I want to take a moment to steer away from all the dark things that have happened in my life and talk about the amazing, wonderful experiences I’m having now. The first thing I wanted to write about is my journey through nursing school. I’m currently enrolled in a wonderful nursing program and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself thus far. Nursing school has been my pathway to pursuing a future that I’m passionate about and has helped me create a successful, productive life as a single mom.
When I decided to apply to nursing school back in 2016, I was a stay at home mom trying to finalize a divorce and my children were 4 and 6 years old. My ex-husband was so unstable that I knew I would have to find a stable, steady and flexible job to support me and my kids if his life continued to fall apart. My monthly alimony from my divorce would continue until October of 2020, giving me a deadline to go through the application process, be accepted into a program, finish school, pass the NCLEX and find a full time nursing position.
I did some research and realized the importance of obtaining a 4 year bachelor’s degree in nursing compared to a 2 year associates degree. I also needed to find a program that would allow me to go to school full time, yet continue my role as a mother and would help me avoid the cost of full time daycare. Once I found a program that best fit my needs, I had to make sure I met all the requirements in order to get accepted. This included obtaining a passing score on the HESI A2 – an entrance exam for nursing schools that consists of a multiple choice test over 5 different subjects, such as math, chemistry, etc. and a personality assessment.
When I started the processs, it had been 9 years since I graduated from The University of Kentucky with a BS in Integrated Strategic Communications. Right away, the first of many rounds of anxiety set in. At the age of 30 and out of school and the workforce for 6 years, how would I remember anything about College Algebra or Chemistry? How would I balance life with two young, very active children and studying time, with very few people around me that could help me manage it all? I buckled down and bought a HESI exam study guide from Barnes & Noble and began to crank away. Thankfully, I passed and was accepted into a great nursing program and that is how my journey in nursing school began.
A nursing degree is known to be one of the most difficult undergraduate degrees to obtain and no one can ever really prepare you for how hard it is to make it through a nursing program, especially as a single mom. Not only is it hard on students, but it also impacts the lives of everyone around them. I had to develop better time management skills and my kids and I had to adapt to a new routine. My two children had become accustomed to me being home and available for them all the time. Once I started school, they had to get used to hearing phrases like “I can’t, mommy has to study” and “I know this isn’t easy for you either, but I promise it will be worth it someday.” My family quickly learned that I wouldn’t make it to every family event and they got used to my frequent calls asking for help with the kids when I needed to be in class or clinical. I cannot thank them enough! When the kids were with their father during his visitation, I would try to sneak in a rare girl’s night out to catch up on my friend’s lives, but my free time diminished drastically and dating wasn’t much of an option. With so little free time, it’s amazing that I met my fiance! Our story is pretty awesome and I can’t wait to share in another post 🙂
Dropping my daughter off on her first day of school and spending time with my son.
Nursing students have to juggle:
- Overwhelming amount of content/lengthy reading assignments
- Med calculus exams
- Skills check off
- Care plans
- Course exams and end of course proficiency exams that must be passed in order to move onto the next level nursing course
- 12 hour clinical shifts/ clinical paperwork
- Simulation labs
- Learning how to master the dreaded select all that apply nursing school exams and multiple choice questions where all the answers are correct, but you have to select the most correct answer
- Costs- Tuition/Books/scrubs/stethocscope etc. is expensive. Financial aid, money out of pocket, loans, DEBT!
- Taking multiple classes at a time
- Anything below a 76% is failing. The grading scale in nursing school is different and more intense.
- Knowing that working in the healthcare field, people lives are at stake, so there is no room for error.
- Keeping up with vaccines, Tb tests, health insurance, etc. to stay compliant
Added stressors as a single mom include:
- Cost of a sitter for kids while in class or at a 12 hour clinical rotation
- Fighting downtown traffic and a 30 minute commute, fretting about not being late to an exam and making it on time to get my kids off the bus.
- Keeping up with my duties as a single parent- doctor/dental appointments, meal planning, laundry, cleaning, quality time with my kids, kid’s projects/homework, kid’s sports and activities, packing lunches, getting them ready for school each morning, etc.
While in school, I had to develop study habits that worked for me, but were different from what I used while at UK. Due to the overwhelming difficulty and amount of content I have to absorb, my extra large flashcards go with me everywhere! To help me pass Organic Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology classes, I used Khan Academy on YouTube. Currently, I spend a lot of time watching the YouTube channel, LevelUp RN, which I’ve found to be extremely helpful for passing my proficiency exams. I finish papers and assignments after I put the kids to bed, then I wake up early around 5am to study before my kids are up for school. I’ve discovered that I retain information better if I study in the morning, as opposed to studying late at night. Once you find study skills and a schedule that what works for you, stick with it. Don’t try to change it up as life becomes chaotic and things around you start to change. I tried changing up my study routine/habits at one point and my grades suffered, so I went back to what worked and what I started with.
