Continue Graduate School or Drop Out?

April 19, 1997

Show me Thy ways, O Lord, teach me Thy paths. Psalm 25:4

I am seriously debating whether or not I should continue with graduate school. They are raising the tuition to $380 per semester credit hour, and I have 29 hours to go to complete my Master’s of Science in Nursing, so it will cost me $10,000 to finish. It will take me about three more years to complete and I have already been taking two courses each semester while working full time as a visiting nurse. I am just so weary of it all.

Psalm 25:4 was my prayer which God answered wonderfully!

Psalm 25:4 was my prayer which God answered wonderfully!

Then I read in a nursing journal that they are producing too many Nurse Practitioners (NPs), and that the new graduates are having great difficulty in finding a job. By the year 2000, there will be a glut of 30,000 NPs. I recently spent the afternoon for my clinical rotation with a school NP at the community health center. There was a middle school girl on drugs and so many other kids on antidepressants, etc. At the clinic, there were many pregnant unwed teens who have already had several abortions and sexually transmitted diseases. I don’t think I want to work with that population. A NP came and spoke to our graduate school class this semester, and she is working all kinds of strange hours in the Emergency Department of a local hospital.

After that lecture, my job as a visiting nurse with the elderly seems like an excellent place to work! I work 8 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday, ten weekends, and one holiday each year which isn’t too bad for nursing. The pay isn’t great, but I could pick up some extra Saturdays here and there to make some extra money. The VNA office is only one mile from my house and my territory is so beautiful in rural New England. I am able to come home and finish my charting in the afternoon if we don’t have any meetings at the office. Now that my knee feels better after surgery, maybe I can remain in this old three story house a while longer. I think I’ll make a few more phone calls on Monday after reviewing the job section in the Sunday newspaper. It is so good to rest in the Lord and let Him show me the way!

May 24, 1997

“In the day when I cried, Thou answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul.” Psalm 138:3

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

The Lord has answered prayer in such a marvelous way concerning school since I last wrote on April 19! Last Thursday, my Dad called me and said he wanted to support me financially so I could quit my job and go to school full time and finish my degree. He asked me to send him my monthly budget to cover my expenses. I met with Dr. K., the Dean of the graduate program and she was so excited for me! We worked out my schedule so I can graduate next May. Because I missed the research course last semester, she is teaching me individually this summer for two hours weekly so I can catch up.  I thank my heavenly Father for moving the heart of my unsaved earthly father to help me out in this way, as I never asked my Dad for any financial support. I’m still in shock as to how wonderfully the Lord worked this out, way above what I could ask or think. I thank God for making my path so clear. One of my advisors at school said I definitely should not drop out as she thinks I will make a wonderful Nurse Practitioner, so her encouragement was much appreciated.

My final day as a visiting nurse is June 10. It is hard to believe that I have worked there for five years. It is tough to say goodbye to some of my monthly patients who I have known for five years. Some of them are like grandparents to me. I really hate goodbyes!

Reflection

And so the Lord made the way open for me to continue in graduate school and finish in four years rather than six years. In the fall, Dr. K. told the five of us who were full time students that the school had received a grant from the USA government that would cover our entire tuition and books for both semesters! The government says there is a shortage of NPs, so this is their way of graduating NPs more quickly. Because it was a grant, and not a loan, I graduated debt free which was a huge blessing. The tuition for the previous three years of part time courses had been reimbursed to me at the end of each semester by the Visiting Nurse Association. They did not require me to work for them as a NP after receiving my MSN as many organizations do today.

The prediction in the nursing journal of a glut of NPs never materialized as far as I recall. I never had any trouble finding a job as a NP. In fact, I have been inundated with job recruiters my entire career with a multitude of NP openings. In fact, I received a phone call earlier today from a job recruiter even though I told her last month I am not interested in a NP job at this time. Nursing is still a good career for job security in my opinion! There will always be sick people to take care of no matter what the economy is like.

Becoming a Patient

July, 1996

I completed my most difficult semester of graduate school thus far. I took pathophysiology, taught by a physician from Russia who had a heavy accent and was challenging to understand. It was a great review of physiology, but took us much deeper into what goes wrong in the body when disease occurs.

