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Archive for September, 2009

EI Frustrations

Ahem. Please excuse me while I have a brief rant.  I’ve had a distraction this weekend. Unfortunately it’s not a pleasant one — not ‘the distraction’ I’ve mentioned in passing on this blog (unfortunately).  Last week I mentioned that I was being audited. From 2004-2006 I was working for a Clinical Diagnostics company — this is a company that provided diagnostic products to clinical labs.  It closed it’s office in my city in late 2006 and laid us all off.  For the better part of 2007 I was on EI (employment insurance) as a result of this lay off.

I didn’t feel right about just sitting at home and job hunting.  I’ve always had an independent spirit and a strong work ethic (when I’m dating a guy it even feels weird to have him pay for me all the time — I like it, but it’s still a weird feeling). Also, I was concerned about gaps in my resume. The other thing that bothered me was self-identifying with being ‘unemployed’ — to me that’s a significant statement to make and a VERY difficult one (as an aside, it also played a role in choosing to attend nursing school — it’s not the primary reason but it was certainly one factor).  So, when I had the chance to start teaching ESL I jumped on it. This particular position was not one that paid enough for me to even stop being on EI (though many weeks I received very little), nor was it one that met my career objectives, though it did mean that I could state that I was an ESL Teacher (rather than an unemployed scientist). So, I worked for the ESL School part time and continued to look for a career-related position (and found one eventually — the one I’m now working at a few hours each week while I go to Nursing School).

So what’s going on now? The method of reporting is so confusing that there is a huge complication between my records, my pay statements and what the EI people have on record, so I’m being audited and I’ve already spent about 6 hours on this audit this weekend alone, trying to figure out what was going on back then!!!

So why is this a rant and why am I frustrated:

  • I don’t have time to be dealing with this mess right now, I’m in a very intense program and my schedule is completely BONKERS. Even without this, my stress is high, and will remain high until the Christmas Break.
  • For the next 20 months I’m in school, hardly making anything, and if I can’t explain records from almost 3 years ago I’ll have to pay the EI people back. BUT I have no money so I will be paying the EI people with my Student Loans or a Bursary — if I win one. I suspect they wont defer the payments that long, nor would I want them to, this whole thing is VERY annoying.
  • As I mentioned, I have a strong work ethic an an independent spirit. What this means is I find handouts VERY difficult to accept.  So it bothered me that I was on EI, so I chose to work. Yet, had I not chosen to work, I would have received roughly the same amount of money per week (~$90 less per week since we could work a tiny bit without losing money that EI gave), but I would not be dealing with this stress now. So had I not chosen to work, the EI people would have paid me more than they actually did, as I would have used the maximum benefit available to me.

Why are they auditing me NOW after so long?? Why not while the EI benefit is being paid out? Why not as soon as the benefits are exhausted so that the records are fresh and so that the company still exists so that their records are more complete?!?! (It’s a very good thing I’ve kept in touch with my old boss — though she doesn’t have much information, it’s better than nothing)

So this begs the question and the rant: I understand wanting to make sure that people don’t defraud the system, but REALLY??? Could there be some published evidence that the EI people are auditing those that don’t work at all so that they can be sure that they were actually job hunting as they were supposed to be, rather than enjoying some time off?  That I’d like to see.

Grumble.  Okay, the rant is done and now it’s time for me to get ready for school and work tomorrow, so that at least I get a little bit of sleep.

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How does one do it? Keep on top of everything? How does one learn (and memorize) efficiently when there is little time in which to do so, and the exam is only 2 weeks away??? And for those who think I’ve procrastinated, I haven’t. The course itself is only 4 weeks long.

Seriously, tips are welcome.

Every time I turn around, another thing gets added onto my to do list. Today’s been especially bad and I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.   I’m definitely stressed, but fortunately I’m not stressing over everything like I was last week, now it’s specific to what’s really stressing me out. Yet I haven’t wondered why I’m putting myself through this. I know why. Being in my clinical placement again today confirms that. It’s what I need to do, and where I need to go in my career.  And where it will lead is limitless.

