Jumping In

Starting at a new school—any school—is a turbulent whirlwind of forms and booklists, new schedules and new buildings. There are logins and passwords to figure out, moving vans and boxes to unpack. We crowd into the auditorium for our orientation, making lists in the corners of our notebooks of things we still need to attend to, questions we still have to ask, all while trading names and phone numbers with our new classmates sitting around us.

We’ve all thought a lot about this, as we debated first what (Nursing), then where (Johns Hopkins), and then finally when (August 25, 2010). We scanned the website, talked to admissions staff on the phone, emailed with students and visited the school. But now that we’re here, with our new ID badges and class schedules in hand, the rising tide of anticipation and excitement is finally coming to its peak. It’s the weekend between orientation and the first day of class, and we’re nursing students—not “maybe someday,” not “in the fall,” but tomorrow morning, at 9 a.m.

In theory, I should have less on my plate on the adjustment front than some of my recently arrived classmates—I moved to Baltimore a year ago, took my prerequisite courses on the other side of town. I know my neighborhood, the park I run in every morning and the bakery outlet where I buy bread. I even know the basics of how to get around the JHU School of Nursing, more or less. Unlike some of my classmates, I’m not spending whole afternoons waiting for the cable guy to come install my internet, or figuring out where to get the shuttle. I feel comfortable here. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that, just arrived here or not, nursing school—as my newly-purchased books keep reminding me—isn’t like anything else that I’ve ever done before. It isn’t like anything that any of us have ever done before. There are 154 students in the traditional class of 2012. Those of us with degrees come from over two-dozen different disciplines. Many have held other jobs for years. We all bring our own strengths and areas of expertise to this new school, but none of us have ever done nursing before.

“Nursing is a practice profession and an applied science,” one of our readings for Monday tells us. “As a new student begins a nursing program, it usually quickly becomes clear that it is different from past learning experiences…Non-nursing educational experiences are quite different from nursing educational experiences.” As an applied science, nursing has two major components: content-focused, and clinical. And, as my book goes on to say, “students who wait to be told what to do and when to do it will not be as successful.” We are encouraged to be active, ask questions, apply information and forge ahead.

I’ve done hands-on trade work before. I’ve done books. But I’ve never done quite this blending of science and art, of book and practice. Still, I know that this is just what I want to be doing, and just where I want to be.

I’m a little nervous. I’m really excited. I can’t wait to get started.

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