For the few of you who read this--I wanted to thank you for praying/fasting for me this weekend. I also wanted to explain a little bit about my test.
WGU is a competency based university, meaning that students--especially the nursing students--have to quickly grasp concepts and move on to other things. This applies to our course work as well as simulation lab. These pictures show a little bit of how we learn for our lab tests. We have anywhere from 3-5 lab days (7 hours each day) where we learn about different diseases/problems/issues that correspond to our course curriculum. During lab, we are taught what to look for with different diseases and problems. We work as a team, usually 4-5 students, to assess, medicate, start IV's, call Dr's, labs, radiology, etc. Working together is nice because if you forget something or miss something in the assessment, someone else will usually pick it up. However, this is also a disadvantage to us as we take our lab tests alone. For our test, we have a scheduled time to come and perform a one on one test with our Sim man. We enter the room with our test instructor, with a clipboard, paper, pen, and stethoscope. Our instructor gives us the "report"(small history and chief complaints of the patient) and leaves the room (there is a one way window which they watch us through. Our instructor is also the voice of the Dr, lab, secretary....anyone we need to call really. There is also a lab tech who acts as our the patient's voice through a speaker in the Sim man. WGU also records each test with 360 degree cameras, as well as microphones). We begin by introducing ourselves, washing hands, identifying the patient, making sure the room is safe, etc. The patient must be assessed, report called in to the doctor if needed, meds given, or even calling a code and starting CPR and using the Ambu bag to breathe for the patient. Like I mentioned before, it's easy (easier) with 4-5 nurses in the room but not in our test. Geez. Anyway, we have to pick up on things, like if the patient was given way too much Morphine (a respiratory suppressant), has a low respiration count, and is going to code (stop breathing). Especially for critical care (my current semester), all the scenarios are scary--heart attack, pneumonia, heart failure, diabetic keto acidosis, etc. On top of that stress, WGU's policy says that if a student can't perform well enough after two tries (at different tests), they will be held back anywhere from 6-12 months before they can redo the entire semester over. They claim that most nursing schools have these tests as well, but, at least in southern California, it's not the case. NO students which I have talked to (from 9 different schools) even have lab tests, let alone a test as serious as ours. Another disadvantage to an online nursing school is the lack of lab hours we have to practice. In traditional schools, they have hours and hours each week, throughout the entire semester, where they learn to assess patients with these issues. We get one 45 minute round of "this is what to look for" and that is it.
Whew. Sorry for the rant. Now for the explanation of the title. I truly believe that I have developed PTTSD--Post (and Pre) Traumatic Test Stress Disorder--from these tests. As much as I try not to think about them or worry about them, it seems the week before the test I can't focus on anything else. The night before the test I can't sleep. The day of the tests my heart beats so strong and so fast I think I'm having a heart attack. Once I get to the testing center I have a hard time breathing and I'm shaking so badly I can't write legibly on my paper when receiving orders, getting report, etc. Can you imagine trying to start an IV while shaking uncontrollably? Or pulling out insulin from a vial? Almost impossible. Once in the test, I feel faint and my mouth goes completely dry--my tongue feels like sand paper,almost like I haven't had water for weeks. Also, I can't think straight. My first test (about a year ago), I walked into the room where my patient was choking (I was supposed to suction him right away) and all I could think of was, "someone needs to help this guy!". Luckily it didn't take me long to realize that I knew what to do and how to do it. The anxiety I have developed is unreal to me. I have never experienced such a feeling in my life. It's uncontrollable. I had Blake give me 2 blessings before I took my tests. Some girls in my cohort take beta blockers (which slow down your heart) to help them calm down. I honestly thought about taking one and then used my "nursing knowledge" to realize that would be a stupid idea since it hadn't been prescribed for me. Anyway, I somehow made it through my test, passed, and am going to graduate in September of this year (which was one of my fears of not passing. I have other things I want to do, like start a family, work, travel, and I didn't want to have to wait another 6-12 months to restart the program). I can't wait! Online nursing school has been an adventure so far and I hope the worst is over. No more lab tests--ever again!