Now it’s the forth semester, and you and Anthony are going to have some fun, because you’re coming in with a pair of water skies and some genuine confidence. You’re going to finish this semester and you are going to enjoy yourself while you do. You are no longer naive enough to think it’s going to be easy, but you know how to swim, you have a pet shark, and you will do this. It’s no longer a fight for survival; it’s just a matter of reaching the finish line.
It’s time once again to pull the backpack out of the closet, blow the summer dust off the books, and start up a new semester of school. For the select few, who are ready for a real challenge, it means learning the skills and nuances of nursing. I am happy to say that after a lot of late nights, a fair amount of tears, and a few temper tantrums I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel because I am beginning the last semester of my degree to become a registered nurse. For those brave souls ready to test the waters and begin the nursing program you are facing a mosh pit of emotions: relief that you got in, excitement to begin, uncertainty about all the rumors you’ve heard, and fear (fear will be the reason you survive). All of these, among others, are valid emotions; we’ve all faced them, and we all understand. As a nursing student you are among an elite group of people who will understand the statement, “That’s the right answer, but it’s not the most right answer, so it’s wrong.” (Try to explain that to a math major.) Nursing school is hard, not climbing a mountain hard or organizing 10,000 Legos hard. Nursing school is “pull yourself out of the fiery pits of Hell with one arm broke and a blind fold on” hard. So I wrote an analogy to help those beginning and those not yet in the nursing school understand what it will be like.
Third semester comes and they add a shark, but you’re stronger. After a powerful struggle you punch the shark in the nose, tame him, and name him Anthony and it feels good. It still isn’t stress-free, and it’s far from easy but you aren’t struggling to survive. You are finally working on technique, and after you teach Anthony some tricks, you learn the butterfly and for some very, very, brief moments you are able to relax in the sun and just float and momentarily you‘re even able to enjoy the water.
Sink or swim, right? . . . Well, I learned to swim, and in the process, I met some friends, and I tamed a shark and I named him Anthony. The point is, not only have I survive, I’ve grown, and matured. Most importantly I’ve learned. I will walk away from this with my head held high as one of those remarkable few who are given the honorable title of NURSE.
. . . provided of course, that forth semester doesn’t come with a surprise sea monster and a hurricane.
Second semester begins with a momentary air of confidence. You learned to swim during the first semester (or at least that’s what you think) and in your innocence you can’t imagine anything that could possibly be worse than the trauma you experienced during those first harrowing months. You come prepared with swim goggles and a nose plug. No one is going to toss you in the water unprepared. Only this time instead of a lake you are taken out in a boat and tossed into the ocean with waves, wind, rain, and slimy seaweed grabbing at your toes. It’s terrifying, and you are barely able to keep my head above water. You choke and gag on the seawater as the waves crash around you. You thought there was nothing that could have been worse than that first semester, and yet this is worse, so much worse. Yet again, somehow, miraculously, you survive, and you are stronger. You are no longer doing the doggy paddle. You are actually swimming, not fast, but you are swimming.
First semester you are a new student anxious to impress your teachers with your abilities and intellect. People talk about how difficult nursing school is, but you’re not afraid. You are going to be the first student ever to go through the nursing program without a single problem because you are . . . awesome. (After all, you got an “A” in A&P so how hard could it really be.) After some transitory guidance, the instructor snatches you out of your seat and throws you in the lake. And as she waves her hands quickly through the air in a pattern that resembled a doggy paddle, she shouts, “Like this.” As you struggle to breath she stands on the edge of the water and screams things like, “You can do this,” and “good job.” Every now and then she waves her arms again and says, “No, like this.” It’s arduous and difficult at best. You struggle and you nearly drown more than once; yet, somehow you managed to keep your head above the water long enough to pass the semester alive. You made it. It isn’t easy but you do it. You survive.