Career Journal: Entry #1: Prepping for Anatomy

Career Journal: Entry #1: Prepping for Anatomy

December 19, 2013

I’ve been trying for three semesters to get into my college’s Anatomy class, which is impacted. Every health sciences student needs that class, and with budget cuts and limited lab space, it makes it difficult to register for.

Unfortunately for me, being unable to get in means being unable to make career progress. I have Anatomy and Physiology (two separate classes) left to complete before I am eligible for applying to nursing programs in my area. They tell me that Anatomy should be taken before Physiology for the best results.

Nursing programs are highly competitive right now, so grades matter a lot. In fact, at the university nearest to my home, their standard is set so if I have anything below a 3.8, I’m essentially not even going to be considered.

As of right now, with 73 units on file, I have a 4.0 GPA. This has been hard-earned with the support of numerous tutors, study groups, family support, and peer encouragement.

Some people tell me, “Oh, you’re just smart. That’s why you have straight A’s. Some of us aren’t so lucky to be as smart as you.”

It’s not that at all. I truly believe several things are factors into my “success” in the world of academia. 1) I have community support 2) I spent my entire life up until college in a private academic world where we were given study tools and taught how to succeed in school. 3) I foster a love for learning. I have a goal in my life to never stop learning. My craving for more knowledge often encourages me to keep pressing on in my classes. 4) I have short-term and long-term goals and I think about them regularly. I have a vision board outside of my bedroom with a plan of how to achieve my goals scribbled on it with a whiteboard marker. 5) I discipline myself with my studies. It takes time and dedication to sit at a desk and review material, passionately transcribe notes, go the extra mile and look up alternative sources of the same information laid out in a slightly different manner, and to be on top of it all the time. It takes a lot of mental and emotional energy. It also means sacrifices in other areas of my life. 6) I have a certain disposition that I think makes it a little more natural for me to achieve in the academic world because I am naturally self-motivated and find it easier than some to be self-disciplined. 7) I go beyond. Whenever somebody next to me says, “It’s good enough,” I look down at my work and say, “I can do better. Do I have the time?” If the answer is yes, then I go for it. Good enough isn’t. 8) I view school like a professional job. This takes some imagination, trust me, especially in those moments when I’m sitting next to a person who just spent the last thirty minutes smoking weed outside the classroom, another person who is hung over sitting behind me, and another walking in with his pants down to his ankles. But I think of my teachers as my bosses. I pretend I’m making a LOT of money for the work I do for that teacher, and when I am given a task to complete (aka getting an A in their class), I do whatever it takes to get that job done (within reason). 9) I take care of myself. I eat healthy. I try to maintain a balance between my part-time job, school, and my family and boyfriend. Sometimes it means I’m spread thin like peanut butter, but if I can’t learn how to maintain this balance now, how will I do it later, say, when I’m a parent? Life is full of many obligations. I see school as a safe learning ground to explore how to find that balance. I get enough sleep. I exercise 5-6 times a week for at 1-2 hours every time, depending on the workout and fitness classes I can fit into my schedule. I set fitness goals to stay committed to it. For example, I’m working towards my second degree black belt in kickboxing and my regular black belt in a second martial art. I make smaller fitness goals like being able to do more pushups or being able to have a longer stamina when I spar.

That being said, I’ve been terrified of Anatomy from before I began college. My friends were telling me how hard it was. The valedictorian of my high school, also pursuing nursing, took it and got a B in it. I couldn’t believe it. If she got a B, how does measly me even have a fighting chance?

Well, I’m finally registered for the class, which begins January 15 (I think. I need to double check my new schedule). My class meets for either lecture or lab 5 times a week. There are extended lab hours I’ve heard rumors of that apparently I should attend in order to have a chance at an A. They call it “open lab hours.” It’s the unwritten word of being mandatory. It’s what makes this class, realistically, according to my academic health sciences counselor, worth seven units rather than the five I’ll receive upon its completion.

