By: Erin Traister, Honors College Senior
My six-hour trek across the state for my final semester at college consisted of the usual road-trip adventures: digging in seat crevices for vending machine change, adjusting my cruise control, and jamming out to Ed Sheeran and my boys 1D. As I had many minutes (slash hours) of quiet reflection available, I took advantage of my time to romanticize my last few college months: attending various spring sporting events, watching movies with friends, bubbling in the final answer of my last Scantron, and finally walking across the graduation stage (insert epic fist pump). Why did I still feel the pit of doom in my stomach, then? Could it be that I had two tests the first day of school? Why, yes I suppose it could. #NursingSchool. Welcome back, Erin.
There is a reason why people respond by cringing when I introduce myself and state my major at various student events across campus. The rumors are true that nursing school is extremely challenging. Okay, I don’t even think it’s a rumor anymore – definitely a well-known fact. For my peers who have the privilege of hearing some friends complain about 8 AM lectures…we robotically smile, unsympathetic because our 6:30 AM clinicals require our 4:30 AM awakening with an hour commute. When every single multiple choice option is right, you must use your best judgement to pick the best answer or priority intervention. But don’t lose heart, your twelve hours in clinical so far have surely given you the deduction skills of your nursing professors who have thirty years of professional practice. So in all honesty, I wasn’t a fan of the impossible tests, demanding schedule, and stricter grading policy (that’s right: 95-100 = A; 100% tests; test review = after the test) when I first started nursing school.
So why did I stick with it? I was sent to heal.
The past year and several months have given me the most impactful personal and professional experience of my lifetime. I have been in the room when a baby takes his first breath and where an older man has taken his last. I have seen with my eyes and felt with my heart the enormous victories and defeats of the human body, mind, and spirit. There have been some days where hope is hard to see – where I looked into the eyes of a terminal cancer patient being discharged from in-patient hospice to die at home. Every human body will inevitably break down. But that doesn’t mean we stop putting it back together. As nurses, we have a unique opportunity to participate in this restoration process, whether it is educating a patient about medications after experiencing a heart attack or witnessing the hopeful tears of men and women as they gain victories over their battles with substance abuse.
While I too often inwardly (or outwardly: sorry, friends) complain of the demands of what feels like a full-time hospital and student position, I am truly honored to enter this lifelong profession. The ECU College of Nursing has set high standards and has offered opportunities that have transformed the way I approach learning and interact with the healthy and the sick in our community. So for all my fellow future health care professionals, here’s to a difficult but beautiful journey ahead that constantly reminds us of what matters most in life.