By Dawn Hydes, MSN, RN, CNOR, ENB
Time passed quickly between the first semester of my MSN program and graduation in spring 2011. This educational journey, full of articles, discussion groups and journaling, took me beyond the clinical side of nursing. Writing journals and scholarly papers was foreign to me — I had to overcome my fears and develop my academic skills, just as I had developed my clinical expertise over 28 years as a perioperative nurse.
My first class was a tough one. The brutally cold night, unfamiliar place and my late arrival did nothing to alleviate my anxiety. When I had to analyze my challenges and visualize what I wanted out of this experience, I had a difficult time expressing my thoughts.
The weeks began rolling together. My new job as a clinical educator was still evolving and I was juggling too many dichotomous pieces of my life. In addition, working on my first scholarly paper, presentations and final journals almost overwhelmed me. I wanted to escape, but I knew I could only overcome my anxieties or, as I called them, “demons,” by meeting the demands placed upon me.
I have always found that when life becomes too demanding, I feel more in control if I concentrate on one thing at a time. My yoga practice and meditation helped subdue my self-doubt and allowed me to focus. This practice also has assisted me in becoming more focused at work, and I continue to incorporate these practices into my daily life.
Researching articles by Strackbein and Tillman describing the “triangulation approach” enabled me to understand what journal writing required and bring together the three requisite elements — interpretation, classroom debate and individual fundamentals — to produce insightful papers throughout the semester.
As I wrote my journals, I was flooded with wonderful memories of life as a nurse in Europe and the Middle East and the many sites I visited during my tenure there. I relished translating thoughts and ideas into the written word.
The classroom discussions were insightful. Certain articles appealed to the group as we discussed our jobs and feelings of exhaustion. My light bulb moment came as I researched articles dealing with burnout; an article by Karen Espeland, MSN, RN, resonated with me as she described the symptoms of burnout, and how to energize careers to prevent it from occurring. This article helped me work toward goals in my job and not feel responsible for everything and everyone.
Snow was still on the ground as I approached class with my scholarly paper. After days of reading, rereading, editing and receiving critiques from supportive work colleagues, I felt that I had produced an interesting and insightful paper. I felt a great sense of relief as I turned in my paper.
I am unsure if it was the change of weather as winter passed to spring or the fact that our semester was concluding that caused a change in me, but I started completing assignments with less trepidation. As I moved into those final weeks and evaluated my transformation from novice student to confident individual entering a new learning phase in my life, I recognized that I now have the ability to integrate the knowledge of scholarship I gained into my professional and personal life.
Advancing your education allows you to grow in your career and as a person. It provides you the opportunity to choose where you go and what you become. I knew there would be obstacles along the way, but I persevered through the months and years, embracing my continuing education as a gift that I continue to share with students and patients I encounter along my journey.
Dawn Hydes, MSN, RN, CNOR, ENB, is a nurse educator for the main OR, cardiovascular, Connecticut Joint Replacement Institute and the Spinal Institute at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Conn.
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