I stepped through the door of the nursing home with my tan scrubs, gait belt and hand sanitizer eager for my first day of clinicals. Immediately, all of the different smells in the air made their way up my nose all at once and my stomach turned. This was the first, but definitely not the last time I made a mad dash to the bathroom. I spent a good amount of time there huddled over the toilet gagging from either seeing or smelling something unforgettably disgusting or from a migraine caused by lack of sleep and food.
The CNA program was 6 weeks of pure unadulterated hell. I didn’t see my family, or sleep or eat. My diet mostly consisted of stale vending machine Kit Kats, Pepsi, Tylenol, and Coffee…lots and lots of coffee. I spent my summer going to class at 5:30am where I was greeted by a teacher that I swear was out to get me. I was 6 seconds late one day and was lectured on the importance of promptness in front of the class then written up. During instruction, if Ms. D was in a good mood we could sit on the beds but if she was mad (which was most of the time) we had to stand for 2 to 3 hours without a break. I tried desperately not to fall over. I wasn’t sure how long it was humanly possible to go without sleep, but I am pretty sure that my buddies and I were close to the cusp. Our study groups would sometimes run up until 2am to finish our 16 chapters.
|1st Day of Class|
My classmates filed out of the room two by two all in tears, either of joy or sadness. I took brief catnaps while I watched Grey’s Anatomy in the hallway. Finally it was 5:15pm and I had been there for almost 12 hours waiting anxiously. I was exhausted but confident as I walked into the testing room with Sarah* (name has been changed to protect her identity LOL!). She got into the bed and immediately started bawling. I could feel her anxiety radiating off of her body onto mine.I pulled my card with the set of skills I was to perform. I knew I could do 2 of the 3 while blind folded but for the last one I needed her to calm down. I had to change the sheets with her in the bed. Making a bed with a person in it is no easy feat, but when the person is 5’7” and hysterical, it was close to impossible. When the buzzer rang, I knew my summer had been wasted. I passed the first two and received a 78% on the last, only 2% from passing. If I would have simply put the sheet in the hamper before time ran out, I would have passed...but I didn’t.
For me, a perfectionist, it was an embarrassment, as well as a huge blow to my ego. I gave it my all and it still wasn’t good enough. I had sacrificed my whole summer away from my children, had at least gained 5 pounds from my poor diet, and the bags under my eyes rivaled Uncle Fester’s. I was always taught crying was a sign of weakness but honestly, at that moment I was weak.
|6 books, 3 classes and a New Dream|
Retrospectively, I am thankful for this experience because it taught me so much more than it was intended to. I learned that despite my best efforts I am but an imperfect person. My time at the nursing home gave me more compassion for others. I met my best friend who was there to talk me off the metaphorical ledge. I also came to the realization that life has bigger plans, it may seem disastrous at the time (which it did) but after the storm, there is always a rainbow. It led me to my true passion, WRITING. I might not be saving others like I would be if I was a nurse, but I save myself everyday by following my dreams, no regrets!