How Nursing School is Like Pregnancy and Childbirth

(Disclaimer: This post was written in the last 2 weeks of my time in nursing school. My pinning ceremony is next Friday, May 9th. Yay!! So while I am not a nurse yet, I feel that I can write about what that experience will be like based on my clinical experiences while in nursing school. And I can write about the joys and trials of pregnancy and parenthood based on my own 9 years of experience in that area. :) I wrote this post for myself as a reminder in the future and to commemorate my nursing school experience.) The beginning of nursing school is a lot like early pregnancy. In early pregnancy, it is easy to get overwhelmed when thinking about the future and worry about what childbirth will be like. You wonder if you'll be a good mom or if you are ready for this. You worry about a lot of things that you don't need to worry about that, but you don't know that until you look back at this time of your life.

By the time you hit the second trimester, or the middle of nursing school, you've settled in and found your stride. As you approach the beginning of the end of nursing school, you still are doing well and staying on top of things but starting to feel a little overwhelmed and nervous again when thinking about the impending end of nursing school and NCLEX. Or in terms of pregnancy, you've hit the third trimester and are looking ahead to labor and delivery and bring that new baby home. It is a mixture of excitement and anxiousness.

The last semester is a lot like childbirth. In the beginning of the semester, you are overjoyed to finally be in the final semester. Just like when you first go into labor, you feel like you finally made it. But then as the labor, or semester, builds, you realize there is still a lot of work to get done before you are done. Then you hit that "active stage" of labor or the middle of the last semester and become super focused. "Let's get it done!" becomes your motto. Finally, it all builds to the point when you hit the last month of the semester, or the transition stage of labor, and you start to doubt if you can do it. I think that nearly every women, if not all women in labor, have a moment in labor when they think, "I can't do this!!" But, just like nursing school, you know you've come too far and you can't turn back now. So it is nose to the grindstone to just get it done. You may not be as with it as you were in the beginning of the semester, or the beginning of labor, but you reach the point where perfection no longer matters to you. All you want now is to just get it done! Or get this baby out!

Finally, you reach the end. The baby is born or the semester is passed. You breathe a huge sigh of relief, thinking that it's finally done. But wait, you still have to deliver the placenta. All you want to do is enjoy your new baby but the pesky doctor or midwife is asking you to push again. After graduation, all you want to do is bask in the moment of your accomplishment (and the relief that you didn't fail, if we are going to be perfectly honest). But instead you have this nagging, looming NCLEX, the national licensing exam. Even though you've graduated nursing school, you'll never be a nurse without passing this intimidating exam. You start to worry about that even more now that you don't have nursing school to distract you. But mostly you know that it is just one more thing that you have to get through in order to accomplish your goal. Just like as much as it hurts, you know that you have to push a few more times before you are finally through with L&D.

Then finally, you have completed L&D, you've completed the NCLEX and you have an overwhelming sense of completion. You did it! All the sacrifice, all the hard work, all the tears, have lead to this point and it's finally here. It can be tempting to start worrying about beginning working your first job as a new nurse or even just about finding that first job. As a new mom, it can be tempting to start to worry about what it's going to be like to take this new baby home. But don't do it! There is enough time ahead to worry about those things. Take the time to bask in your accomplishment. Look back at all you achieved and be proud. Savor this moment.

At long last the day comes, you start your first job as a nurse or you take your precious new baby home. There will be days in that future that will be scary, overwhelming or even make you wonder why you did what you did. Yes, there will be days that you wonder why you had kids when you are dealing with toddler tantrums or teenage rebellion. But then you have a moment when you can see through the storm and remember all the joy and happiness, all the kisses and love, and you remember how much you love this child you gave birth to long before. When you are able to pull back and redirect your vision from being task-oriented, that is when you remember the "why", that is when you remember the love, the purpose, your hopes and dreams for this child. There will be many days in nursing that will be the same. After dealing with difficult patients, or exhaustion from too many long shifts in a row or too much work with not enough staff, those are the days that you may wonder why you ever wanted to become a nurse. But like parenting, if you can shift your focus off the immediate task at hand and pull back a little and broaden your focus, then you can see the humanity again, the lives you touch with your care, the difference you make, the reason you wanted to become a nurse.

Parenting and nursing are long roads and each take commitment and perseverance. Both have the risk of burnout too. But both also have the potential for countless, priceless rewards. The kind of reward that cannot be measured with money or quantified, the kind of reward that feeds your soul and spirit. So, no matter where you are at on the timeline of nursing or parenting, remember it is all worth it. Create goals and a mission for your nursing and for raising your children and when the days get tough, pull your focus out and shift it to focus on the bigger picture so you can remember your purpose, remember your passion. Then dive back in, knowing that you are changing our world and making it a better place with each life you touch, be it a patient, a patient's family, coworkers, or your own children. Regardless of what we do for a living, we all have greatness within us. It's time to let it shine!

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