Walk with me – it’s just the beginning

Stories - Mighty Shoes

Editor’s Note: Today begins a journey with one Mighty Nurse as we walk with her through her nursing adventure. New stories in this series will be published on the second Tuesday of every month.

Hello Mighty Nurse readers! I’m BettyintheBurgh, and if you’re curious about going back to nursing school (or wanting to relive fond or not-so-fond memories), you can come with me on my journey through an 11-month accelerated BSN program here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!

I must say, this was not my first choice of places to spend a challenging year (I am a native Oregonian, and I love my home state). But this is where the journey begins and in the coming months, we’ll find out where else it goes!

I’m never getting accepted

After experiencing the almost impenetrable litany of coursework the second degree programs require in Oregon (especially if you have been out of school for more than a few years), I was about to give up.

Then a nurse who worked in the ER with me in a Portland hospital suggested I try his alma mater.

His selling point was that it was an excellent accelerated program, mainly accepting students with a prior BS in the hard sciences and previous medical and life experience… as opposed to a 4.2 GPA in basket weaving.

My resume included a BS in Biology, 6 years as a professional ballet dancer, 6 years as an emergency and critical care veterinary technician, 2 years of medical research in neuroscience and hematology, and overarching themes of bartending, hybrid yoga instruction, and occasional equine husbandry. I seemed uniquely qualified.

I applied in November, and by February I could see emesis basins and code browns in my future!

I will say that ripping myself away from my home, family, and friends as a single 33 year old woman with two serious hobbies and three cats (insert cat lady joke here), it was absolutely the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

Time for take off!

But my friends helped me move, my parents signed up for hairballs and servitude, and off I flew with my mother, attempting to hide tears of loss and uncertainty.

We landed outside Pittsburgh after a refreshingly uneventful airline experience, and my mother (who wins the “Best Mom in Existence” award) spent a full week helping me get settled.

“I was fingerprinted, background-checked, FBI investigated, child-abuse-cleared, CPR-certified, poked, prodded, vaccinated, and uniformed.”

I scored a living situation with a nice couple who I found through a friend; their daughter had moved out, and they had a three-story Victorian which wanted an upstairs tenant.

Those first days were spent buying food and personal items (I only brought three small suitcases for the year… the easier to pack up and get the heck outta dodge at the end), and running a million errands in order to complete the laundry list of tasks the schools require these days.

I was fingerprinted, background-checked, FBI investigated, child-abuse-cleared, CPR-certified, poked, prodded, vaccinated, and uniformed.

And after my mother flew off to rejoin my father in the sweet and sparkling pacific northwest, I was ready for my first day of school.

And so it begins.

So, here I am, after two weeks of classes  and we are FINALLY getting into the “nursey” stuff!

I don’t hold it against the schools that they start off with an almost insulting “cultural awareness” seminar.

I think it is extremely important for all medical professionals to be culturally sensitive.

But this, along with the “community awareness” assignments, did seem a bit labored, saying in days what could have been said in minutes.

However, these did allow for some good intrapersonal introduction and bonding time, and the “silly get-to-know-you exercises” really do work… go figure!

By the end of the first week I had a few new friends, a volunteer carpooling team (so I wouldn’t have to cope with the notoriously unreliable Pittsburgh public transportation system), and a mental list of the local pubs which would provide a de-stressing atmosphere and the occasional libation.

I’m not a big drinker, but when the ever-pragmatic and good humored 60-year-old veteran nurse instructors drop a suggestion that “every Friday night be a prescribed decompression time,” with a shrug, a wink, and a “whatever that means for you,” … one does take note.

With that, I invite you to come along as I work my way through this stack of books (Med-Surg is excitingly thick, and will provide an excellent medicine ball workout in between chapters), and as I stumble my way around patients (at least for the first few weeks).

I hope you will enjoy the ride, and I will try to be as honest as possible about the wild and crazy experiences while still honoring the HIPPA guidelines to which I have contracted myself.

Oh, and before you go, could I take your blood pressure? We need to have readings on 10 people by the end of the week!


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