Countdown to BSN

weeks
-27
-8
days
0
-1
hours
-2
-3
minutes
-2
-4
seconds
-5
-8

That’s how long I’ve got to finish up everything for my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing.

The list of things to do by then:

Major assignments:

  • CLAS assignment (2-3 pages, single-spaced, referenced)
  • Human Relations Final Paper (4-5 pages, single-spaced)
  • Scheduling Paper (2-5 pages, referenced)
  • Patient Advocacy Letter (2 pages, single-spaced)
  • Indirect Clinical Project Final Paper (5 pages, abstract, referenced)
  • Cultural Assessment Paper (4-5 pages, referenced, plus interview)
  • Case Study assignment (2-4 pages, referenced)
  • Final essay exam for Nursing Leadership
Discussion Boards (these are 1-2 page essays on a topic with references, followed by 1/2 to 1 page responses to 2 other essays)
  • CLAS & Hatian Americans
  • Civil Rights Amendement and Health Care
  • Current Issues in Health Care
  • Indirect Clinical Project discussion
  • Nursing Management + interview
  • Sigma Theta Tau
  • Health Care Disparities

In addition, I have roughly 15 12 10 4 chapters of dense textbook reading to finish between now and then. It’s an insane course load, and I still have work, 15 10 hours of indirect clinical experience, and a meeting with a professor from my proposed PhD program to go between now and Done-Day.

And this is how long until my actual commencement ceremony. I’m walking because my mom, who is 76 years old and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, wants me to. She even bought a dress *gasp*.

weeks
-27
-7
days
0
-1
hours
0
-9
minutes
-2
-4
seconds
-5
-7

I’ll update this with progress as I go along.

Wish me luck, ’cause I’mma gonna need it.

Posted in life, Nursing, School | Leave a comment

Empathy and Authenticity

I work in an environment where people fear for the lives of their children. 

Needless to say, a job where people genuinely (and sometimes rightly) are afraid for the lives and well-being of their children, can sometimes be emotionally exhausting. It also allows me to see the full spectrum of human response to situations of unparalleled intensity. As you might imagine, that can come in handy when writing fiction, and since it might also come in handy for the three people who read this blog, I’m going to share a detail-stripped, time-aged story about a young mother.

~~~

I worked a night shift a while back, starting at 7pm and ending sometime in the vicinity of 8am, during which a particular parent called me on the phone every three hours to yell at me about something. And I mean yelling. Angry, aggressive, and sometimes downright mean yelling, with not too subtle implications that I was stupid and bad at my job.  

This is not the woman in question. No hair was harmed in the making of this story.

The thing she was yelling about? Her premie wasn’t strong enough to eat all his formula by bottle. In other words, it was nothing anybody (including the baby, me, the doctors, or the mom) had a lick of control over. Premies are small and weak, without the musculature and stamina they need to complete complicated tasks like eating. It just takes time, and there’s nothing to be done about it but have a little patience and keep on doing the things that will support the baby to get stronger.

Now, I could have taken her comments personally, gotten angry, acted passive aggressively, or used my authority to have her put into a position of trouble. Instead, I chose to empathize with her. To realize that she was still a child herself, with few coping skills, no support system, and little experience with the world. To understand that she was anxious about her child and that his failure to eat was making her feel like an incompetent mother, which likely compounded feelings of guilt that she didn’t carry him to term to start with. In other words, I chose to care about her and her situation. 

~~~

My writing pals often say to me that their characters do things that don’t make sense, or that they react in unexpected ways. This, I believe, is an expression of creativity. It is also a symptom of our unconscious understanding that people are much, much more complex than their actions may reveal on the surface. Motivation is an underlying process that drives our actions and character actions, but it helps to remember that not every motivation is going to be transparent to the other characters. What looks to one person like a display of anger might actually be an expression of fear. It isn’t logical, but it is authentic.

People misinterpret each other’s motivations and goals all the damned time.

Really. It’s a wonder we accomplish anything.

This is one of those things I try to remember when writing, because characters who always guess right about each other, or who display too much empathy (or too little) come off as authorial insertions. They seem to dance to strings rather than genuine motivations. On the other hand, creating that sense of empathy within a reader is the foundation for emotional connection. This is why motivation must be crystal clear to the author, so that we can share it with the reader. Empathy is what makes us care about the characters and the story. As with most of the emotions in a really well written story, this is a battle for the subtext, but it is one well worth fighting, in my (not so) humble opine.

