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Anxiety ????

The past month or so, I've been observing a friend wring and twist with the demands of this nursing program.  Last semester was similar, with a lot of angst over the entrance exam, the acceptance process, the prerequisite courses, etc.  Basically, this person - who I truly like  - has worried long and out loud the entire time. 

Don't get me wrong, I had (and still have) some serious concerns that I might not have "it" anymore.  (Anyone over a certain age knows what their personal version of "it" is...for me, it is essentially my mental edge, which used to be fairly sharp.  Some days now, I really feel like my brain is a blunt object, badly in need of a whetstone!)

I have watched this friend work into a frenzy over some relatively minor events, and then spend a lot of time with faculty talking things over.  This started months before we even applied, and I would say has required virtually daily interventions and reassurances from one teacher or another all of this semester, plus many times this summer.  I catch this from the things repeated to me from conversations with this or that teacher.  It is a realtime report, as it often comes after I observe the friend returning from the direction of the faculty office hall on our floor.    

Although I have always been a natural worrywart, I have compared my own involvement (other than classtime) in this school as follows:  Never went into the building, except for a required meeting, before applying to the program; hiked over/upstairs there one day last spring after I was accepted, just to see where the classroooms and labs were (bumped into a faculty member I already knew, and had a nice visit, but it was a coincidental, not intentional, contact); saw this same faculty member again when I turned in the health and other legal forms as required this summer; and, finally,  sat down with my personal advisor on registration day to get my schedule...which is how we register, instead of going through general registration, since our class seats are reserved.  So, on the fingers of one hand as required, with some to spare, and only once to satisfy my own curiosity. 

As I talked with Mike last night about the two most recent contacts between us, and the difference in the way the two of us - both pretty good students academically - have interfaced with the program, he observed that my friend is having a real anxiety issue with it.  After I thought about it, that seems precisely right.  An anxious person needs a constant feedback "fix" from my experience of them. 

A couple of weeks ago, this friend turned to me in class one day and said that it was "all just too much."  I knew that grades were not the problem, so all I said was, "Don't over-react."  After a breaktime trip around the corner to talk with the program director, calm was restored...but apparently only temporarily.

This weekend, we had one phone conversation on Friday, just for me to hear about the friend's first clinical rotation - my group's is next week.  Some minor problems had cropped up during that half-day, and we discussed them at length.  Then on Saturday morning, I found a long e-mail about how this is just not working out. 

I took a long time to write a thoughtful reply...mostly about needing to make a Plan B and such.  There are other good  programs at our school that use the same prerequisite courses to a large extent, provide steady employment when you are done, but do not grind you down the way this one does.  Some of them only take one more year, instead of two, too. 

There is no shame in/penalty for exiting while in good academic standing; but, if you wait too long, the grade will be a failing one, regardless of your average.  Blowing one semester and the associated costs is not a huge issue - we are talking 4-5 months and probably $2500-3000 in tuition and fees/books. - in comparison to choosing the wrong career path and in this person's case being nmiserable for next 20 years or more.   

 I mostly said in my reply yesterday that there are a lot of ways to skin a cat, and life is not meant to be lived in misery.  Just make a plan ...pack a parachute before you bail out.  Honestly, I do not feel it is fair to continue to encourage a person who is this unhappy in staying a course that is a constant source of upset. 

 

While we were out to dinner with the kids, another e-mail arrived, which basically said in every oblique way, but not directly, "I quit."  It was pretty much an "I'll be keeping in touch, and have enjoyed being in the program this far with you" communication.  Very friendly, and also sad.

I am honestly torn today about what to say.  I half expect to see this friend bouncing back around the corner on Tuesday, calmed by a fresh fix of encouragement from the teachers.  Then again, the one of them I have talked with most told  me this summer that they figure on about a fourth of students making precisely this realization - that nursing is just not for them - and most of that happens in the first semester.  

So, I am caught between what I feel is encouraging someone to plug along/suck it up/see if thigns get better, or sanctioning an entirely reasonable decision to quit while ahead, and pursue a new path. 

Frankly, Mike related Jimmy Johnson's "Survivor" comment last week about counseling players who want to quit football, and it seems to apply here as well...essentially, once someone has started to consider that option, it takes less and less each time to push them over the edge to actually doing it.  It is an apt observation about anything in life if you think about it. 

I really feel that we are talking a matter of time now, at best.  Of course, this, too, may pass.

I need some input from some "old and trusted" friends here. 

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