The past few weeks have blown through like a tornado. While the life of a college student – who’s also a middle-aged wife and mom with a mortgage – is not necessarily any busier than my previous life as a Realtor, Mom and Would-Be Writer, having this new role of college student added to the many hats I already wear has been exciting, daunting, fun, and quite frankly, a little weird.
The first week of school was also my 44th birthday, and my husband had shoulder surgery that Friday, so I suddenly became his nurse and chauffeur. And the kids still had to be taken to swim practice and voice lessons, doctor appointments and physical therapy sessions while I frantically tried to wake up my mommy brain to Anatomy and Physiology, critical thinking and medical terminology.
I have so many reflections and thoughts on my first few weeks, and really don’t have time to even write about them as I have to study for my Anatomy and Physiology midterm. But I know I will regret it if I don’t, so here is a quick rundown of the five things that have surprised me most about nursing school so far.
1 – I am not the oldest student – I will admit I am a bit preoccupied, possibly even obsessed with doing the math about starting school at my age: How old will I be when I actually start working as a nurse? (46.) How many years could I realistically keep working before retirement? (At least 20, but I think maybe 30?) How will I stay youthful and healthy to keep up with the physical demands of the job? Can you believe that I will earn this second bachelor’s degree 25 years after earning my first in 1996? That is mind-boggling. So many times over the past few weeks I have wished I had done this sooner. But it is what it is and I have as much time as I have. Everything I have done up until now has brought me to where I am now. And although the vast majority of my fellow students are young women about half my age (or less), I have met several girls in their 30s, a few men in their 30s and 40s, and even one woman in her late 50s who is finally following her childhood dream to become a nurse. So it’s truly never too late!
2 – I have to learn how to write (and there is a ton of writing!) – Since my previous degree was in Journalism, I didn’t expect this one. But college writing, especially in the health and science fields, follows a different format (APA) than I am used to, and there is a huge focus on citations and avoiding plagiarism that just wasn’t such a big deal 25 years ago. The Internet has made it that much easier to copy someone else’s ideas and present them as your own, so you have to properly cite any and all sources, even when they are not direct quotes.
3- A Lot of Classwork Happens Online – In 1992 when I packed my bags to head to U of A, I didn’t even have a personal computer. I had been using an electric typewriter to type up papers in high school, but my parents sent me off with this new thing, a word processor! It was like a hybrid between a typewriter and a full fledged computer. It got me through. We did have computers at school. We used them in my journalism classes. But email and the Internet was really just starting. Today, all of my coursework is contained in online portals. We do still meet in a physical classroom, but we also have a virtual one. Papers are uploaded, quizzes are taken online, even lab work is done partially online.
4 – I Have Never Been Poked Prodded and Assessed in So Many Ways in Such a Short Time – Between academic assessments and physicals, drug tests and immunizations, I have spent half my time over the last few weeks giving blood, getting poked with needles, peeing in a cup or sitting at a computer taking an assessment of one kind or another. So far I have passed all the tests!
5 – I know more than I think I know, and I know I can do this – Although it will be hard and will challenge me in new ways, although we still have a mortgage and bills to pay and three beautiful girls to raise, although I will have to fight self-doubt, fear and insecurities, I am determined to succeed in this endeavor. And just as my mom taught me, I can do ANYTHING I set my mind upon. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can….