We do not use “this is a good/bad food” here.

I’ll admit it, I was super pessimistic and anxious going into today. I was 110% certain I would be writing a post that pretty much said the opposite of this, but here we are instead.

I’ll have more on my experience in clinical this semester soon, but I’ll explain a little context for now. We are back, for the next 6 weeks, in the same community I was at for half of fall semester last year. It’s truly been incredible so far. One of the many projects we’re working on involves a teaching program for nutrition. It was developed to be used at different faith-based settings like one in our neighborhood. All I knew heading into today was that we were going to help teach these people about healthier eating and spending patterns. I think I probably took in a big gulp of air at that point and didn’t release that tension until the last three minutes of training today.

I was so very stressed about the program because I have seen how diet culture leeches into any and every single health-based program I can think of. I remember watching as (unknowingly) a classmate ended up teaching on something that sounded like it came from a dieting 101 class. I’ve seen materials for children more focused on saying what you should and shouldn’t eat or how bad fat is rather than promoting a picture of trying to choose more nutritious foods. I could go on, but essentially I just assumed I would be semi-forced to follow a curriculum that I cannot fully support.

I waiting for any of many disappointing phrases all session, until this one made me smile: “we do not use language like ‘this is a good/bad food’ here.” I could have hugged her, I swear. She went on to explain that the goal is to encourage nutritious choices, such as whole grains, but to avoid language that insinuates it is bad if you eat xyz. They don’t believe that causing people to feel guilty about their food choices is a good tactic (ESPECIALLY in our mostly low-income/homeless population). I could not agree more, and I am excited to reach these people in a way that can teach nutrition without it sounding like a guide for weight loss.

I often struggle deeply with believing that I am bad for what I do or do not eat. The ED thoughts scream if I even think about enjoying something that’s off limits. While this is not a “practice what I preach” scenario yet, I am grateful that I can promote a healthy relationship with food to some of the most vulnerable in our community. Maybe along the way I can re-learn a little, too!

Dealing with disappointment in clinical

Monday, I got to observe a cesarean section. I saw a tiny little peanut enter this world. It was messy and involved more fluids/tugging than I would have thought, but the second baby girl was out none of the “yuck” mattered. The tone of the room shifted as the nurses and doctors talked about how long her toes were, her perfect lips, and her curly hair. It was amazing that there was suddenly this new human being, the one her parents had dreamed about for months. The miracle of birth and experiencing so many new things should have been more than enough energy and excitement to get me through the day. The nurse I was assigned to actually gave me the tasks of 15 min vitals checks, the hourly assessment, and generally helping out in any way possible. My confidence grew because she could trust me and I was competent. That stopped once another nurse told my professor the patient was no longer wanting a student (aka me) to be a part of her care.

I wanted to cry. I didn’t consider any of the million reasons she could have made that decision. Instead, I decided that it was ME. I did something wrong, so wrong that she didn’t even tell me herself that she wanted to be left alone. I was a failure of a nurse. I am not competent. I annoyed her and said the wrong things. I didn’t make her feel comfortable. I was too peppy or shy or awkward. I was so focused on this belief that I had no room to consider other options, even when evidence arose.

I can separate this out better now, so I want to do that. I don’t need to believe these automatic negative thoughts just because they exist and seem true in the moment.

Evidence against these beliefs: my nurse continued to teach me and involved me in med preparation, my professor telling me that I had done a great job today, doing super well on charting and everything, positive responses from patients in the past.

One thing that really helped snap me out of it was a conversation with my mom. I called her, like almost every day, to let her know how things went. I told her about the incident and how down I felt about it. She immediately fought back with other reasons that the mom would request me to leave: emotional, sick of being at the hospital, tired, cranky, had visitors, didn’t want to be touched any more than necessary, wanted to avoid the questionnaire I mentioned. Those few minutes we spent talking about it helped me to realize that there wasn’t just one logical explanation. I’ll never know for sure why she made the decision, but I have to accept that I’m not some terrible person no matter what her reasoning was.

I have to remind myself that I am a student and I will make mistakes, tons of em. That’s why I’m a student. I am learning, not just the book stuff. I have to apply that to real people and situations, which is way different. I’ll have good days and bad, but I have already learned from when things haven’t gone well in the past. I am going to be a nurse one day and I won’t get there without stumbling because it’s part of the process.

I don’t want that small part of my day to linger and ruin the experience I had. Spending time in guilt and shame that I don’t deserve only brings more self-defeating behaviors. I have to move on and keep going.

Halfway there!

The semester is officially half over and I’m on spring break! It’s crazy how long/fast the past 6 weeks in pediatrics were. I’m thankful for every second (okay, maybe not the stress) and it is by far my favorite placement in nursing so far.

