Sunday, August 23, 2009

Those Who Can't Do, Teach?

I don't know where that saying originated but I heard it several times over the years. It may be true in a very few circumstances but I don't think very often.

I started my nursing career working in ICU/CCU. The hospital, where I was first employed, was just opening their first unit and a group of us were being trained to staff it. ICU/CCU is a very exciting place to begin a nursing career. It gives the nurse an opportunity to really focus on a limited number of patients and it provides the assistance of high tech monitoring equipment to assess what's going on inside the patient.

The RN working in ICU/CCU really gets to have close contact with his/her patient, from giving the bed bath, emptying the bed pan, holding their hands, to providing all the medications and treatments needed. It is a very stressful place to work because of the seriousness of most of the medical conditions found in that kind of an environment. You also meet more death there and as a young nurse I was not comfortable with death. When I had to go out to tell a family that a loved one had died, there was no doubt on my face what my mission was. I looked like a character from the movie about the zombies.

I went home every day after work and replayed the tapes in my head of what I did throughout the shift to analyze whether there was anything I could have done better or different. Sleep wasn't easy to come by for those two years that I worked in that unit. The staffing, as often is the case in many hospitals, got worse and worse and I decided I needed to find a place to work where I wouldn't spend all my off time stressing about it.

My best friend Jan, who graduated with me from nursing school, was working at our local university. She told me I ought to come try teaching. I could be a clinical instructor. Say what? Teaching, me? I wasn't even a good student. She said well you are a good clinical nurse and that's all you need.

My turning point was the day I had to take charge of our 13 bed unit with only one technical nurse and an orderly. I thought yep, teaching, me. It was either that or the mental ward. That wasn't a hard choice so I packed up my ugly cap and my stethoscope and applied for the clinical instructor job.

At the same time I started teaching, I also enrolled in a graduate program in Houston. Even though a graduate education wasn't required at that time to be a clinical instructor, I felt I needed it. If this was going to be something I wanted to do for a while, I had better be qualified.

Teaching did turn out to be a wonderful choice. Nothing will keep you on your toes like being responsible for preparing a bunch of eager students for their life long careers. Nothing will motivate you to learn more than having that responsibility. The information I will impart would impact a lot of lives.

To teach, I had to understand the information really well and believe me concepts involved in medicine aren't always easy to understand. It's even more difficult than going to school where you can just get enough of an understanding to drop it on the test and then move on. You had to answer questions. If I didn't have an answer, I always told my students I didn't know but I would find the answer. With my ego, I didn't want to have to do that very often so I read everything I could prior to teaching a subject so I would be prepared with any answer I thought could come my way.

I knew I would get some Karma there also. When I was in graduate school and thought I had a pretty smart teacher, I would come up with a really difficult question to ask, just to test the depths of my teacher's understanding of the subject. I was sure there would be some little whippersnapper, like me, waiting to do the same to me. Just in case, I was going be prepared.

I had to work a lot of moonlighting jobs to make ends meet while I was teaching. They don't pay teachers very much but we did have all those nice holidays. Of course I had to work all my holidays and most of my weekends to make up for the drop in salary. But I found that my time spent teaching added so much to my ability to function as a clinical nurse. In addition to being able to perform clinical skills, I really understood the whats, whys and hows of it. My moonlighting jobs also provided some interesting antidotes for my lectures.

One of my moonlighting jobs was working as a nurse at a local horse racing track on the weekends. What those jockeys did to lose weight by shedding extra body fluids worked real well with my fluid and electrolyte lecture. Throwing in a few other tidbits about a jockey's lifestyle kept my students from getting bored also.

Nope, those who teach can do, and do it better.

I do miss my 23 years of teaching at the university, but it is always a part of any nursing career. I do almost as much teaching while taking care of my inmates. They have the capacity to be big consumers of health care in their futures and often won't have any means to finance it. The Doctor I worked for at my first correction's job complained about the time I spent teaching my inmates. He said they just don't care. I told him that if just one of a hundred cared, it was worth the effort.

I can't prove it but, if I can get my inmates to pay more attention to managing their own health care problems or even preventing some, I can save a great deal in future health care costs to our community, state and federal government.


Carol said...

I know this wasn't a very interesting topic this morning but it was what I was pondering when I woke up. After going outside and getting hit by some unseasonably cool, dry air for August, my ponder quickly changed to, I wonder if bigger worms catch bigger fish?

I am going to go outside with my fishing pole to check that theory out. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Anonymous said...

Carol, Regarding the subject of your blog, I know in your case the teaching made you an even better nurse than you were. But I don't think that expression, 'Those who can't do, teach', came from a situation like yours.

First of all, you actualy did 'do' first. You had some practical experience to draw on, all those years (also in your side jobs). Also, when you spend that much time collecting life experience, developing a complete understanding of everything medical, it was sure to make you a better nurse practioner when you went back (I know, the practitioner came later).