Yet for now, I have: a debate to be ready for, a nursing medication math exam to pass with 100%, a reflective portfolio to post (I’m keeping blogs that I’ll summarize for that project — but I can’t post the actual project, but I’ll post the blogs once this course is finished), a pain management seminar to prepare for, and an exam to write.  This doesn’t include the EI Audit stupidity that I just learned about (dating back to 3 years ago when I was on EI after I was laid off), getting my passport renewed, sorting out finances and determining if I will have enough money to get through the next 12 months, let alone the program, and all the life things I should do.

The one thing I’ve promised myself is I’ll keep running so that my stress doesn’t go through the roof.

Any nurses reading this blog who can give tips on getting through an accelerated program such as mine?

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Stress is going to be a theme for the next 20 months as I go through my Nursing School Program.  I realize that, and am prepared for that.  Some tools I have for managing my stress are:

  • This blog — blogging for me is a place to reflect on my life, my experiences and to process what’s going on in my world.  It’s a tool I’ve been using, it’s a place that I hope provides my readers with stories and insights into my world. A place that I hope provides others food for thought as they too seek to live their lives well.

  • Exercise — exercise is a key stress management tool for me.  It’s helpful that I know that when I’m working out regularly I’m generally healthier, better able to function in my stress.  But, the challenge I have is balancing everything. In past degrees I’ve fallen victim to the panic that if I’m not studying every second I’m going to do poorly.  This degree I’m NOT going to let that happen because I do not want to gain the ‘Freshman 15’.  So what tool am I using to make sure that I don’t fall off the running wagon (at the very least)? Train for races. I’ve been training for a marathon with the specific intent to keep running goals as a priority.

  • Friends — I have some friends on campus — close long time friends — so getting together with them for lunch occasionally really helps. Also another friend is a nurse and is also in school again so she’s a great resource and it is great to have her ‘in the trenches’ with me.

So what are some stresses that are coming up for me now? There’s nothing particularly that is causing me acute stress right now, but there are many little things that I’m sorting out and such.  So there are things that causing me the beginnings of stress and I’m working through them right now and I don’t yet have all the solutions to the concerns

  • Financial — I have a bit of a student loan but got no where near sufficient money to cover costs of living etc. I’m still working at my job, and am trying to stay, BUT, it wont cover living costs even remotely.  So I’m going to work on this a bit more this weekend so that I can at least have a plan in place.  I am trying not to stress about generating debt because I know that the current canadian pay rates for nurses — even if I’m at the lowest level and don’t work any overtime — means I will be okay once I’m done (assuming the fraser health authority restructuring doesn’t spread).  But, given my ‘hate debt’ sensibilities, it’s tough. Given my life dreams. It’s tough.  It’s also easy for me to fall into the pressure of not having a life to save money, but I don’t want to regret this time, I don’t want to hate my time in nursing school — I want happiness and amazing memories. Both in school and out.  So I will travel, visit those I want to visit (like going back to New Mexico), and enjoy my life to the best of my ability.

  • School — I haven’t yet figured out the tools I need to keep up with the work and to really learn the work.  I have to learn them quickly because my first final is on October 9th.  Yes, OCTOBER 9th.  So this means that keeping my job is stressful (yet not keeping my job is also stressful) because it’s a lot of hours that I could read (that being said, I took tonight off — was wiped out) and study.  How to balance everything is a learning process in itself, and it will come. The one benefit is that at least the material isn’t difficult, there’s just a lot of material to learn.

  • Personal life — the stresses in my personal life relating to family — that led to much reflection, counseling and processing last year are still on going. They’re under control because I have boundaries in place to protect myself.  One thing we’ve been talking about in school is connection and support networks.  This is an area of stress because I sometimes wonder if I have a good support network.  The challenges I’ve faced this past year or so have meant that I’m careful about who I lean on very much for support.  And as time goes on I really will need the support so I need to work on trusting those who could give me support, and not putting on a mask of ‘everything’s okay’ just because other people have betrayed my trust in the past.

