I had a conversation recently that caused me to mull over how costly nursing school is. I wonder if people would scream gratuitously at me when I am trying to help them if they had any idea what I've given up for this profession.
- I gave up a successful career to go to school. Cost: $70,000 per year for going on 3 years = $210,000
- New student loans: $30,000 (plus interest)
- New car to commute: $14,000 (hey, it's a Toyota)
- Gas and tolls: freaking expensive, don't track because I don't want to know
- Books and supplies: $3,000 and counting
- Two trips to the ER with school-induced panic attacks: $6500
All that I was expecting (except for the trips to the ER). What I didn't know about was the terrible cost that can't be quantified.
- I lost a relationship over nursing; my previous partner couldn't take my nonavailability and split. Nursing school makes you pick between human beings and a profession. There isn't really room for both.
- I have spent a year and half as a nervous wreck, suffering from numerous stress-related disorders (if you ask around, you'll find that nursing students are a puking, diarrhea-having, ulcer-developing, migraine-suffering, panic attack--having bunch of folks who are forced to pop Pepcid, antidepressants, and anxiolytics like they're going out of style, at least at my school). School has destroyed my health!
- I am exhausted ALL the time. Even on my days off. Why? Residual and/or preemptive dread. I just know that some new frustration or humiliation is waiting around the next corner. Being set up to fail constantly makes a person strung out, hopeless, and depressed at best.
- I have almost completely lost my enthusiasm for nursing. I feel it has been systematically and apparently deliberately beaten out of me. Those T shirts that say "I'm a nursing student and I see why there is a nursing shortage" are NO SHIT.
- I have in fact lost my enthusiasm for anything at all except for periods of uninterrupted sleep. Which never occur.
- I am enveloped in a sense of learned helplessness, which I have never had before (I have lost the sense that I have any control over my destiny or that I can influence outcomes).
Had I read this list previously, I would have said, "This is a sign of immaturity. I am an adult and confident in my ability to take care of myself and avoid these terrible outcomes." This is because the hideousness of nursing school cannot be adequately described. It is volumes of dreary relentlessness pounding into you while you are told you are doing everything wrong and that despite all your hard work and sacrifices you MIGHT be kicked out on your tush for some arbitrary bit of fluff that you might or might not have a reasonable chance of knowing about beforehand. It is being told, "Do X." Then when you do X, you are told, "WHY are you doing X???" "Contradiction" is truly the summary of nursing school. So: the real cost has been a death of my old self in a very real way, and not in a phoenix-out-of-the-ashes way. In a ghost-of-my-former-self way. I'm starting to sound like a Visa commercial ("True self...priceless").
It's a good damn thing I actually like nursing. If I didn't feel like a fish who'd found water, I would SO be out of here. Right now the only bright side is the finish line and my job in the meantime. Maybe my school is being proactive and simply educating us about burnout BEFORE we get job-related burnout!