I don't think it's the case for all teachers though. For instance, I think Obama has too many intellectuals working with him, that have never run government, and some things work in theory, but not in actual practice. Remember, Obama was a teacher too. He had the theory of being President down perfectly. But now that he actually has to do it, whether he can do a good job, remains to be seen.

I agree with you, that saying isn't always or necessarily true, but in some cases, I think it is. Teaching is so important, and what's really important, is that teachers are good at what they do, teaching. Whether they can do as well out in the real world (pardon that expression, too) varies from teacher to teacher.

Anonymous said...

The beauty of having your own blog is you get to ponder as you will.

Actually it is a fine topic. I say, you are still teaching even beyond your work with inmates. Your blog page and other places you contribute are also classrooms. As Henry Adams said, "A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops."

Anonymous said...

Carol, I think it's a very interesting topic. I popped into TM to peek at what was being said, spent a little time there (which I didn't have time to do) then had tons of chores.

When I first got here, I wrote half my comment, and then Emma needed me. So I just now got a chance to come back and complete it.

I think it's very important that you write about what's important to you, and not what you think others will find interesting. It's what makes your blog different and special. My schedule varies according to Emma's needs, etc., but I'm never ignoring the blog. I'll just get here at different times, from day to day.

Anonymous said...

'Morning Ivy, You and I were thinking alike. I agree with you: "A teacher affects eternity..". It's such an important job, and the nursing field was lucky to have Carol teaching all those future nurses, for all those years.

My day is crazy today. I'll be in and out, here and TM.

Anonymous said...

Carol, When you get back, tell us what you're cooking today. I'll check back in a while.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it has been too nice a morning to stay cooped inside. I ventured out to see what my garden did while I was away neglecting it. Among other discoveries, a rose bush I had pulled up and discarded beneath the outside stairs found a way to root itself and it's putting out new leaves. It wasn't even a bush, just a stick, but it had enough strength to reach for the light. Nature is amazing. There's a lesson there that maybe goes without further explanation which is a good thing at these times when I struggle to put thoughts on paper (well, not paper exactly.)

Carol said...

Chloe, I cooked up a mess of stuffed bell peppers Friday when I got home from work. I had enough to eat all weekend. By tonight though, I will be tired of them and I think I'll bake up some spicy lemon chicken wings.

Stuffed Bell Peppers,

Put a little EVOO in your pot and throw in some ground chuck. Brown the meat for a little while. Drain out the excess fat. Add seasoning, according to your taste and health habits. We like lots of it around here. Add some chopped onions and garlic. Even though I'm gonna stuff this concoction into bell pepper halves, I always add extra chopped bell pepper.

Add a can of diced tomatoes and a small can of tomato paste, if you like it a little sweet. Use tomato sauce if you want it less sweet.

Now you can either go the Mexican way and use chilli powder or go the Italian way and add Italian seasoning. Your choice. Cook about 30 minutes.

Cut bell peppers in half, clean them out and steam them for about 10 minutes either in a covered pot with a little water or a steamer. Make your rice.

After the rice is done and the meat sauce has cooked for a while, mix the rice into the meat sauce. Add as much rice as you desire.

Put your bell pepper halves in a baking dish and fill each half with the meat/rice concoction. Put that in the oven at about 350 degrees. They don't need to cook long because everything is already cooked. Just before you take them out of the oven sprinkle with the cheese of your choice. Let the cheese melt and...

Bon Appetit!

solarcrete said...

What do you mean, Mexican, or Italian?.....there is no choice.! you gotta

Anonymous said...

Umm, Yummy.
I had a taco bell burrito. Believe it or not, that was yummy too. Then I went to my favorite store, Ross. They have just about everything, and I had a good ole time there.

You know Carol, this reminds me of when they used to call these sites boards. We can come here, post our thoughts, and then come back later and do it again, while at the same time, getting to read others thoughts. I like the concept, and it's nice that we're not arguing when we disagree.

Solar, knew I was just kidding when I called him a smartass last night. We've been going back and forth calling each other that over on TM. I'm always joking, if I say anything that's smarting off, to either you or Solar. Remember that. I love you both.

Anonymous said...

... I should have said, Emma and I went to my favorite store. She's part of almost everything I do, nowadays.

Anonymous said...

I just saw you were here recently Solar! You knew I was kidding, huh?

Carol said...

Did Solar get his feeler's hurt because I offered an Italian option for the stuffed bell peppers? We all know that Mexican is always the best choice and you must serve up with or to a spicy hot tamale....

If you refresh the blog you will meet one of my ex diabetes ed. students.

Anonymous said...

Carol, I just refreshed and noticed you have 5 followers! Is the student one of them?

Carol said...

No, Chloe, he's still out there kayaking. My twin sister signed up today.

solarcrete said...

Twin sister; OOO no there's two of you.! Im in trouble.

Chlo, I always know when you are kidding, and if you are not, and there's bound to be a time when you or someone will get a little mad at me....well we already covered that ground, just be your self, and we can never go wrong.

Ps. Same here L & L