursing program. Each day I’ll share both a high and low of the last 15 months…because, let’s be honest, an accelerated nursing program is not always easy. That said, it’s been a year of incredible growth and learning, and I’m ready to bring some closure to this stage of my journey and clear the space for the learning and growth that lies ahead in the next two years as a graduate student in nurse-midwifery.

{Please excuse the slight delay in this post’s publication…some very important relaxation was necessary post-graduation before I could resume writing!}

The Low: Navigating challenging relationships among faculty and established health care providers

This one’s tricky to write about, because for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed my experience and have learned so much from the interactions I’ve had with various care providers and faculty. But I’d be deceiving myself if I didn’t acknowledge that there have definitely been some challenges on the way as well, as there are bound to be in any program. And, isn’t this a typical job interview question: “Describe a particularly challenging conflict you’ve had and talk about what you did to navigate it.”

What I’ll say about conflict in nursing school is this: It’s good to go into nursing school knowing something about the history of nursing as a profession. Understanding history is crucial to have any grasp on the present, let alone imagine the future. The history of nursing is brimming with strong, empowered women who broke down barriers and advanced the health of millions of people around the world. At the same time, nursing has primarily been a profession of women. I think the impact of how gendered this profession has been continues to play out today in inter-professional dynamics. As a feminist, I see a lot of communication and problem-solving styles that suggest a history of power struggles. It has a formal name: lateral violence and it is a well-researched phenomenon within the field of nursing.

Another challenge of being in an accelerated program is that the students all come with tons of previous life and work experience…with expertise. Returning to the state of novice is challenging, and some faculty understand that challenge better than others. While overall, I felt very supported, I also recognized some pretty big challenges that accelerated faculty face in trying to condense a three-year program into 15 months. The fact of the matter is, accelerated programs are fairly new and there’s not a ton of research on the unique learning needs of accelerated students. Some faculty are great at adjusting and have a keen sense of how to help us navigate this journey. Others are still used to teaching in a more traditional three-year program and that mental shift is more challenging.

As someone with formal background in education, I found it fascinating and frustrating to realize that not all nurses come to teaching with formal training in education, especially when it comes to accelerated programs. While I certainly don’t regret my decision and feel like I am just as competent as the next new grad, I also am leaving the program with a strong desire to continue doing more research on the pedagogical demands of an accelerated program. More and more nursing programs will be moving in this direction and I think it’s important to be thoughtful in how we design and implement the accelerated learning experience.

The High: My amazing, amazing cohort, all of whom are going to make excellent nurses.

I have felt this from Day 1 of my program: the strongest asset of my program was not the facilities or computer lab or clinical opportunities, it was my fellow students. All 64 of us busted our butts off to get into, pay for, and graduate from nursing school. I’m leaving this program with a renewed sense of faith in the future possibilities of health care in our country. Despite the huge obstacles we’ll continue to face in providing quality, accessible, equitable care…I know that there are at least 63 more nurses in the world who are passionate about their work, who genuinely care and want to make a difference. I know they’ll study late into the night to understand an unfamiliar illness or new drug or procedure. I know they’ll have a sense of humor and ability to establish meaningful relationships with their patients. I know they’ll go above and beyond to ensure their patients’ safety. I know this because I’ve already seen them in action, heard their stories, and witnessed their transformation, just as they’ve witnessed mine.

One important piece of advice I got when applying to nursing programs was to consider the people who would be in school with you. You’re not just picking a program based on its curriculum or facilities, although those are definitely important. You’re also selecting the people you’ll be working and learning with, the future leaders of your profession. It’s important to figure out whether you’re a good match for the community of folks you’ll be learning with over these intense 15 months. Nursing school is impossible to do alone. You’re always part of a team and I can say without a doubt that I had a pretty amazing team.

Congratulations to my fellow classmates. We made it! I can’t wait to see you all fly through NCLEX and into your first jobs.

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