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To the college freshman who just decided on nursing,
I know why you want to be a nurse.
Nurses are important. Nursing seems fun and exciting, and you don't think you'll ever be bored. The media glorifies navy blue scrubs and stethoscopes draped around your neck, and you can't go anywhere without hearing about the guaranteed job placement. You passed AP biology and can name every single bone in the human body. Blood, urine, feces, salvia -- you can handle all of it with a straight face. So, you think that's what being a nurse is all about, right? Wrong.
You can search but you won't find the true meaning of becoming a nurse until you are in the depths of nursing school and the only thing getting you through is knowing that in a few months, you'll be able to sign the letters "BSN" after your name...
You can know every nursing intervention, but you won't find the true meaning of nursing until you sit beside an elderly patient and know that nothing in this world can save her, and all there's left for you to do is hold her hand and keep her comfortable until she dies.
You'll hear that one of our biggest jobs is being an advocate for our patients, but you won't understand until one day, in the middle of your routine physical assessment, you find the hidden, multi-colored bruises on the 3-year-old that won't even look you in the eyes. Your heart will drop to your feet and you'll swear that you will not sleep until you know that he is safe.
You'll learn that we love people when they're vulnerable, but you won't learn that until you have to give a bed bath to the middle-aged man who just had a stroke and can't bathe himself. You'll try to hide how awkward you feel because you're young enough to be his child, but as you try to make him feel as comfortable as possible, you'll learn more about dignity at that moment than some people learn in an entire lifetime.
Every class will teach you about empathy, but you won't truly feel empathy until you have to care for your first prisoner in the hospital. The guards surrounding his room will scare the life out of you, and you'll spend your day knowing that he could've raped, murdered, or hurt people. But, you'll walk into that room, put your fears aside, and remind yourself that he is a human being still, and it's your job to care, regardless of what he did.
Each nurse you meet will beam with pride when they tell you that we've won "Most Trusted Profession" for seventeen years in a row, but you won't feel that trustworthy. In fact, you're going to feel like you know nothing sometimes. But when you have to hold the sobbing, single mother who just received a positive breast cancer diagnosis, you'll feel it. Amid her sobs of wondering what she will do with her kids and how she's ever going to pay for treatment, she will look at you like you have all of the answers that she needs, and you'll learn why we've won that award so many times.
You'll read on Facebook about the nurses who forget to eat and pee during their 12-hour shifts and swear that you won't forget about those things. But one day you'll leave the hospital after an entire shift of trying to get your dying patient to eat anything and you'll realize that you haven't had food since 6:30 A.M. and you, too, will be one of those nurses who put everything else above themselves.
Too often we think of nursing as the medicine and the procedures and the IV pumps. We think of the shots and the bedpans and the baths. We think all the lab values and the blood levels that we have to memorize. We think it's all about the organs and the diseases. We think of the hospitals and the weekends and the holidays that we have to miss.
But, you're going to find that nursing isn't really about the medicine or the assessments. Being a nurse is so much more than anything that you can learn in school. Textbooks can't teach you compassion, and no amount of lecture time will teach you what it truly means to be a nurse.
So, you think you want to be a nurse?
Go for it. Study. Cry. Learn everything. Stay up late. Miss out on things. Give it absolutely everything that you have.
Because I promise you that the decision to dedicate your life to saving others is worth every sleepless night, failed test, or bad day that you're going to encounter during these next four years. Just keep holding on.
The nursing student with just one year left.
I have always grown up interested in people: what they do, why, and what makes them who they are. We are all created the same way, but from the moment after birth, we all undergo drastically different experiences. Some people were born into wealthy families, ones that never worried about money, while others were born into the lower class who struggled to simply put food on the table. Some individuals grew up in extremely religious households, while others did not. None of us have the same life experience; your friend, neighbor, or stranger you just passed have all seen different things that have shaped you all in unique ways. For me, Psychology is the field that helps us not only better understand each other, but also, ourselves. So here are 5 reasons why I love being a psychology major:
1. Both NATURE & NURTURE make a person.
No one thing is responsible for you being you. Psychologists and scientists use to argue over whether an individual is a result of genetics (nature) or from their environment (nurture); typically, implying home environment or parenting. Today we don't understand this concept as an either/or debate but as a combination of both. Yes, there are genes and biological factors which make individuals more likely to behave a certain way, genes which may indicate certain psychological disorders or predispositions; however, without a particular environment, these genes may never activate within an individual. One example is the "warrior gene", MAOA, which is linked to higher aggression in individuals; furthermore, it is often a predictor of psychopathy. Many individuals may have this gene; however, if the environment they were raised does not activate this gene, its effects may be negligible. Simply having a gene does not mean it will cause behavior or trait, only that it is possible.
2. One's perception of a situation is critical.
In psychology, the objective reality of a situation is not usually the main concern, but actually how one perceives or understands that situation. For example, a woman sent to rehab for self-medicating her chronic pain will see her situation vastly different than from a doctor. A doctor would likely see her self-medication as a drug problem, but the woman may understand the problem as chronic pain. Health Psychology particularly aims at understanding one's perceptions of health and aiding to correct unhealthy or risky behaviors. One's perception is just as important as reality because it will dictate individuals' behaviors. If we understand how we perceive our health, safety, or other obstacles in life can help to correct behaviors or find better solutions.
3. I am aware of the cognitive biases all around us.
Psychology connects to many fields, particularly neuroscience. Learning how the brain works, which parts of the brain process which functions, and the behaviors that result allow us to better understand an individual's decision in a certain situation. It can also tell us how the brain can be fooled in cognitive biases. Simply how a question is framed, or what an individual is primed with, can affect one's decision-making abilities; one kind of cognitive bias is the Framing Effect. When asked the same question, but framed as either a gain or a loss, individuals tend to make drastically different decisions. Our brain, specifically the amygdala, tends to avoid certain losses and uncertain gains. Understanding the brain and underlying psychology can help us be more informed, and make decisions not influenced by others.
4. I understand the power of conformity.
The power of conformity is strong; I mean, who doesn't want to belong? Psychology brings awareness to the impact of one's situation on our behavior, studied thoroughly in Social Psychology, but also how other individuals can. Psychologist Asch created a study where single participants had to determine if line A, B, or C was the same length as the example, in a room of confederates who said the wrong answer. The results of the study showed that the majority of participants went along with whatever answer the confederates all gave, even when the participant knew the Confederates' answers were incorrect. It can be hard to go against the crowd. An issue that psychology brings to light; however, I believe psychology gives us the tools to understand the pressure and break away from it. Psychology gives us power (knowledge) to combat issues like conformity.
5. I learn more and more about myself.
By studying how the brain works, you, in turn, are learning about how your own body functions. In Personality Psychology, you gain a better understanding of where your traits came from and how you may be influenced in situations (i.e. are you likely to try new foods and experiences? Are you a person high on openness?). While learning about the power of the situation and one's subjective construal (or perception) on a situation, you can potentially see through the stereotypes, cognitive biases, and incorrect assumptions made by individuals every day. By learning about other people, and why they behave a certain way, we can better understand ourselves.
Psychology is a field of many fields. Whether you prefer to do psychological research or finding out the secrets of our minds, or you rather be hands-on, by assisting in behavioral modification or therapies, psychologists help people in many different ways. This field not only helps you to learn about others but also yourself. A field which will open your eyes and mind to the misconceptions or assumptions we may make on a daily basis, and understand how that can influence our behavior.