My Journey Through Nursing School
“Nursing is rooted from the needs of humanity and is founded on the ideal of service. The nurse is temporarily the consciousness of the unconscious, the love of life for the suicidal, the leg of the amputee, the eyes of the newly blind, a means of locomotion for the infant, knowledge and confidence for the mother and mouthpiece for those too weak or withdrawn to speak.” --Virginia Henderson
Hey everyone! My name is Faith Lucas-Scott, BSN, RN and I am newly licensed Registered Nurse in Nashville, Tennessee. I currently work at Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville on the Maternal Newborn Unit. I take care of women who have just delivered, as well as their newborn children. I care, educate and inspire those to be as involved in the care of their newborn as much as possible. I graduated from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee with my Bachelors of Science in Nursing in May 2016. I also hold a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. I'm contributing to Studi Group as a writer with hopes to inspire other black women to not only pursue the wonderful field of nursing, but any field in healthcare. We are a small percentage of the workforce and I hope to increase our presence in healthcare. So many people are intimidated by the process of nursing school and I am hoping that my contributions will give someone a better understanding and to inspire them to continue to push, despite any setbacks that may happen. Nursing is my second degree, although it was my first career choice. I had to take a few detours to get to this point in my life and I hope to show people that it is never too late to accomplish your goals. My husband, Terrance Scott (affectionately called TJ) is an educator and founding member of Studi Group. He inspired me to share my ideas with the world because I do have a lot to say about wellness and healthcare.
In Spring 2009, I made the decision to become a nurse after wanting to be a Physical Therapist for years. I felt more comfortable in that field and after seeing my aunt work as an ICU Nurse, I knew this field was for me. I changed my major and begin taking the necessary courses towards getting my BSN. After transferring to Wayne State in Fall 2009, I registered for all the courses needed as a Pre-Nursing major. I then found that the requirements for Wayne State's program was extremely competitive: 3.7 GPA, admission of only 40 students per year, competitive grades in all your science classes. I was good, but not good enough! I had to face the fact that on paper, I wasn't competitive enough for their program. I decided to get my degree in Psychology and apply for other nursing programs around the state. I also obtained a certification to become a Nurse's Assistant (CNA) in October 2012, in order to get exposure to the healthcare field and add that to my resume. For 6 months, I attended every informational session for schools in and around Michigan. I then realized that with the competitiveness or ridiculous 2+ years waiting list, I would probably have to leave the state. So I started researching programs in other states as well. Funny enough, in 2012, one year before I graduated, my then-boyfriend, TJ got a job offer in Nashville, TN. I knew nothing of Tennessee except the Knoxville area so I made the decision to graduate, move with him and apply to schools in and around Nashville. In June 2013, I left Michigan.
Since I already held a Bachelors degree, I had already completed my general education requirements and majority of my pre-requisites for the program. After being here for 6 months, I went back to school to complete my last pre-requisite: Anatomy and Physiology while working full time as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA). I had already taken it at Wayne State but they created it to be a weeder course: it was 1 Semester and worth 5 credits. At other schools, they separate it into 2 semesters, each worth 4 credits. I couldn't succeed that way at Wayne. I registered and completed both classes at Nashville State Community College, worked hard and aced them both. While taking Anatomy 1, I looked into applying for Cumberland University and Belmont University. Both were equally as expensive, but Belmont required a religion class that I was not willing to pay for. So I only applied to Cumberland. January 2014, I submitted my application to the school. By April, I had to take the Kaplan Nursing Entrance Exam and have my scores sent to the school of nursing. Overall, I aced everything except science and had to test again, but only in the science section. In early June, I submitted my application to the school of nursing and left it in God's hands. One week later, I was accepted.
