What’s the worst that can happen?
By: Camilla Dunn RN, BSN
So you have decided to go to Grad School?! Are you nuts? No, you are not nuts. You are not crazy. But you will think so throughout your journey, trust me on that.
I am attending the University of Michigan-Flint for a Doctorate in Nursing Practice. In other words, I will be a Nurse Practitioner when I am finished. And have learned that there is not enough time in the day to get everything done, that it is okay to feel like you are drowning because you probably are, and that procrastination is not an option!
I have finished one year of the program so far and it is HARD! My family is supportive, thank goodness. But it is still hard. I have a husband and family that expect me to be able to spend time with them, rather than have my nose in book with a highlighter as my main accessory on a day off from work. I have four children that expect me to read them stories, play, take them places, and just snuggle rather than having my laptop in the place I would love for them to be. But I keep trucking on. I keep on because it will be a great lesson for my children to see that even through adversity, you can prevail. I hope that when I do graduate they will see how far I have come and look at me with pride in their eyes.
Hardest part of all of this, is not necessarily the workload. It is taking care of yourself! “Sleep is overrated” and “I can sleep when I am dead” has come out of my mouth more than once, but I also work the night shift. If you like to sleep more than about 4 hours a day you may have difficulty getting everything done that you need to accomplish. Have a good planner and USE IT! I buy a student planner every year with intentions of using it and I don’t. I have better luck inputting due dates for assignments on my cell phone rather than another book to look at! And I have missed due dates. Some instructors may be sympathetic. Others, not so much. I missed passing an important class by two percentage points because of due dates! So yes, do not be afraid to fail! It may happen. Did I cry? Oh yeah. I spend a couple of days wondering if I should continue in the program or not; obviously I decided to continue.
Should you be involved in student organizations? That would be an individual decision. I decided to get involved and I need to network. My program is completely online, so contact with professors, colleagues, and classmates is usually via email, Skype, collaborate sessions, etc. I debated on getting in a student organization for several days, maybe even weeks, before deciding to run for secretary of the Student Nurse Practitioner Association. Wouldn’t you know it? I won by default, nobody else ran against me. I work with a great group of nurses and we are working to increase the exposure our group has in the community, state, and on campus. It’s a lot of work and my GPA cannot drop too low, but my program as a higher GPA requirement than most anyway. And since I live close to campus I have volunteered myself to be on other committees as well. In doing so, I get my name out there more and feel as if I can be an agent of change for the graduate program.
Do we ever see each other in person? Not that often. It is great, until you need to do a project with someone that you never see and have to rely on electronic communication to complete the assignment. It gets frustrating at times, but constant communication is helpful. Do not be afraid to give out your cell phone number, email addresses, etc. By provided all possible avenues to contact you, you will have a better chance of success at the group projects. Of course it is always possible you will find someone that doesn’t work as hard as you do and feel as if you are doing all the work anyway, just like in traditional face-to-face communication and projects. What do you do? Well, communicate concerns with your instructors, other group members, and carefully worded emails with the problem group member maybe beneficial as well. And yes, you don’t want to be a complainer, but you don’t want to get the shaft if the work is not what it could have been because of the partner(s) you get.
I have given you a lot to digest. And is kind of all over the place. But since this is all things I didn’t necessarily know when I started, I am happy to share what I have learned along the way. So, if you are thinking of Grad school, join us. What’s the worst that can happen?