How do you create empathy for your characters among readers, while still making them authentic?

Posted in Nursing, writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Loci, not Loki

I’ve been reading a lot lately about a psychological phenomenon called locus of control. Locus of control is a term that indicates where you, consciously or unconsciously, think the control over your life originates. This simple characteristic can have profound effects on a person’s behavior.

Someone with an external locus of control might not get a breast exam because they figure they’ll get cancer if they’re meant to, because their lives are controlled by destiny, fate, genetics, or God. This allows them to abdicate responsibility for their decisions, to just throw their hands in the air and mutter rather than doing things to help themselves. Meanwhile the untreated cancer grows to the point of being incurable, rather than being detected and treated early, and the person is left to ask “Why me, God?”

Someone with an internal locus of control might feel guilty for things going wrong, even if the cause was genuinely outside of their control – someone else’s bad behavior, the weather, an unavoidable accident, etc.. A lot of people in the extreme end of this locus end up being chronic victims, martyrs who flog themselves for every bit of wrong in the world, as if they are personally responsible for the state of North Korea or the Middle East.

At the extremes, both of these loci have their own benefits and pitfalls, though the external locus of control tends to end in more serious consequences. Most people, I think, fall somewhere in between. The trick, I guess, is to maintain balance. Few events in life are completely outside our control, but some absolutely are. 
In fiction, few things frustrate a reader than feeling that the protagonist is abdicating control of his or her life to fate, chance, or luck. Still, without an element of divine (or antagonistic) intervention, you end up with the infallible Mary Sue. Like most things in life, locus of control requires a deft hand and a fine sense of balance.

Who controls your life? Who do your characters tend to think controls theirs? How do you maintain balance?

Posted in MuseMed, writing | Leave a comment

Living in the Moment

I recently explained to my husband the power and meaning of the phrase “be present in the moment.” Rather than having a mind stuffed full to overflowing with all the future plans and past conversations and mistakes and successes, being present in the moment implies that you are fully attuned to the world around you, experiencing the sensations and noticing the details.

Did you ever have a conversation with someone who kept glancing at his watch? Or notice in the middle of telling a story that the person’s eyes had that sort of glazed, unfocused look that probably meant they were daydreaming rather than listening? Even if the person repeats back every single word to me, it always feels like I was short changed in those moments. Like the person was leaving me only a tiny corner of their consciousness, and spending their best energy thinking about their dental appointment or the project at work, or mulling over what to have for dinner instead of living that moment with me. It is one of the chief dangers of living a busy life in a busy society. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else.

The scent of cocoa butter, the sounds of nature and Madonna on the tinny boom box, the feel of lake sand between my toes, the stubble of the grass poking up through the worn and tattered quilt we spread under the tallest tree in the state park, the way the sunlight dappled my skin. I can still taste the potato salad from that Memorial Day picnic with my family in 1985.

Some days I wonder if I will be able to remember my adult life at all, when I am old. It blurs on the edges, a slurry of appointments and nuisances and laundry left too long in the washing machine.

Tomorrow, I will accompany the grandmother who adopted me, Mom, who was always the mother of my heart, to find out the results of her neuopsychological evaluation for dementia. I don’t know the details, but I know the truth. I see it in the way she drifts out of the moment, not from having a short attention span, but because she just vanished for a moment, like a bright fishing bobber being pulled under the current. Tomorrow I will be present in the moment, and there is power in that, though not always joy.

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What’s Pink and Sweet and Warm All Over?

A nurse's work is never done.

A healthy newborn baby, of course.

Step one, on my plan to rule the worl- *cough* – er, I mean to become the greatest newborn nurse in the world has been completed. I finished the NCC nursing specialty certification exam last week with a passing score!

That’s probably not very enlightening unless you happen to be a nurse, so let me es’plain. As soon as the official paperwork arrives, I’ll no longer be signing “RN” after my name. Instead, I’ll be signing “RNC” to indicate that I’m an acknowledged expert in my particular specialty of nursing, which happens to be in the neonatal (newborn baby) intensive care. The test was difficult and exacting, the study was grueling but informative, and the rewards do not involve lavish riches (or even a tiny raise). It will, however, look nice on my application for the PhD program I have my eye on. It’ll also look nice on the plaque they have at work for the few of us who have taken and who maintain this national certification.

This also means that I (in theory) have a bit more free time. In practice, I have more time to devote to the dozens of other tasks on my long-ass list.

~~~

How are your plans for world domin– er, self-improvement going?

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