I thought for a while about what to share for my first blog on my experiences here at OHSU. The memories ran through my mind like a film reel. I think about walking into orientation that first day and staring at a huge room of 54 nursing students I didn’t know. The excitement, the fear, and the anticipation in the room were almost tangible. I’d been through college before and yet I found myself feeling again like a scared freshman on the first day of class. Over the course of sophomore year those classmates and I developed a strong bond as we shared the journey that is nursing school. How I ever lived life without some of the people I’ve met, faculty and students alike, I may never know. I can only say that having met them, my life is that much better for it. So how exactly do I sum it all up and come up with an analogy to explain what it’s like to be a nursing student? I suppose if you’ve ever done rodeo, nursing school feels a little bit like that, you’re hanging on for dear life but at the same time the ride is fantastic!
If I had to sum up nursing school using only one word, the one I would choose is “transforming.” The term of Chronic Illness II that I just finished is a perfect example of that. I spent 10 weeks of clinical in a behavioral health unit. I will admit that I went into Chronic II fairly confident. I was good with people and felt I had reasonable insight into emotions and behaviors. I don’t believe I walked in with a conscious bias, but throughout the course I discovered that I had expected to learn the tools and resources to “fix” all the patients I encountered that were struggling with various things. As it turned out, what I ended up “fixing” was my own perspective. Health care is not “us- versus- them.” In the tradition of western medicine, I think that is often the underlying message. “They” are the sick patients and “we” are the health care professionals with the knowledge and tools to fix them. What I learned through my experience this term is that medicine, and nursing in particular, is instead a collective “us”. We are humans helping humans and during that process, we grow and are changed by the experience
I will never forget one patient I encountered. Disheveled and crying, he lay curled in a fetal position on the bed. He hadn’t slept in days and was terrified of the hallucinations that tormented him. All I could do was sit there quietly, doing my best to reassure him that he was safe and that we were trying to help. Two weeks later this same patient was up and talking to me about going home and the plans that he had made. He had developed some insight into his triggers and had made friends on the unit, something he had never done before. This recovery was the result of a talented interdisciplinary team who used the patient’s own strengths and resilience, along with the tools of medicine, to facilitate his recovery. This is but one example of the moments I encountered here that has made a lasting impression on me. As I look back on the term now I am not the same person. I have learned to see people more holistically, for who they really are, beyond illness and first impressions. Issues that were raised caused me to face my own emotional struggles. Standing now on the other side of that battle, I’m a better person, and will be a better nurse for it.
As we met for our final class of the term, I looked around the room and what I saw was a transformation of developing nurses. These were not the same students I had walked into that classroom with a year and a half ago. Sitting with me now were friends that I had laughed and cried with, carried the burdens of tests and final lab assessments, and shared a part of my life with. As we survived each term we learned to think more critically and crossed paths with people we will never forget. That has forever changed us and colored our world just a little bit differently.
Looking forward at the road ahead I will admit I feel nervous, but more than that I feel excitement. What new encounters and challenges lay ahead I can only imagine. What I know is this: when nursing school is all said and done, I want to look back at the transformation between who I was and the nurse that I become and say, “Now THAT was an amazing ride!”