Thursday, October 11, 2007

snobbery vs laziness

Master's or Associates?

Back in May, my happiness in getting accepted to nursing school was almost immediately killed by the comments of some the nurses I work with--”You won't get anywhere with an associates degree!” or similar remarks. Later, some of my relatives reacted with visible wincing or treated with condescension my announcement about nursing school.

UVA has a Clinical Nurse Leader program designed for people who already have a bachelor's degree in something else. After an intense 24 months of study, you graduate with a master's in nursing. I considered applying last year but felt too preoccupied with all I needed to do just to get admitted to the associates program. Now I wonder if I made a mistake. I have a couple of friends in the CNL program and they praise it to the skies, and earlier this month I decided I would definitely apply—I have completed all the prerequisites and there's even a chance they'll accept my old GRE scores, if I can only figure out how to find them.

Starting the CNL program would mean waiting another year until actually being able to work as a nurse. Two years ago, I was a full time at-home mother with no ambition beyond finding a part time job so that I could have a little money for nice shoes and lunches out with friends. Do I really want to get into an expensive, intense program like UVA's? Currently, there's a fellowship for the CNL students—each student gets $17,000 which pretty much covers tuition for the year, and one of my friends in the program said he heard it was going to be extended another year. That's great, but what do I do if it ends after my first year and am stuck with a huge tuition bill right at the moment when I'll be getting ready to send Mad Scientist to college?

Do I care enough about nursing to get a master's in it? Before I've ever practiced as a nurse? We invited one of our friends in the program to watch a movie with us, but he declined, saying he had to “read about leadership.” Do I want to spend 24 straight months reading about leadership and nursing theory? I hate nursing theory. I hate the whole process of nursing school—agonizing over care plans, writing assessments and having to redo them until they're perfect. I have loads of writing assignments for clinicals, and it's not like you can hand in a care plan and get a “C” and be told to do better. If it isn't perfect, you have to redo it until it is perfect, along with your new writing assignments. Not to mention (this week at least) 240 page reading assignment for theory class.

A few weeks ago I was happily imagining myself as part of the master's program, but I think its appeal to me is mainly snob appeal. I'd rather be known as a UVA student than a PVCC student. Do I really want to go through the whole application process and a rigorous program just for snobbery? It's so much more gracious to hold my head up high about my two year degree and not be affected by people's comments. Conversely, should I avoid the CNL program just out of laziness? Because I don't relish more research papers? I would be half way through the nursing program I'm already in, and most of my credits would not transfer, if I were to go to UVA.

I'm not asking for advice, just getting my thoughts out. Any sensible person would probably say, “Just apply and see what happens.” That's probably what I'd tell someone else in my situation. We'll see, but right now I'm leaning toward sticking it out at the community college.

As Jon pointed out, already having a bachelor's—even though it is not in nursing—will still help me be a better nurse. As an associates degree nurse, if I ever really feel the need to further my education, the hospital I work for will pay me to do so.

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