I had a ritual before nearly every exam in nursing school. It seemed to work, I have that magical “RN” after my name. I had so much faith in it that I even did some of it before taking my NCLEX. Usually, I’m not superstitious, but in this case it worked. It was simple. Breakfast and music. I think it was the music that helped clear my head before exams. I know that studies have shown that listening to Mozart during studying and before tests can raise your IQ, but I’m not sold. The music I listened to was mostly loud, fast and sometimes angry. If anything it pumped me up rather than mellowing me out. Call it a paradoxical effect or a placebo effect, but it worked. Music is good, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Breakfast was the best way to prepare for an exam. Ever. There was a core group of about 4 of us who would drag themselves out of bed early to the greasy spoon down the street from school for last-minute cram sessions. Fueled by $3 breakfasts and bottomless coffee we would relentlessly go over the material on the exam. Our textbooks, the 180Lb behemoths that lived in our bags was just one tool. Usually between the group of us there would be a half-dozen different books there on the table, barely enough room for coffee. Between the huge tomes, there was the experience littered around the table. Between NCLEX review books, lab books, med-surg texts, OB texts, notes from the previous year’s group and notes/powerpoint slides from class it was formidable amount of information to process. With dogged determination, fueled by the cheap food and the coffee we’d work through the material until someone quit (from overload) or it was time to go.
I have a lot of good memories sitting around that table though. Like crawling out of bed at 4:45 to be there by around 5am on a dark mountain morning. There were the mornings where the sun just was coming up, or that stillness right before first light. It was almost magical. I remember the
brisk bitterly cold mornings up there on the mountain, where I spent 20 minutes scraping the outside windows then the 20 minutes of the drive scraping the inside windows, praying the little 12-volt heater would keep the windshield clear enough to see out of. Not to mention the 30 layers of clothes I had on to stay warm in that old VW I drove. (remember Ralphie’s little bro in “A Christmas Story?) I used that car as my backpack, at any one time there was more dollar value in books than the car was worth. Usually roll up and see inside the diner, almost like that famous painting, with the warm inviting windows spilling light out into the darkness. Was never the first, rarely the last. It was like a rotating cast though. Some folks would come one week, others the next. Some would show at 5, others at 7, you never knew.
There was the morning where we were quizzing each other on STDs. Nothing says good morning like a conversation about STDs over your eggs, “Now is that grayish and fishy, or yeasty and cottage-cheese like?” Mmmmm. There was the ever present complaining about faculty, assignments, the incredible tediousness of our care plans and the general angst of nursing school. We learned from each other though, everyone had their niche. One guy was a RT, so he was our go to guy for all things respiratory. One gal was an EMT so she was on point for ER stuff. Another was a tele tech at the local hospital and therefore became our rhythm person. Between all of us there was at least one person that understood the material well enough to explain it to the rest. There were the times talking about clinical rotations, how we got to see “X” procedure, or do “Y” task, the crazy person we saw on the floor or the time the student from the other school in town asked the male patient if his diabetes was, “gestational.” We laughed. A lot. Frequently.
We all made it through. They were there for me when my wife and I lost our son. We helped everyone through their unique set of problems. Celebrated achievements and commiserated the failures. In the end we all went out separate ways. I headed to the NW. Another went to Tucson, one to Cali. Many stayed in town. There are mornings getting off work where I wish I could go hang out and have breakfast with them again.
Thanks to the Breakfast Club for getting me through nursing school. Never could have done it without y’all.
Other things that helped me through nursing school though: my wife and family, caffeine, telemarketing, music, cheap breakfasts, good study buddies, not sleeping more than 4 hours a night, my VW (seen below), the scrub store in town that gave a discount to students, Strombolli’s and Roma pizza, Dominican cigars, Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve, Wal-Mart, Robin Williams:Live on Broadway, that trip to Vegas, the NCLEX review book, Depends and many more…
Peace and love…