By Sam Schedler, BSN, RN. Sam is a 2016 Bethel University graduate, employed in a large Minneapolis, Minnesota, hospital.
If there was one message I needed to hear daily while I was in nursing school, it was this: There is a place for you. Take a deep breath and blow out slowly. Smell the roses and blow out the candle. Read these words again. There is a place for you.
Perhaps you relate to my nursing school experience: overstressed (most likely due to excessive/irresponsible/unhealthy caffeine intake) and constantly second guessing my calling. There is no way that I can be a nurse. I get so stressed before clinical. My peers have been able to place Foley catheters, give intravenous (IV) piggyback medications, and insert suppositories! (Oh, the things that get nursing students excited.) Fear of failure, fueled by comparison, created a giant mess of doubt regarding my calling to the nursing profession. I had to realize that this was a lie. God had called me for this purpose. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21, ESV).
God doesn't promise us a life of walking on the clouds, taking it easy, and smelling the flowers. (Have you smelled Clostridium difficile [C. diff]? Nurses do not smell good things.) Instead, I found two actions helpful as a nursing student with doubts.
1. Stop comparing. Comparing yourself to your classmates gets you nowhere. There will always be someone more confident than you, someone who finds one skill easy while you struggle. This is normal. This is good. We need nurses with different skillsets and passions. You have unique quirks that will make you an excellent nurse. Future patients need you to explore and develop your strengths. Don't lose heart when you don't do as well on an exam as your friend. Test scores are a number; you are of much more value!
That being said, I want to recognize the difficulty of refraining from comparing. One does not simply stop comparing overnight. It's a giant learning process that involves reflection, difficult conversations with God and others, and lots and lots of patience!
2. Talk to someone! Don't endure this pressure alone. When I began to compare myself to others and doubts crept in, I kept it to myself. Finally, during a check-in with my clinical instructor, I burst into tears, declaring I needed a new major. I was done. I felt far behind my peers. And, I got so nervous. My peers seemed put together and excited to be in the hospital. Top that with the difficulty of finding size extra small scrubs for guys!
My professor told me to take a few deep breaths and reminded me that everyone has different clinical experiences. You can't predict how many times (if any!) you will get to perform a certain skill. What's most important is establishing a foundation for critical thinking. She spoke reason and life to me. We prayed together. I needed to talk to someone about what I was going through. I encourage you to do the same—talk to someone.
Nursing school is difficult. Shut out the voice telling you that you're never going to make it to graduation. Stop comparing! Reach out to someone you can trust. God has an awesome place for you, even if you can't currently see it. Keep praying, keep trusting, keep studying.
Love What You Do
Al Lewis (1923-2006), the actor who played the grandfather on The Munsters television show, once said: “But find something that you absolutely love doing. And then get to love the way you do it. That's the uniqueness of all of us” (BrainyQuote, 2016).
Scripture teaches that followers of Christ are God's workmanship—his master work! We are transformed and renewed to be ready for good works that God has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:9-10). As Christ's student and nurse, you can love your work, doing whatever you do with all your heart because you work for God and will be rewarded by him for great nursing care (Colossians 3:23-24)!
BrainyQuote. (2016). Uniqueness quotes. Retrieved from https://http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/uniqueness_3.html
A nursing professor sent her teaching assistant to health services because he didn't look well. Later that afternoon, she received the following text: I have pneumonia in my right lower love.