On the first day, I realized that this program was the real deal. You must pass everything with a 75% average, BUT if your exam average is a 75%, you automatically fail the course! I couldn't believe that! I took Foundations in Nursing, Health Assessment, Pathophysiology and Dosage Calculations. This was, by far, the most challenging semester. Everything was new to me and I was not used to nursing style questions. In this case, it isn't a black and white choice. The infamous, "all of these choices are right, but which one is the most right" applied to me now. I struggled with these kinds of critical thinking questions all semester. I don't think I had ever been so stressed in my life! I also don't think I had ever cried so much in my life. I found myself struggling to balance school, work and home. I was tested in multiple classes on a weekly basis. I was tired and wore myself out so badly, I got sick with a nasty virus (the doctor told me Enterovirus, but I still disagree). It was hard. It was stressful. I didn't know if I had what it took. It had even gotten to the point where getting an 80% on my final exam was needed to pass Foundations, or I would have to wait until 2017 to graduate. Thanks to heavy studying and a great tutor, Stephanie, I managed to pass my final with an 84%. This was definitely the initial weeding semester because we lost at least 4 people that semester.
The easiest part of this semester was our 3 week visit to the nursing home. We had to perform basic nursing skills on residents. Since this had been my job for 2 years, I was in my element and completed this with no problem. FINALLY! Something I could master early on!
Things got much better during this time. I feel like I had finally gotten the hang of nursing school and I was in some kind of control of my grades. I started feeling more like a nursing student during this time! I got into the meat of nursing school when Med/Surg 1 rolled around. This semester seemed much more manageable than semester 1 because I had started to get used to nursing style questions and I established a pretty solid study routine. I also made friends and began establishing study groups. I got into my first real clinical, Med/Surg 1 and I think this was one of the most entertaining rotations I had. I think my family and friends had even began to get used to me studying all the time and became even more understanding. This was my life! I was most successful in Psychiatric Nursing. Since I have a degree in Psychology, a lot of people thought I had an advantage in this course. Psychiatric Nursing and Psychology are not completely alike. I spent most of the time studying medications and treatment, which we are not taught in a standard Psychology course. Somehow this course just came natural to me! As a result, this was also my first "A" in nursing school! My courses, Adult Health 1, Psychiatric Nursing, Pharmacology 1, Intro to Research were no joke. That was a definitely a load to carry! Somewhere in that semester, I got sick again too. This stress is like no other!
This was the second hardest semester of them all. This is the semester that is considered the "weeder semester." This semester, unfortunately, would weed out more nursing students and determine who really wanted this degree. I had 4 days off in between 2nd and 3rd semester. ONLY FOUR DAYS! The stress got me sick, yet again, the first week of 3rd semester. I had to just push through. No time to relax in bed. We had new material to learn and check-offs to master. I spent my entire summer in school. I had a full load of courses AND two 10-hour clinical rotations. 16 weeks of study material was essentially crammed into 12 weeks. I had multiple exams in a week and little to no time to recover from the previous exam. It was fast-paced. It was intense. Next to semester 1, I struggled a bit during this semester because everything moved so quickly! I almost couldn't keep up! I honestly don't know how I got through it, but I did. Summer was a complete blur for me. I did nothing but study. Also, in the midst of this, my grandma was getting her knee replaced and there was no way I wasn't going to be there for her. THANKFULLY, my instructors were super understanding and gave me a pass to go home for a few days to be with her. Everything went well and I came back to Nashville and immediately went back to business. I knew that if I could successfully finish this semester, I would coast through the rest of nursing school. And I did. Pediatrics, Pharmacology, Adult Health 2, Gerontology. I finished them all. Consider me the G.O.A.T.
This was the easiest semester of them all. The courses were super manageable and I didn't feel the stress I was used to feeling [as much]. I spent a lot of time working in group projects this go-round. Women's Health, Community Health Nursing, Research, Professional Role in Nursing. I felt like I could breathe a bit better and I had control over the courses. I finished with my best GPA of the entire program, which I was really proud about. This was the semester I took Women's Health and although I came into the program being interested in working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), I realized in the middle of this semester that Women's Health, specifically Labor and Delivery, was the specialty of nursing I wanted to go into. My instructor, Trudy Wright, is a brilliant instructor and she solidified my interest and my love for this area. I also developed a love for Community Health. In the past, I expressed interest in Public Health and this course was a way for me to be involved in Public Health from a nursing perspective. It was perfect! Things were at such a good place that I even got to go on a getaway trip with my hubby to Destin, FL during my Fall break! To no one's surprise, I got sick somewhere in this semester too. My immune system sucked during this program, y'all.
