Saturday, May 10, 2014

Graduate school

Despite all of the work I have done on myself, on reclaiming me, on addressing my very low self esteem, there are days that my self doubt overwhelms me. When I walked away from my sociology program as a 20 year old burn-out and instead enrolled in an Associates in nursing program, it was because I decided I didn't actually want to earn a Masters in Sociology and become a disaster relief coordinator afterall. Instead, I wanted to become a medical provider. However, I did not want to go to medical school. Oh, I could have gone. I had a top-notch GPA, I was doing fine in school, and the medical school where I had a legacy claim through the Legal Maternal Bitch and my sister was begging me to go apply to their program. They contacted me directly and through my sister at least half a dozen times, expressly communicating that they put a high priority for legacy claim students and I was a perfect candidate for their program.

I had two problems with becoming a physician. First, I didn't want to devote over a decade of my life to training, and have to choose to either miss the chance to have a large family, or walk away from that training just so I could have a large family. Second, I had encountered nurse midwives after my rape, who had changed my entire viewpoint on how you approach medicine. I knew if I was going to be an advanced practice provider, it was going to be through the nursing model of care, a model that I felt was far more holistic and saw the patient has a total entity and not the mechanics of specific disease processes. If I had known what an osteopathic doctor was, I probably would have become a DO when I was young. However, by the time I knew about that option, I had long walked away from all of that.

When I went to nursing school, I did so with the full intention of going straight through and becoming a nurse practitioner as quickly as possible. The point of getting the associates first was merely that the associates program had better pass rates on the board, and that working as a RN while completing the rest seemed like a wise financial decision.All of that changed when I met II, and suddenly the idea of a family and motherhood was no longer abstract but attainable and right in front of me. When I first left my career to devote to motherhood, I fully expected to come back in a few years. When it became clear that motherhood was a more long-term career, I incorporated my nursing into that job description by adopting special needs children.

Five years ago, when II destroyed everything about my world, I had to go back to school and back to the idea of a career. I had walked away form nursing and was nearly certain I could not salvage that dream.I considered going to medical school, but the reality that it would require too much sacrifice from my children was too high a price for me to pay. So, I considered sociology/criminal justice.

Yet, the entire time I was earning that bachelor's degree, I had a professor, someone I consider a friend now, who happened to be the academic advisor for the nursing program. He wouldn't leave me alone. He hounded me and challenged me and pushed me that I belonged in nursing, as an advanced practitioner. I told him, more than once, that I had burned that bridge and could not revive it. More than once I re-visted it, called the board of nursing, spoke with the program directors of multiple undergraduate and graduate programs going back over the question yet again--could I go back? He never let up on me for over two years.I found one way in that state to salvage my nursing, but it was going to require I pay for a re-entry program, one I would never qualify for financial aid to cover. I was wiling to ask my sister to help me, even though I would pay for that with more than just a pound of flesh, but it was the only way to salvage my nursing.

Then, Micah crashed and suddenly we were moving states. The new state had none of the requirements the former state had. To go back into nursing, I merely had to take my re-activiated original license from another state and apply for licensure by endorsement. Then, working in the infusion center for 13 months solidified my nursing. While there, I made the choice to go forward with the nursing afterall.

The voice that had badgered me for two years had been replaced by several other voices, NP and RN friends who individually and in one voice continued to hound me that I was meant to follow this path.This spring, I nearly gave up. I backed out of applying for graduate programs...and then changed my mind a mere two weeks before the deadlines.

Crashing my GRE in December because I had taken it while sick had completely sapped my self confidence. Having to push my final four credit hours to the summer term because of financial aid issues had left me weary and frustrated. I was ready to quit, ready to believe I didn't have what it takes to accomplish this dream at all anymore. Despite being told I MET the minimum GRE for the graduate programs, despite having it pointed out that all of the programs gave waivers for the requirement even based upon my GPA, I still wondered if I had what it takes.

Then, when I made that sudden change of decision two weeks before it was all due to be submitted, I made a bold step. If something is worth doing, for me it is always worth doing right. I eliminated the give-me programs from my application pile. Every single school I applied to was a top 100 school in US News & World Reports. One was lower than the other three, but it was also local which brings some distinct advantages despite being lower in the rankings than the other programs overall.

When I sent in my applications, that voice that LMB put into my head when I was so young, that voice that hounds me and tells me I'm never going to be good enough said, "You fool. What made you think you could get into a top level nursing program. You're going to be rejected by all of those programs. Three of those programs were in the top 25 schools and the other was still in the top 100. You couldn't even settle for something slightly lower. You'll fail."

Today, the voice may still hound me. I have four more years ahead of me, and they are going to be even more challenging than what I have already faced. That health assessment instructor who challenged me to do an advanced assessment under her guidance last summer, despite my only taking an undergraduate assessment course was certain that I was capable of palpating a liver, a kidney, and a pancreas. This fall, I am going to have to learn how to do that on my own, without hesitation, and most definitely without freaking out. I'm going to have to learn how to assess patients, how to diagnose conditions, how to treat the whole patient and not just the presenting symptoms.

I am going to have to learn how to actually BE a nurse practitioner.I have to learn because the first of four programs that were all reach schools, that were all 'this could be the best school of them all' sent me a letter. It started with CONGRATULATIONS. With that one word, the last step of this amazing, heartbreaking, strange journey of getting to the rest of my life starts.

In four years, I will hold a Doctorate of Nurse Practice. I will be Doctor II, unless I follow through with a niggling through of changing my name back to my maiden name, but I will still be Doctor. If any of the other four schools send me an acceptance letter, I will have to choose one over another, and at least two of them were clear that they would not make their decisions until next month. Any of these programs would have been a privilege and honor to attend. Any of these programs will make me a doctor in four years. I am in.

Now I have to quell the fear of failure, but never again the fear that I am not good enough to get in.

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