Me after passing critical care!
One of the things I’ve touched on previously, is my hearing disability. I am bilaterally deaf since the age of 5. Non-congenital hearing loss during childhood isn’t very common and to this day, I don’t have answers as to why I developed hearing loss at that age. Eventually, I’d like to dig into my background and medical records, but right now, I have more important matters to concern myself with. As it relates to nursing school, before I started my nursing program, I felt very anxious about it. I had enough worries on my plate and concerns about the effect my hearing loss would have on my studies and clinical shifts, were definitely contributing to the stress I felt back then. In the past, my disability would have presented a greater obstacle for me. However, with advances in hearing assisted devices and stethoscope technology, I haven’t experienced any major issues, but it’s always something I have to be extra conscious of. Link: Stethoscope I use
Until you’re in a nursing program, there really is no way to accurately convey why nursing students have to study so much. As I’m getting closer to graduation, I look back on all the times I felt overwhelmed and exhausted; there were so many days when I didn’t think I would make it this far. These past few years, with all the insane personal stuff going on in my life, I’ve had quite a few setbacks. I’m proud to say though, I’ve persevered through all of them and I’m more determined than I have ever been in my life to finish what I started. Even as other people tear me down and refuse to recognize how hard I worked to get this far, I’m still filled with pride. During one of the darkest times in my life, accomplishing smaller, meaningful goals in my nursing program, lifted my self-esteem and gave me a greater purpose.
I’ve had to deal with a lot of negative attention for my choice to come out publicly with my domestic abuse story. Considering how hard I’ve worked these past few years, it boggles my mind when I hear what some people have to say about my work ethic and life choices. Because I’ve been through so much already though, I’m usually able to push the negative aside. I was so fearful when I first left my husband, I had no idea what the future had in store for me and my children. Now, I’m so proud of all the obstacles I’ve overcome and everything I’ve accomplished, all while pushing my way through nursing school.
These are some of the issues I’ve had to face and some of the wonderful things that have happened to me these past few years:
-Finalizing an extremely contentious divorce.
-Living with constant harassment from my ex-husband.
-Losing financial support (alimony & child support) after my ex-husband lost his job.
-Obtaining a Civil Protection Order to protect myself from my ex-husband.
-Moved locally 3 times in 3 years
-Suffered from severe anxiety and multiple panic attacks, which landed me in the ER.
-Suffered a TIA (transient ischemic attack- a mini stroke). I have a family history of TIA’s but I was far too young and was told that it was caused by the stress of school and craziness going on around me.
-Continued to raise two amazing children that excel in their academics and sports (I taught them both how to swim & ride their bikes without training wheels…proud mom moments).
-Added a puppy to our family of 3….Charlie our adorable Goldendoodle
-Met the love of my life and my amazing two soon to be step children
-Still fighting an enduring, exhaustive 13 month custody battle (trials, attorney meetings, court hearings, etc.).
-Living through a smear campaign orchestrated by my ex husband, his family, his network and even my estranged mother. (link to post about estranged mother)
-Reconnected with my first non-bio father, who raised me the first half of my life, and his family.
-Best of all…got engaged to the love of my life!!!!
I’m also really grateful for the friendships I’ve made during my time in nursing school. I grew up in Columbus and when I was a coach’s wife I was fortunate to be able to move back. Because Columbus is my hometown, I already had family and a solid group of friends here. When I finally divorced, the transition from coach’s wife to single mom to nursing student didn’t always go smoothly. It was hard letting go of the relationships I built with other coaches wives. Even though many of the friends I made in the coaching profession were supportive of me, we couldn’t really relate to each other anymore. They were still immersed in the coaching world and I was off on my own. My childhood and college friends were also very supportive, but were busy with their own families and jobs. When I started my nursing program, I met other single moms who could relate to the struggles I was facing. I started to forge a diverse group of friends and they were all pretty incredible to me during really difficult times. I could lean on them for help and advice and they were always there to keep pushing me forward (you all know who you are…your support to this day has kept me going, THANK YOU). Since I’ve had a few setbacks in nursing school, some of my friends have graduated before me, but it’s been so great to hear and learn from them about life in the “real world.”
Friends helping me move and Celebrating our last day of Adult Health Clinical!
Today, I’ve completed 96% of my nursing program and I only have 3 nursing courses left to finish up my degree plan. As I weave my way through this custody battle, I haven’t been able to write about some of the exciting things happening in my life. However, I can see the light at the end of this really dark tunnel and when I get to the other side, I hope I’m able to open up more about my personal life.
Thank you for reading and have a blessed day!