This was probably the most chill semester, but with a different kind of stress: graduation and preparing for our state boards, called the National Council Licensure Exam--Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). During our final semester, we took a course that was devoted to practicing NCLEX questions called Successful Entry into Nursing. These questions are completely different from the exam questions I was used to. It doesn't test your knowledge, it tests your ability to respond safely and appropriately in a clinical setting. So in the beginning, it was a bit of a struggle. I honestly spent most of this semester coming up with all the funds I needed to take care of graduation: NCLEX, license fees, graduation fees, nursing composite pictures, personal senior pictures, graduation dress, etc. There was a lot going on and although I was close to graduating, it still felt like it was so far away! I still had to complete Leadership in Nursing, Successful Entry and Advanced Topics. This was probably a challenging semester because I had began to mentally check out. I was beyond exhausted, I was beginning to see the finish line and I wanted to be done. Unfortunately, I was taking a 7 credit course that required my attention. Although I had been afraid to take Advanced Topics, I had an amazing instructor, Dr. Kimbrell, that made it seem less scary and much more manageable. I also had an awesome study buddy, Autumn, and I conquered this course with very little issue. Lo and behold, I got really sick AGAIN around exam number 3 and barely studied, but managed to still pass! This time was probably the sickest I had been the entire program. I ended up in the ER and was probably fighting this for a total of 2 weeks. Eek!
Clinical was by far my favorite part of the program. I was able to get hands on and understand everything from a clinical aspect. I'm a visual learner, so things came naturally to me at the bedside. Plus, already being a CNA made me even more comfortable. I had clinical rotations for every semester: Foundations, Adult Health 1, Psych, Adult Health 2, Pediatrics, Women's Health, Community Health and Advanced Topics. We had clinical rotations that lasted between 4 and 12 hours.
Clinical was not easy. By semester 3, I was being tested on the medicines that I was administering. You need to know what you are giving your patient and what it is going to do to help them. There is nothing more embarrassing than you giving your patient a medication and he/she asks what it is and you can't tell them. More than likely, they will refuse it! During 2nd and 3rd semester, we had to "pre-plan," which means go to the hospital the day before clinical and get information on your patient and prepare for your day. Doesn't matter how far away the clinical was from your house. You must be prepared in advanced! That was a pain in my butt and I was so glad when we were no longer required to do this. Being in the hospital setting, you will see some of everything. I took it all in! I loved every second of it.
My favorite clinical without a doubt was Women's Health. I wanted to be involved in everything I could. My instructor knew I loved it so she gave me the most complex situation she could find and I will never forget my experience that day.
My least favorite was Psych Nursing (although I loved my instructor to pieces). Although I worked with some very interesting clients, I knew that it wasn't my niche.
Regardless the clinical, I always put my best effort forth and worked my tail off! I took this opportunity to do procedures and learn as much as I could. I was always eager to learn or do something. After all, this is going to be my job and I don't want to go into my new job being uncomfortable! I wanted to make sure I was familiar with most of these nursing tasks as an RN! Apparently, it didn't go unnoticed because at Senior Pinning, I was awarded the Outstanding Nurse Clinician award!
Honorable Mention (or not): NIVATE. A computer program built into our curriculum. Nothing much to say about it except it sucked. Nursing Informatics is not for me and that program was so poorly written, it almost costed a lot of my classmates a spot in the program. Ugh.
Preparing for the most important test of your life is stressful. It's terrifying. You lose sleep. You have nightmares. You cry. You panic. BUT YOU GET THROUGH IT. I took my NCLEX on July 5th, about 8 weeks after I graduated. I did not originally plan to take it that late, but it's probably a good thing that my original chosen date was booked. I attended a Hurst Review course, which was expensive ($350), but worth the money. I also attended a Kaplan NCLEX Review course as part of my tuition, but I didn't find that to be as helpful as Hurst Review. I studied with friends and went over things that were unclear to me. My friends and I constantly encouraged each other and did our best to keep each other calm. I took time away from social media because I did not want to be distracted. I also didn't want to psych myself out with news of my classmates passing (or not passing). I wanted to just focus on ME. It's easy to get caught up in other people's happenings that it begins to affect your mental state. I needed to be as stable as I could possibly be. I quit my job as a CNA 5 days before testing so I could focus on the exam entirely.