The second course was in pathopsychology which a nurse taught. We learned about the different mental illnesses and the criteria for diagnosing a person with them. We each had to choose a fictional person with a mental illness and see if they met the criteria and diagnose them with a mental illness. I chose Scarlett O’Hara, the main character in Gone With the Wind, a popular novel made into a movie about how the American civil war affected her family in the southern part of the USA. She certainly met the criteria for a Narcissistic Personality Disorder according to DSM 3. (DSM is the main book that psychiatrists use to diagnose people with mental illness.) They define Narcissism as “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.” The person also has to have at least five of the listed nine characteristics. I learned there is no treatment for someone with a personality disorder. I think Scarlett had all nine of the characteristics. My classmates laughed when I read my paper out loud because most of them had seen the movie if they had not read the mammoth sized novel at some point in their life.

I also decided to go downhill skiing with the career group from church for the first time in March. I painfully discovered that it is much different than cross country skiing and requires more athletic skill than God gave me. I took quite a few falls trying to get down the icy mountain and wrenched my left knee. I was unable to walk very far without pain, so the doctor did an arthroscopy on July 8 to look inside my knee with a small scope and clean out the floating piece of torn cartilage. He said my knee was so inflamed that he was amazed I could still walk.

I painfully discovered I am NOT good at downhill skiing!

I painfully discovered that I am NOT good at downhill skiing!

I needed to take 2.5 weeks off work to recover rather than the predicted one week. This is the first surgery I ever had and the amount of knee pain I had after surgery was staggering. I discovered that my best pain reliever was frequent ice packs. But I guess it is good to experience surgery from a patient’s point of view rather than a nurse. So many people from church have helped me since I live alone. Their assistance and fellowship have been a great blessing to me! It also makes me realize how frail I am, and that good health is very precious.

“As a father pities His children, so the Lord pities them that fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14

Reflection

That first surgery was the first of two more arthroscopies (surgery with a small scope) followed by a knee replacement at age 49. Moral of the story: DON’T try to learn to downhill ski in your forties if you are not a gifted athlete. It has always been more challenging to travel ever since I started having knee surgeries. A few years later, I sold my three story home and returned to a one level home to try and spare my knees.

I went to England on vacation with some ladies from church three weeks after that first knee surgery, and remember my 70 year old friend, Trudy, pushing ME in a wheelchair through the London airport. I exchanged my house and automatic shift car with a family in England, but their car had a clutch for shifting. I was unable to work the clutch with my left knee until the very end of the vacation because it was still healing and painful.

I also learned that I could no longer lower myself into a bathtub, kneel, squat, jump, or run. I also had to give up cross country skiing, so winters in New England aren’t too much fun anymore. After each surgery, I received treatment from numerous physical therapists, and we enjoyed talking “shop” after they found out that I was a nurse. I tried to do my post-operative exercises faithfully to get as much range of motion of my knee as possible.

I encourage my patients to do the same after surgery and to set up their house with adaptive equipment BEFORE they have surgery to make it easier when they come home. A toilet riser, reacher to pick up things off the floor, and plastic lawn chair with arms to put in the bathtub, shower hose, and bath mat are the bare minimum. A sock aide also comes in handy so you can pull on your socks without assistance. Many visiting nurse agencies have “donation closets” with equipment former patients no longer need. I tell my friends to save some money and ask if they can borrow some equipment and then return it after they have recovered from surgery.

A reacher is extremely helpful after knee surgery.

A reacher is extremely helpful after knee surgery.

Whenever one of my friends tells me that they need knee surgery, I have the utmost empathy for them and try and pass on things that have helped me over the years. Most of all, I suggest they ask God to comfort them, and He always does.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, Who comforts us IN all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them who are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ.” II Corinthians 1:3-5

 

 

 

Rejection and Sorrow

April, 1995

My interview for graduate school seemed to go well. I will learn next week whether or not I am accepted, so the waiting which began last September is almost over! I hope the fact that I did well in my first two courses at the State University will help with my admission. But the competition is very strong with hundreds of nurses applying for only 15 positions.

May, 1995

I received my letter today from the State University, and I was not accepted. They invited me to apply again next year, because they just don’t have room. It was quite a blow and a shock, and I feel like a total failure. It’s kind of like preparing for the big game for nine months and then being thrown off the team or having the big game cancelled. I guess I thought that since I will probably never marry, I could at least work on my career, but that door appears closed also. I haven’t had the courage to tell my parents or sister yet. I cried all day yesterday and today. I asked God to comfort me and show me what He wants me to do now.

“Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord.” Psalm 70:1

July, 1995

I attended a Bible seminar with ladies from church a few days after I received my rejection letter. One lady suggested I search for other MSN programs that offer the Nurse Practitioner tract. I discovered a small private college that is a shorter drive than the State University and is just starting a Family Nurse Practitioner program. I have not had any pediatric experience since I received my BSN other than volunteer camp nursing, but I guess I could learn about it again. I decided to apply and I should learn in August whether or not they accept me. If they do, they will allow me to transfer my two courses I completed at the State University, so those courses would not be wasted. I should be able to complete my Master’s of Science in Nursing degree (MSN) in three years by taking two courses in the evening each semester while continuing to work full-time as a visiting nurse. My employer will continue to reimburse me my tuition for up to two courses a semester as long as I receive an A or B grade. The price per course hour is the same as the State University. Right now, I feel like all the ambition for school has disappeared, so I really don’t care one way or the other.

Dear Lord, Please make my heart right concerning school if You want me to continue to study for my MSN. Amen.

I also finished an intense Spanish course at the local community college with an emphasis in medical Spanish. Some folks at church are fluent in Spanish, so they let me practice talking with them which was helpful.

September 30, 1995

So much has happened since July. I was accepted at the College into the Family Nurse Practitioner program. My brother was married on August 20 which my parents were able to attend. My mother’s cancer spread to her liver last January, but her dying wish was to attend my brother’s wedding. It was sad to see her barely able to sit up in her wheelchair. It was bittersweet to say goodby to her on what is normally a happy occasion. My parents flew back to Florida where she died at home on August 28. I flew to her funeral and then started school as soon as I returned to New England. Some nights I can’t sleep and cry for several hours. These feelings are so strange with the sorrow of missing her and yet joy in knowing that she is home with the Lord, rejoicing in Him, and free of her old broken body. I miss hearing her voice and talking with her on the phone.

I was accepted into the MSN program at a small private college.

I was accepted into the MSN program at a small private college.

I started school the week after Mom died. I wasn’t sure I could concentrate enough because of my grief, but somehow, God is giving me the strength and concentration. I like it much better than the State University. I am taking graduate level statistics and have a wonderful instructor who makes it very clear. Hopefully, I won’t fall asleep in statistics class this time like I did 22 years ago when I took it for my BSN! We are also having to solve problems on the computer with a 5 inch floppy disc that corresponds to our textbook. I am thankful for my personal computer at home so I don’t have to do all my homework on campus.

January 1, 1996

“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death…I follow after.” Philippians 3: 10,12. “Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Isaiah 53:3. “The Lord is near unto those who are of a broken heart….None of them who trust in Him shall be desolate.”  Psalm 34:18, 22

As I reflect on 1995, I believe it was my year to become acquainted with sorrow. It was one year ago yesterday that Mom found out her cancer had spread to her liver. I thank God for the work He has done in my heart this past year through my new friend, Sorrow. It is an acquaintance I would not have chosen voluntarily, but God chose this friend for me to press me closer to His heart and make me more sensitive to others who are sorrowing.

I thank God for helping me complete my two courses in graduate school with good grades. I was amazed that I received one of the highest grades in Statistics, my old foe. That was purely by the grace of God for which I praise Him!

God helped me conquer my old foe, Statistics, in graduate school!

God helped me conquer my old foe, Statistics, in graduate school!

I also met with the Dean and found out it will take me four more years of attending school part-time before I can complete my MSN degree.  I have now completed three semesters. I’m not sure I have the strength and ambition to attend eight more semesters, so I guess I will just take it one semester at a time and trust the Lord. I am claiming God’s promise in Psalm 84:11.

Psalm 84-11

Dear Lord, I commit this New Year to You. Cause me to know You better and follow You. Amen.

Reflection

So ended my year of rejection, acceptance, and sorrow. It was a challenging year, but I have learned since then that God seems to use the most difficult times in my life to cause me to lean harder on Him. I grow in His grace as I experience His loving kindness and strength in a new and deeper way. I pray you may be encouraged to draw near to Him if you are going through such a time as this today.