Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Nursing Instructors Friend or Foe?

Over the years since I graduated from RN nursing school, I have been reading different student blogs all lamenting the trials and tribulations of their relationships with their nursing instructors. I remember mine very well for various reasons. Some were very helpful, some were nonchalant, and some were what I would call militant.

The ones that were helpful and informative I will always remember for those reasons, but the ones who really made it tough always stand out in our minds. In my early formative semesters as a nervous student, I had two instructors that come to mind.

Once while I was bending over a bed in a nursing home attempting to get the corners just right and was concentrating very hard, an instructor snuck up behind me and said in a very loud voice "what do you think you are doing?". She scared the crap out of me and while I was scrolling through my limited memory of nursing at the time attempting to figure out what she was so mad about, she said "Don't EVER let me catch you bending over a bed. You should always bring the bed up to you and save your back. Your back will literally be the breaking point of your nursing career (including your knees). If you injure yourself, you can no longer take care of your patients and yourself, besides losing your livelihood!" She stalked out of the room. I never forgot her words of wisdom and I have never injured my back.

Another instructor would cut you down like a knife and would literally breath down your neck while you were attempting to draw up meds into syringes. If you took too long or appeared to be fumbling a little, she would immediately start making comments like "I showed you that the last time, why can't you remember how?" with no words of encouragement. Once in post clinicals, she asked a question and no one volunteered an answer so I piped up with what I knew. She looked over at me and told me "You need to shut your mouth and open your ears. You only know part of the answer and you shouldn't run off unless you know the whole thing." Needless to say, the entire group stood there with their mouths open. I never spoke to her directly again unless she spoke first. I literally had a stomachache every time I had clinicals and actually thought of quitting because I doubted my ability to EVER learn all the things I would need to be a good nurse.

When I got to the end of the rotation, I thought for sure that she would fail me and I made ready to read the evaluation. As I read incredulously at what appeared to be a rave review, I slid the paper over to her and said "you must have me mixed up with someone else. This can't be my review." She asked my why. I went for broke and told her that she had ridden my ass all semester and I thought that she hated me. She chuckled... "When you didn't quit and didn't give up, I knew you would be a great nurse." I got up confused and relieved and never had her as an instructor again because she left the school to go back to the VA hospital. I was so happy at the time and went on the graduate and never really thought about her unless I was telling the new students about "that militant instructor" whenever I heard them complain about an instructor.

Time passed and I realized, in her own way, that she was trying to prepare me for a hard career in which you will never make everyone happy. People will yell at you and try to hurt you physically. It's not an easy profession to be in at times. I have to say that most of my career, while working in the hospital, was very rewarding though.

As I read the newspaper the other day, I saw a face I hadn't seen in years. It was a memorial picture in the obituary section of that militant nurse who taught me to be strong. I wish I could have thanked her before she died.

So I do it now.. Thank you Mrs. Dodds for being the one instructor who pushed me.

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