I got to the testing site a bit early and got started. 2 hours into the exam, I realized I was only on question 87. The test shut off on me and I thought it was over. I gasped out of panic. But it was only asking if I wanted to take a break. I declined. I did not expect to finish in 75 questions, but I thought I would get about 100 questions. I finished in 147 questions. I walked out of there shaking. Unsure. I got in the car and burst into tears, not knowing if I passed. I went to Applebee's with my friend Le'Joia, to try to get my mind off it. I woke up at 5am the next morning because I of a nightmare that I had failed the test. I barely ate. 24 hours of agony. The moment I saw my license number around 7pm, I felt relieved. I was in the car while TJ was taking out of the trash. I jumped out of the car, ran to him and jumped into his arms. It was officially all over. I cried tears of joy. I was officially an RN!
Based on my experience with the program and mistakes I made, here are a few pieces of advice I have drafted up that will most definitely help someone!
1. Don't work full time.
I know this isn't easy for many people, but if you can absolutely help it, don't work. I was super fortunate to have my husband take care of the bills while I focused on school. I worked weekends for extra money. I took out student loans for the most important things. I used my weekends to focus on school and clinical. It was necessary.
2. Make friends and get a consistent study group.
My friends were a LIFESAVER! I will never forget how I had a difficult time studying Pharmacology and my friend Kaylen and I sat in Zaxby's for 3 hours and studied Pharmacology on the day of the exam and I managed to get a B on my exam.
3. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
I never felt intimidated by my instructors. They were happy to answer any questions that were asked (even ones that were seemingly stupid). Your instructors are there because they truly want to be. And if I didn't seem to understand, they worked with me until I finally did. Even if I had to ask my question a million different ways until I understood. Believe me, all of my instructors took a pay cut from what they were doing previously to teach. No one is there for the salary, ha.
4. Utilize the resources the school of nursing has.
My school had tutors and an academic success center where you could seek help on how to answer questions. Nursing school questions aren't like anything you will ever see in your life. It was a tough transition for some people, including me.
5. Have a support system.
My husband was amazing. He was my rock, my foundation. I could not have gotten through the day-to-day stressors without him. My friends in the program were there for me. We were all going through the same struggles! NO ONE understood more than them! My family were encouraging. My friends outside of the program were too, although a lot of time they weren't able to truly understand how tough it was. But they tried!
6. Don't give up.
This is cliche, but my God this couldn't be any truer. There were days where I wanted to walk away from it all. Days where I didn't think I measured up to the challenge. But somehow I kept going. With the help of God, my husband, my family, I kept going. I focused on the big picture. I knew I hadn't gotten to this point for nothing.
7. Understand that the greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward.
Nursing school was hard. Days where it seemed impossible. Exams weekly on 5-10 chapters at a time. I barely saw my friends. Some days I barely saw TJ! But I knew that I signed up for this. I knew it wouldn't last forever. I had an end date.
8. Do NOT assume that your performance in nursing school will dictate how you will do on the NCLEX.
A lot of people think that because they breezed through the program, they won't have to study for NCLEX. Nursing school is NOTHING like the NCLEX. A lot of people with that thought process didn't pass, while a lot of people who somewhat struggled in nursing school passed NCLEX because they spent time doing rigorous studying. PLEASE STUDY FOR THIS EXAM. That test is NOT a joke and should NOT be taken lightly! Get your mind together, take some time away from distractions, FOCUS!
To all of my instructors and clinical instructors:
1. Mrs. McDearman
2. Ms. Tincher
3. Mrs. Humes
4. Mrs. Retallack
5. Mrs. Gunter
6. Dr. Morgan
7. Mr. Donadio
8. Dr. Kimbrell
9. Mrs. Gunter
10. Mrs. Davis-Scott
11. Mrs. Wright
12. Dr. Landers
13. Ms. Chatham
14. Mrs. Windmiller
15. Mrs. Markie
16. Mrs. Wendy Shelton
17. Melissa Wiley
18. Melissa Lord
19. Dr. Rose
20. Ms. Thorup
Thank you. For your hard work. Motivation. And patience.
Good luck! And remember that if this is your dream, your destiny, your God-given journey, NOTHING will stop you from achieving BSN after your name.