A year at U of R

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day biking

Today was a gorgeous, sunny day. After working non-stop since Friday afternoon, I felt somewhat caught up on work. What better way to celebrate than with a bike ride.

I'm living in graduate student housing called University Park, which is 100 yards from the park along the river, and the Erie Canal. I biked out along the canal path, and was surprised that with five minutes, I was biking through fields! I'd expected much more industrial ugliness, but the canal has really been turned into a beautiful waterway. There were kayakers (one with a dog in his kayak), rollerbladers, bikers, joggers... everyone out enjoying Memorial Day.

I branched off, and biked out of Rochester, through fields of wheat and rolling hills. This scenery may seem average to the natives, but to me the big red barns, plowed fields, and pastures are something totally new. I with I had a decade to spend painting here. It reminds me of a French impressionist landscape. It isn't a wild, natural landscape, but it has an ageless dimension about it.

I passed by Mendon Ponds park, and the greenery is astounding. Anyone from California has got to love the trees here. They increasingly lush as the season progresses. I've never seen oak trees that are verdant green like this before. The first time I saw a gopher here, I nearly called the police! I didn't even recognize what it was, it was so huge.

I've also never seen flowers quite like this. Every inch of grass in the park is covered with dandelions and buttercups. Enormous azaleas are blooming like popcorn.

Something else new arrived today... humidity. It took me a little while to realize what this strange feeling that I couldn't breathe was. The air had overnight become thick and viscous. It felt oppressive during the day, but in the evening, as I went for a stroll in the park (with pharmacology flashcards) it was soft and pleasant. The park was packed with people walking along the river.

It was a nice end to a busy weekend.

I've probably spent 9-10 hours reading and studying each day this weekend. This is in part because next week is another 4-day week. I've done as much as I can, and I've managed to complete most of the reading and writing assignments left over from last week and for next week. I wrote a journal entry for one class, wrote descriptions of Cystic Fibrosis and Depression for my Genetics class, and wrote a short piece on my views of professionalism & education in nursing. I read about a billion chapters of I don't know what. I did 3 sheets of dosage calculations. I watched an instructional video for lab.

I also met with the study group that I organized last Friday. It was very helpful for all of us to have classmates to check in with over the weekend. We went over our assignments, and we practiced taking eachother's blood pressure and vital signs.

To finish off, I'll start writing my list of Rochester's Top Ten Best and Worst

Top 10 reasons to love in Rochester:

1. Low cost of living (half what it is in California!)
2. Great biking (think Finger Lakes)
3. A traffic jam is 5 cars
4. Humidity makes your complexion 5 years younger
5. Gophers the size of polar bears
6. Some surprisingly good Thai and Chinese food (and a full Asian supermarket)

Top 10 reasons to hate Rochester
1. The Frontier and Roadrunner internet services are both terrible!
2. Someone always knows someone who knows you
3. Canada Geese that attack you at will

To be continued, and finished once I've survived a winter here.

Check out the photos I took of flowers along the Genesee river, and some scullers on the river, with the University of Rochester in the background.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


During break, I asked one of my classmate how her lab went. She told me it felt awkward learning the new procedures. At one point, she heard a classmate exclaim from around the curtain of a neighboring bed, “I want to cry!” We both laughed, since I think we all feel that way. It has been a very challenging week.

Day 3

Did you know that nurses do testicular, gynecological and breast exams? Lucky us, it’s all covered live our Assessment laboratory!

This evening, after two lectures in Pharmacology/Pathophysiology and in Health Assesment, I went to watch the preparatory video in the lab. Some classmates were there, so we gathered around a station to watch.

The subjects were fairly basic ... how to take temperature, measure height & weight, and take blood pressure. However, they also gave a graphic film narrative on taking temperatures rectally. Hmmm... Hollywood doesn’t usually show anuses on the silver screen. Heated debate ensued on whether we had to practice this skill on eachother in lab. Rumors were rife, but word leaked out that although it is in our lab manual, we don’t have to do it on eachother.

Ahhhh...those quaint little delicacies they don’t mention in the glossy recruitment materials!

At least my background as an artist will come in handy. How many naked bodies have I spent hours observing in drawing classes?
Pharmacology/Pathophysiology lecture was fantastic. It is a fascinating class, with real-life histories of patients, and lots of discussion. I’m relieved that we don’t need to memorize individual drug doses, half lifes, etc. We need to learn to use a manual to look these up.

The Assesment lecture brought a lot of ethical issues to light... When doing a health history, when is information not confidential? What about elder abuse? How do you ask a client if they’re suicidal, or if they are being abused?

The week is almost over. Just one lab tomorrow, and then WEEKEND! I’ve got plenty to work on then....

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Day 2

OK, no kidding this program is accelerated. Today we had 4 classes, from 8am until 6:45pm, with a break to go to the bookstore and get photos taken. Everyone was pretty beat by the end. It was tough just to sit for that long, and it was dizzying trying to keep track of which class has what assignments.

Let me give you the low-down on the classes. For the first half of the summer I have four classes:

1. Pathophysiology and Pharmacology
2. Nursing Assessment (covers how to conduct a comprehensive physical exam)
3. Genetics
4. Nursing science (topics like the history of nursing, the nurse as an educator, nursing process)

For the second half of the summer, some of these classes will end, but will be replaced by our first clinical experience.

What really had everyone gasping was when we found out that in Nursing Assessment, we won't be working on dummies for learning the physical exam ... we'll be using eachother. That means dressed down and gowned up. I hear that we also get to practice giving injections on eachother. Oh joy!

The Pathophysiology/Pharmacology and Assessment classes will be the main ones. The other two seem easier, with short written assignments of a few paragraphs, or keeping a journal. Genetics and Nursing Science are primarily online.

Even though the day felt like a long international airplane flight ending with jet lag, the instructors were great. Amy Karch kept us all going in Pathophys by spending an hour presenting a fascinating case study, and keeping us guessing what the diagnosis was. It made us feel very medical!

I will say that I feel like I'm already behind in the reading! Things really start with a bang. I plan to spend the Memorial Day holiday catching up. This will be a very challenging, stimulating year.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Day One

Another first in life... the first day of nursing school and the University of Rochester.

I'm pretty exhausted. This morning was mainly basic orientation material, covering the curriculum, introductions, etc. However the newness makes even the most ordinary information exhausting. Does everyone feel this way after only one day? I had to come home and play flute to decompress. One microwaved English Muffin pizza later, I'm somewhat recovered.

What were my impressions?

First, there are my classmates. I was relieved to see a huge range of ages and a diversity of talents. I'm definitely not alone in going back to school at 35 to make a career change. Many students were biology or psych majors, but there were two divinity students, a vocal performance graduate, and another foreign language major.

I was impressed by all the the faculty we met. They are a group of extremely intelligent, professional, and accomplished women (and one man). Their research is first-rate, and they seem supportive in every way. I'm confident that the dean meant it when she said to drop by her office, and made sure we knew her email address. All of the faculty made a point to say that they expected us to drop by and call on them for anything. Accessibility plus some!

It was exciting to see a line-up of primarily women who are so accomplished. They are all first-rate scientists, and there are none of the touchy-feely nurturing-nurse clichées to be found here. Yet at the same time, they manage to combine science with an understanding of interactions. They are teachers as much as scientists. What a fantastic combo.

The new building (which I didn't even know was being built) is fantastic. We are the first class to use the auditorium.

I could go on for pages, but first impressions change, and I've got another English muffin pizza getting cold.