Nursing student, Linda Jung, talked with us about her experience at GW, being in the nursing program, and how COVID has affected her experience.
I remember in 2015, my family and I went skiing in Vail, Colorado with my cousin. Towards our final days on the trip, my cousin decided to challenge herself by going on a blue-black diamond slope for she was practicing on the blue slope which is known to be good for intermediate skiers. On this particular day, the slopes were very icy, so gaining traction on our skis was challenging. My cousin continued to use her pizza french-fry method, which is a good representation of pizza meaning to stop by placing one’s skis together and French-fry signals go by creating two lines with the skis. Halfway down, my cousin lost control and continued to gain speed to the point where she was unable to do her pizza and French-fry method and her skis gave out. My cousin flew into the air and landed hard, which resulted in her breaking her coccyx. I remember because we shared rooms, I mostly helped her walk to and from the bathroom, which was her biggest challenge, and bringing her food because she could not walk properly. One particular night, I heard her crying in her sleep where she exclaimed, “I really want to get up to use the bathroom, but I am in so much pain.” I could hear in her voice the unimaginable pain she must be feeling and supported her for two more days until we had to leave. At that time, I felt like I was my cousin’s symbol of hope for I had the ability to help her during her most vulnerable state. My wish to become a nurse was reaffirmed when I interned at the Medical Campus at Virginia Commonwealth University where I followed a nurse who treated terminally ill patients. The patients always left our room with a beam of hope in their eyes, and I was moved by the stories my nurses would tell them and by a particular wooden object she would give them as a symbol of hope. As a result, I realized nurses can be a symbol of hope for people and I want to be a part of that hope for the people I take care of.
I chose GW because the school has a reputation of caring professors, small classroom sizes, and the convenient location allowing me to commute from the Ashburn campus to home to be with my family.
My first semester as a nursing student was very challenging trying to adjust to the fast- paced program. I remember there was a week where I failed two exams, and I really doubted my place in the program. Everyone seemed to have done very well while many thoughts of self-doubt were running through my head. I remember sitting quietly as uncontrollable tears streamed down my face, and so many people from my cohort would come try to give me a hug or uplift my spirits with encouraging words. The same day I went to the two professors’ office hours and one of my professors let me cry in her office and explained to me that it is perfectly valid to be upset, but I need to give myself adequate rest and study with a clear mind. She used the analogy of a cake and explained that I was trying to eat the whole cake at once in one sitting, rather than trying to eat each slice to really enjoy the flavor and texture. Although I felt embarrassed from crying the whole day, I was so grateful to have a caring environment of peers and professors alike. Additionally, to this day, I think about her analogy whenever I feel overwhelmed or stressed out and try to tackle assignments and upcoming tests by piecing them into small ‘slices’.
Self-confidence has been the most challenging aspect in nursing for me. There were many times where I doubted my abilities or communication skills where I would freeze up my first semester and hope that my assigned nurse or clinical instructor would assist me with speaking to the patient about what I will be doing for them. However, I had a wonderful support group full of encouraging nurses, clinical instructors and professors, and peers who would help me understand why I felt nervous or could not speak to the patient and how to overcome it. I was always reminded that I am more capable than what I believe to be, and whenever I do not know something I am allowed to speak up and ask questions on how to perform a skill rather than going in and feeling afraid the nurses would look down on me for not knowing how to perform a skill. At the end of the day, we are here to learn to ensure patient safety is our number one priority and asking questions will ensure we are able to perform our skills with confidence.
Nurses take on many roles. During my pediatrics clinical rotation, many children came in due to the effects of COVID-19. They were transitioning all aspects of school online, which means they can’t see friends physically. Many kiddos came in due to feelings of loneliness or suicidal thoughts because the pandemic has led them to believe that they are alone and that they do not have anyone there for them. I feel like nurses are like heroes in the sense that not only were they treating the patients and keeping them safe, but they would also act as their therapist by listening to their situation and feelings, being the patient’s friends, and being entertainers by trying to make them laugh or bring in an uplifting mood with a positive attitude. I believe COVID-19 has shined light on the importance of nurses and why nurses are like the backbone of the healthcare team by really understanding the patient through therapeutic communication. However, this also means that nurses should also take a step back to take care of themselves physically and spiritually, so that they are able to go back into their jobs to take on these many roles.
Do not be so hard on yourself and continue to practice mindfulness and resilience. Remember that when you were accepted into this program and you chose to go to this school, the school saw the capability in you to do well and succeed as future nurses. Always be aware of your surroundings and your own intuition. It is not worth the time and energy to try to study an extra minute for an exam coming up. Rather, take adequate rest and break apart the concepts into little chunks. Identify a set of objectives you want to accomplish for the day, and do not try to do more than that. Failing an exam or competency does not mean you do not qualify to become a nurse. This is when resilience comes in. It is okay to take in how you feel but remember to stay resilient and know when to bounce back and give it your all for your second shot at something. Remember, your peers and instructors are also there to help you get through the program, so don’t be afraid to reach out. Finally, check up on others and be kind to your peers because they could be having a bad day you do not know about, or they could also be having a hard time getting through the program.