Emerging as a Nurse

Three female students working on simulation mannequin

By Lauren Bliss, student

In high school I spent a summer volunteering at a women’s hospital. There I cut the umbilical cord of a newborn; I also held a 27 week-old stillborn. I experienced joy . . . and sorrow. I saw expectant parents experience the elation of bringing a life into this world, and I saw an abused mother express relief that her child had died, demanding that I take “it” away. Ghandi once described humanity as an ocean, stating that “if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” I learned that the best of humanity overshadows the worst, and those experiencing both are deserving of benevolence. Of grace. It was then that I knew I wanted to be a nurse.

And I knew Duquesne was where I wanted to learn to be a nurse.

In high school, I was involved: cross country, competitive choir, and musicals. I was a good student, consistently earning good grades. But I was nervous about Duquesne (and college, in general). I had been told “nursing school is brutal,” and that “I wouldn’t have a life outside of studying.” Then I earned a 4.0 GPA my first year of nursing school, and I felt I had proven those people wrong. I thought to myself, “nursing school isn’t all that hard.”

I was anxious to begin my sophomore clinicals; I woke up at 4:30 am on the first
day excited to begin. I loved everything about my clinical experience, but my on my
first Fundamentals of Nursing exam I earned a 72% (which is not a passing mark). I
panicked. I over-studied for the next exam, memorizing obsessively. Did I improve?
Barely—a 74%. Still not good enough. I saw other students succeeding as I struggled.
My work ethic and study habits had been enough before; why was this happening?

After many sleepless nights I decided to ask Professor Karakachian for help. I
came prepared with a list of questions that she answered patiently, and I left with a different perspective. I needed to understand the concepts, not just memorize lists. She
also built up my confidence, saying these tests “do not define what kind of nurse you are going to be.” Then I improved, incrementally—I scored an 81%.

Over time, I began to mature as a nursing student. I stopped looking to my left
and right in order to measure my success: I looked inward. I learned to study for understanding, to spend time working as hard as possible rather than occupying myself with worry and self-doubt. My performance improved, my confidence rose, and I emerged excited about my future. A rocky journey for sure, but I emerged.

Nursing school is NOT easy. At Duquesne it is hard. It has to be. It has to challenge students because when they are working nurses, the stakes are high. Just because I want to be a nurse is not enough; I need to be an expert.

And I need to be apply to apply that expert knowledge quickly. Duquesne cannot make the program easy for us because we will not be good nurses if they did.

Marie Curie once said, “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.” She speaks to our role to benefit all of
humanity by first improving ourselves. Nurses contribute to others in meaningful ways. The humanity of the profession is the essence of the profession, and Duquesne will enable you to contribute in such a way.

This article has been reprinted from The Scope, Preview Day 2020 edition.

Lauren Bliss Duquesne University School of Nursing headshot

Lauren Bliss is an undergraduate Nursing student (Class of 2021), co-editor of The Scope and DUSNA Vice President.

Photo credit: lauren e. bliss photography

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