People coming out of this class have told me things like this: “Five people in my class got A’s when I took Anatomy, and all of them were Asian.” “I got a C, and I tried so hard but I was also taking three other classes.” “My Asian friend got an A while taking sixteen other units, but he could hear things once and remember them forever. He was a super genius.” “I kept a crazy detailed notebook and didn’t even get an A.” “I recorded every lecture, and I listened to them back. I had a B in the class until I took the final and I got a C in the class.” “You can’t study for the final. They cram in a lecture test and a lab test the days before it so you don’t have the chance to study. You either know it or you don’t. Better hope you know it.” “I got an A, but I took it with the really easy teacher.” “I had absolutely no life for a semester, and I got a B.”  “It’s way too much memorizing in such a short amount of time. It’s a really hard class. Maybe even the hardest class they offer at that school.” “The first week of school, the head of the department tries to scare people out of the class by saying you have to have no life, won’t see your husband or significant other, you will spend all your time at school, and if you can’t commit to that, then you can’t succeed.”

OK. I get it. This class sounds like a nightmare.

I went to see an Academic Counselor today who specializes in the Health Sciences and knows nursing like the back of his hand. He’s become my go-to man with any question relating to my long-term goals.

I sat down across from him at his desk today and I told him, “I just want to make sure I’m on the right track for my career and degree goals.”

He checked out my transcript and said it looked great. I had taken all the classes I needed except for Anatomy and Physiology, and come next January, I should be ready to apply.

I told him I was worried about Anatomy and wondered if he could calculate my GPA if I were to get a B in that class. I’d have a 3.93. Not bad. I sighed with relief.

He took the time to explore with me even longer term goals like pursuing my Nurse Practitioner after I work a few years as an RN with my Bachelor’s in nursing. We looked at schools, programs, average pay, job prospects, length of time it would take to complete it, etc. I think I want to keep that goal. He told me I was perfect for it.

Right before I left, he gave me a pep talk and paid me some of the biggest complements that I’d received in a long while. I was almost in tears when I opened his office door to leave:

“I’ll be honest. I have a lot of perspective after ten years of doing this, having thousands of students pass through my office. I can think of probably two transcripts that are as good as yours. I haven’t seen a transcript like this in a while. You got an A in Microbiology. You got an A in Chemistry. Take methods of studying you used in those classes and use it in this Anatomy class. The rumors you have been hearing, those are coming from students with a certain type of transcript. If I have seen only two or three like yours, the students sharing their horrifying experiences with you likely don’t have the transcript that you have. That oftentimes translates to their lack of a good study method, dedication, self-discipline, etc., things that you are able to exert in order to achieve your A’s. Go into the class with confidence in yourself and your ability. I have interacted with you twice: once in the nursing meeting, and once here. You are a leader. You are the pick of the litter. You are perfect for your chosen field, the exact type of person they want in these programs. You can do this.”

I felt such a weigh lifted when I left his office then.

This morning, I ordered myself a digital voice recorder so I can record lectures in a high quality and then transfer them to my iPod to listen to while I commute to and from school, while I clean, do laundry, or walk to martial arts. I can listen to them even as I fall asleep at night. I added to my purchase list, as my next pay checks come in, Anatomy flash cards with an online code for quizzes and puzzles in Anatomy and believe it or not, even an Anatomy coloring book. They say that coloring in the diagrams while studying helps.

The approach I’ve taken to most classes so far is that when I enter the classroom, whatever the subject is, I aim to become proficient in it, as though I was going to spend the rest of my life teaching it, researching it, and using it to help others. I play this imagination game and pretend that I’m going to one day be an expert on that subject, and this is where it all begins.

I treat myself to a shopping trip where I spend an extra buck here or there getting good notebooks, pens and pencils, study aids, and binders. I’m going to spend a semester investing in this, so my tools should be good.

I’ll pay my tuition and order my books on payday. Things are looking good. It will be hard, but I think having somebody tell me that I had a chance, for once, really lifted my spirit. It made it finally seem achievable.

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