I remember back to my first surgery, in 2009 when I was 14. I was naturally pretty terrified and uncertain about the decision. I’d never stayed in the hospital or had surgery before, and here I was about to have a major operation with 3 nights there. My experience was nothing short of wonderful. The staff was all amazing, especially my nurses. I have the fondest memories of how kind and helpful they were. Other than the whole pain thing, I enjoyed my stay. I vowed then that I would one day work in the medical field, but specifically at Devos. While my mind has changed a thousand times since then, I’ve now come to that same conclusion. I would love nothing more than to work in pediatrics (hopefully NICU!) in the very hospital that changed my life.

I’ll admit, I’ve cried more than a couple of times during this first half of the semester. I dealt with a ton of frustration, anxiety, some panic, stress, and exhaustion. There were late nights and some missed assignments. I made plenty of mistakes (which only added to my frustration). I lacked motivation at times. Despite everything, I ended Tuesday in the happiest of tears. I did it! I’m content with my grades overall and I feel like I put in as much as I could, considering my #1 job right now is recovery. It wasn’t an easy thing to balance, so I am trying to be proud of the accomplishment.

I am beyond grateful for peds rotation as a whole, my professors, the off unit experiences I had, and the floor nurses and patients. These 6 weeks confirmed a thousand times over how much nursing is my calling. Nursing school is tough. I’ve wanted to give up, but the interactions with patients and glimpses of the future I’ll have makes it all worthwhile.

After break, it’s OB time, and I’m getting pumped for that too! It’ll be weird to work with adults again, but I’m excited for the opportunity to witness birth and see more babies, of course. I already can tell I will like this area as well. Still, I think peds will hold my heart 🙂

February 13th: then and now

One year ago was one of the best days I have ever had. It changed my life and gave me so much hope. I doubted myself entirely and prepared for the absolute worse, as I usually do. Thank God that wasn’t necessary. February 13, 2017 I received my acceptance letter into the nursing program.

That feeling was incredible. I cried tears of joy because finally all my hard work had paid off. Taking off the semester for residential, struggling through strong ED thoughts and behaviors, an extra year of school, depression, and the huge amount of stress I encountered didn’t take my dream away from me. The fact that I could push through all of the barriers showed my strength. I felt proud for all I accomplished just to get there.

One year later brought another amazing, anticipated, life-changing day. Yesterday I was able to have an off-unit experience in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at our children’s hospital. I have been interested in pursuing this field for a long time now. Part of the reason I switched to nursing from PA is because there are NNPs but not neonatal PAs, so if I go to graduate school I could still work there. I’ve read countless blogs, personal stories, and other accounts written by NICU nurses/families, but still had no idea if putting it all into practice would continue to be a good fit. I wanted so badly to experience it hands-on. I cried when I found out that I was one of the people who would go visit for the day (and I get to see the OR, so double fun for me!). I’m honestly surprised I didn’t start bawling right in our clinical meeting, aha. I counted down the days with such excitement. I didn’t even care that I had to wake up at 5am while everyone else in my group got the day off. I thought it would be worth it, and I was so very right.

I still can’t believe how lucky I am to have spent a whole day in the NICU. The nurse I followed was great and did everything possible to maximize my time there. She has worked in the NICU her entire nursing career, over 40 years. We took a tour of the floor, which is HUGE and holds up to 110 babies, and I got to see everything from older babies who just needed a little bit of help to micropreemies  born 27 weeks gestation or less. She had 3 patients, 2 of which were former micropreemies she took care of for a few months and the other an older preemie about to go home. It was really interesting seeing how a g tube works, watching her interaction with parents, observing an ophthalmology exam, and being able to help in any way that I could. I got to feed one baby through his g tube, and despite being super anxious I did well with it. One of my favorite parts, of course, was holding sweet babies. I went back and forth between the two. The one was a little “feisty/drama queen” and didn’t even want me to leave her after I put a binky in. She was teeny while the boy was 2 kilos heavier, even though they were the same gestation born a day apart. It’s pretty crazy how different the growth and development is for each baby. Another part I truly appreciated was how willing she was to explain everything, answer questions, and share her experience as a nurse. She was drawn to NICU nursing for very similar reasons as I am: building a relationship with the family, being able to watch the child grow stronger over time, celebrating when they finally go home, and very involved hands on care. Despite the long hours and craziness, her choice to stay for such a long time proves what a great area this is.

Yesterday has 1000% confirmed how much I would LOVE to work in the NICU one day. It’s one thing loving the idea, but experiencing it in real life just showed that it is what I thought it would be. Of course I may change my mind in the next year and a half before I actually work as an RN, but I am certain that NICU is going to be a top contender no matter what.

I honestly haven’t had this amount of joy in a very long time. I couldn’t stop smiling (at least internally considering some of what I saw was hard). It just feels right. I’m not really sure how else to explain it.

I want nothing more than to return one day, but next time with blue scrubs and a badge that says “RN” 🙂