Monday, September 15, 2008

1 Down, 3 to Go

Hello, world! I’m happy to announce that I have made it into my second of four semesters of the nursing program, and also made it on the Dean’s List which is very exciting! I’m a little skeptical about how they determine who gets on the list though, because I have never been on it until last semester despite getting the worst grades so far last semester. Also, a girl who got grades equivalent to mine didn’t get on the list, which makes me wonder how it works. In any case, I’m still happy to see my name on the bulletin board. Hopefully it’ll stay there until I graduate. =)

The first three weeks of school have so far been relatively uneventful. The classes I’m taking are Med/Surg, Psych Nursing, and Nursing Research, with clinical hours in the first two. Med/Surg is somewhat of an extension of the Foundations of Nursing course I took last year, with more emphasis on applying the learned knowledge on disease processes and more responsibility (two patients per day, or more.) The Psych Nursing clinical should be very fascinating, to say the least; for some reason, those with mental illness, to me, seem outwardly very preoccupied with the supernatural. For instance, many of those who experience hallucinations frequently believe them to be from god(s), Jesus, Satan, demons, or other religious figures. It’s a curious thing, and I’m very interested in learning why that seems to be true. My hypothesis is that those with mental illness are just more honest, in a way, and they are just saying out loud what many others are thinking or worrying about.

I’m a little anxious about my first Psych clinical, which happens to be this Thursday. I feel like it will be the most challenging clinical experience I’ll have throughout nursing school. The reason? Mental health nurses do much different tasks than a typical nurse – they do a lot of counseling and talking with patients, along with monitoring medication side effects and administering the medications. I’ve had personal experience with pretty severe depression and other mental “problems” you could say, but I have no idea how I got better – medicine, changed environment, new responsibilities – I may never know. Even though I have dealt with mental illness, I feel like I have little to offer my future patients in the way of experience because my memories from that time have all but disappeared. I’m not concerned at all with getting hurt by patients or anything like that, but I am nervous that I’ll say the wrong thing and make someone feel worse than they already do.

Additionally, mental illnesses have a huge stigma attached to them, and I’m worried about how I will deal with it. This is especially true since I have a special place in my heart for those afflicted with any mental disease. Science and medicine now know that psychological diseases are biologically based and just as serious as a fractured bone or autoimmune disease. Someone with schizophrenia, depression, or any other mental illness has too little or too much of a neurotransmitter (or more than one) and this causes serious malfunctioning of the brain and nervous system. (That’s putting it simply.) However, most of the general population doesn’t understand that, and so they are frightened of or cruel toward someone with a mental illness. Often times, the patients themselves feel this way about their own mental illness, because they fear what they’re dealing with and the way society has taught them to feel about psychological diseases. Basically, this is what I’m worried most about responding appropriately to. For instance, if someone asks me why God hates them, what am I supposed to tell them? That there is no god, or that he loves them? The desperation and helplessness in the eyes of someone with a mental illness is heartbreaking, because you can’t just give them a shot and put a bandage on the problem.