Friday and Saturday, May 6 and 7, 2016

May 7, 2016
Rudi Kiefer

Portrait of a future
Brenau Nursing Major:
“Alice” Chen Amin

"Alice" Chen Amin

Alice is in her first year, but she looks forward to a number of more years to complete her nursing education. She is undecided about whether to aim for a degree in nursing, followed by a Ph.D. in education, or to go all the way toward the Doctor of Nursing Practice. Her dream is to someday be a faculty member of a nursing department.

As far as a specialization in health care, she keeps her options open by choosing “medical-surgical.” If her career path does not lead into a university, she hopes to work at a major medical center.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Breakfast with a few of the students, 7:30 a.m. in the Dining Hall as usual. One of them is quite active and interested in the course, but he is going into a major funk about his studies. It’s the pressure. The students typically have four classes a day, plus two hours of required “study hall” (twice a week, I think). Classes also meeting on Saturdays. The prospect of having to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) not too long from now, and the ISPN (International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses) and NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination for nurse) tests later on, doesn’t help. The kid is really stressed out.

What can I say to help him? Faculty can’t make the curriculum pressure go away. It’s imposed by external forces, curriculum committees, accreditation boards and the progress of society at large. The only thing I can think to tell him is that I was in college for 12 years, various degrees, three countries, and the pressure was always there. It was felt in the 1970s and ’80s just as much as it has been in the decades that followed. Once you’re in a professional career, I tell him, the performance pressure is just as strong. You want to stay employed, get a raise, get promoted, move to a nicer office on the new campus, stuff like that. The best you can do is do the best you can do, and not get ulcers when you drop the ball on some items. Strive for excellence, not perfection. At least that’s the advice I can give from my own personal vantage point.

But the medical terminology cramming has been a little dry. So I’m trying something different on Monday. For today (Friday) I’m taking the last 45 minutes to talk about earth science. “Severe weather!” Looking at tornadoes, houses ripped apart, cars laying on their roof gets their attention back, after an hour of leukocytes, bronchoscopy, laparoscopic surgery and all those other “foreign” foreign words they will encounter in health professions. As they are sitting there wide-eyed, I hurry to add that, in spite of that cataclysmic event in 1936 from which many older Gainesvillians date other important events in their lives (as in “I was born six weeks after the tornado of ’36.”), Gainesville is not in “Tornado Alley” in the United States. They’ll be safe at Brenau. The bad stuff happens mostly in Oklahoma.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Two conversational English sessions, 90 minutes each. I’ve thrown those in at these additional times because the three regular meetings we have during the week are just enough to cover the essentials in the medical terminology textbook.

For this, we have a classroom with movable chairs now, so at least we can sit in a circle. The naked walls, floors and ceilings in every room give me tremendous trouble with hearing. There’s an echo in every room, and the sound rolls around in the ceiling spaces several times. Not helpful if you have age-related high-frequency loss. Doubling up on low frequencies due to the room acoustics makes for difficult conversation. But we work with what we have. I haven’t seen any carpeted rooms anywhere, not even in the dean’s office.

The students are predictably shy in the Saturday sessions. I loosen things up as much as possible, showing flashy pictures of Brenau, America, my native Germany and various other places (including the brutally high Maya pyramid I climbed on the Yucatan trip with the biology class in February, which was my personal epiphany for 2016). Slowly, some of my Chinese students are coming out of their shells. We have a few guests, too, medical (M.D.) students that show a delightful level of interest in anything that’s taught in English.