How clinicals helped me cope with my grief
When I became a nursing student in my 40s, I never thought that school would help me cope with a personal tragedy. Here’s the story of how clinicals helped me grieve, and how that grief made me a better nurse.
Becoming a nurse after the age of 40 (and as a mother of two teenagers!) can be a decision that makes people think you are either going through a midlife crisis or need serious psychiatric help!
My first college experience began when I turned 41, after I contacted the local community college and inquired about attending classes. The advisor was a great encourager and I began the pursuit of my future career: nursing. The worst part of nursing school was being wait-listed, but I began by taking prerequisites during the spring and summer semesters.
Finally, the notice came that I could begin nursing school in the fall. I was now 42 and feeling so old! I sat in my first lab clinical with other nursing students who were young enough to be my children. I felt overwhelmed—as did everyone else in the room.
I survived the first six weeks of clinical, learning the basics of bed-making, bed baths, safe patient transfers, taking blood pressures and temperatures, and role playing in the SIMS laboratory. Nursing midterms came and skills testing began; thankfully I passed, and in two weeks would begin my first hospital clinical assignment on an orthopedics unit.
Still reveling from my first passing grades in nursing school, I looked forward to Columbus Day weekend, when my son would have an extra day off from high school. Late Sunday night, my son asked permission to go to a friend’s house. He decided to walk the few blocks, which happened to be on the opposite side of the train tracks near our home. Just before reaching the train tracks, another friend joined him. A quick decision to walk across the tracks and not the pedestrian bridge above them turned tragic for my son.
The following week was spent arranging my son’s funeral and preparing for my first nursing clinical. Getting through those days was difficult and I barely remember them. But I never considered not attending clinical—I had to continue.