Why Nursing School Is Exactly Like Doing A Marathon (Besides The Whole Running Thing)

Dearest reader, you’ll never guess what just happened.


Commence the celebrat… “ZZZ-Zzzz-ZZzzz-hngGGggh-Ppbhww-zZZzzzZZ.”

Oh wow. Sorry. I just literally fell asleep for 2 days straight. Literally.

What an incredible journey thus far. The amount of knowledge we have acquired in one-quarter of our quest to becoming registered nurses is truly astonishing. I can now officially diagnose the Johns Hopkins University mascot:


Mr. Blue Jay’s sclerae appear above the irises of his eyes, indicating symptoms of exophthalmos secondary to Grave’s Disease: a hyperthyroid autoimmune disorder that affects one’s levels of TSH, T3 and T4 hormones. His pleasant affect, as expressed by his permanently plastered grin, demonstrates cooperation and an optimistic outlook in the face of his troubling diagnosis.

As we crossed the finish line of our last final on Thursday December 18th, exactly one year after early-decision applicants cheered while clutching their acceptance letters, I couldn’t help noticing some striking similarities between an accelerated nursing program and running a marathon. Last year at this time, I signed up for a 26.2-mile race in Los Angeles. I had never done a marathon before (unless you count marathon binge-watching of House of Cards) and had no idea what to expect.


Considering the first person to ever attempt 26.2 miles promptly died at the finish line, you learn a lot of lessons training to run this inhumane distance:

1) Pace yourself. This is the biggest rookie mistake of first-time marathoners. The energy of being surrounded by so many cheering spectators can boost your adrenaline and inspire you to speed really fast in the beginning. Burnout unavoidably follows and by mile 18, the only things more painful than the relentless cramping in your calves is your bruised ego and the ironic blaring of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” in your headphones.

I definitely pushed too hard at the beginning of this semester. I devoured every single page of the 8-pound pathophysiology textbook readings, locked myself in my apartment for 48-hours straight on weekends, and composed dazzling calligraphy on flashcards with every sentence of the PowerPoint slides. By mid-semester, I hated the entire world. As time went on, however, I figured out a healthier balance between work and preserving sanity. Bottom line: if your study session doesn’t end in a solo kitchen dance party, you’re doing it wrong.


2) You are what you eat. When you run a marathon, they tell you to snack on these sticky packets of gelatinous play-doh called “Gu”. Although attempting to swallow these “assaults of glucose” provides ample opportunity to test one’s cranial nerves IX and X (gag reflex), I made sure to consume a packet every 45 minutes. Otherwise, as the runners say, you will bonk. And no, that’s not salacious innuendo. That’s what happens when you run out of glycogen stores and your brain flies the coop.

My undergraduate degree was an equal study in both music and how much physical abuse the human body can take. I lived off microwavable mac-and-powdered-“cheese”-chemicals and slept an average of 3 hours a night. While this worked quite well for an 18-year-old, post baccalaureate nursing school has taught me that the 28-year-old body is less forgiving. Eating breakfast before clinicals, getting a solid 8 hours of sleep, cooking healthy meals at night, and even juicing some kale (like the hippie Californian I am) was imperative to my success this semester.

Mercy B14 represent!

3) Get by with a little help from my friends. There’s this famous quote that goes something like: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I don’t know how this has anything to do with the marathon, seeing as y’all goin’ WAY farther than any mortal on foot should, but it is truly important to have a support system when undertaking any monumental challenge. From the veteran ultra-marathoner friend who planned out my training schedule… to the friend who walked mile 24 alongside me as I vehemently protested that there were more efficient ways to travel from Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica Pier… to the boyfriend who still loved me after I fell asleep on a pizza box.

Johns Hopkins University is one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the United States. As a result, the college attracts a hard-working, high-achieving student body. Nursing school is not a competition though. We’re all in this race together. We stare down disease like a runner stares down those miles. And at the end of the day, it’s not about the numbers; it’s about showing up, making the commitment, and giving it your all.

And let’s be real. It’s also about the occasional free pizza.

finish line


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