  • Relationships — this both amuses me (as I watch the young girls in the program flirt with the few young single guys in the program) and makes me sad.  I guess this is somewhat connection with my personal life comments above — a lot of students in the program who are my age are married, often with kids. I’m comfortable in my situation because they all have to balance much more complex lives than I do.  But, the type of support that they have available is something I miss.  But, I need to relax on this and not start stressing because, really, I’ve been accepting that there are few men in this city who capture my interest (now if we talk about outside this city, that’s different — but that’s a different topic). Also, if there were someone here with me I would need to split my time more.  So I’m okay with where I’m at, on the whole, but due to ‘distractions’ in my life there are certain things that have the potential of stressing me out.

BUT all these things (except financial — that is more of a present concern) are things that have the potential to stress me out if I’m not careful.  So I’m trying not to let myself focus on them and instead I’m trying to do what I need to on any given day — such as this week I’m tired at the end of it, so I took the evening off last night and did nothing productive.

The rest of this weekend will be cleaning, planning (to reduce some of the stress I’m facing), and studying.  I’ll try the ‘timer method’ to attempt to get everything done. And now, since I’ve done little this weekend so far (except call a couple of banks, cell phone company etc — all important too) it’s time to start reading for next week.

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It’s almost 2 weeks into my new program. This transition to a new stage of my life comes with many emotions, impressions, changes and choices.  I’m going to skip my New Mexico stories for the moment to take a few minutes to settle my brain down about these changes.  For those just joining me on this blog-journey, I am a scientist who has spent the last ten years of my life doing research, sales, tech support, and training in the academic, biotech and clinical diagnostics sector(s). After much reflection and self-evaluation I have made a transition, back to school for degree number three and I have entered nursing school.

My program is an integrated intensive 20 month program and we are the first class to go through the program after extensive changes.  I’m pretty excited about the program, and we are well supported by instructors who are passionate about having us develop into well trained nurses.

My classmates and I are a diverse group and range in age from 21-47, with a variety of experiences and backgrounds.  Most of the first week of school was spent learning about how the program works and interacting with the other students. I think we all are in the same boat in terms of thoughts, feelings and fears and I am curious to see who will end up being those key friends who will continue beyond school and become ‘real life’ friends.  I’m sure after 20 months the connections I make here will prove to be invaluable.

Classes — I’ve only had a week’s worth of classes so far, but with one course completing after 4 weeks I’m already thinking about how to review for the final exam.  I’m not sure how to do that yet but I’m sure that as the weeks roll along we’ll figure it out.  The one thing that is very true is that it may not be difficult work, but it’s a huge volume of work. HUGE.  Also, it’s a different type of work than I’ve done a lot in the past — much of the work revolves around emotions feelings and communication. This plays as much of a role in our jobs as the practical and scientific knowledge.  But for me, who’s spent much of my education and career focusing on the technical — whether it’s scientific or one of my non-sciencey electives — my education has never examined the feelings and emotions behind situations. My education has never examined my feelings and emotions.  Not directly anyways.

This different type of learning it’s challenging. Not the basic pharmacology, and when they do the immunology lectures I’m trying to turn my brain off since I keep wanting to correct and expand on what the instructor says. These lectures are just fine. But the different style of learning, looking at the philosophies behind the theories of practice this is the area that’s newer for me.  But, fortunately, I think the evaluation for that course will be fine, it’s just very new.

That’s what this all is right now — new. I’m getting to know people, making friends, and trying to find a routine in the midst of the insanity.  Because really it’s a high volume of work and that’s the main thing.

Clinical — I had my first clinical placement yesterday. It’s a practice session shadowing a leader in a nursing field.  My particular leader is in hospital administration and she has a varied background. My session was very introductory, and it included an important meeting at the hospital. But I loved it. It may sound crazy — I didn’t see a single patient in a professional capacity but it made me realize this career choice is right for me:

  • there’s diversity — I can do so many different things, including connecting my new career with my past in biotechnology, science and most certainly clinical diagnostics (let me tell you, one of my texts — it would have been useful to own 5 years ago when I worked for that clinical diagnostic products company)
  • I can affect change in a way that will have a direct impact on people’s lives
  • My satisfaction can come from where it matters to me — impacting people

All in all this is hectic, crazy and I’m stressed about things to a certain degree (lack of money, but also not enough time to study, balance, personal life worries, etc etc) but really as people keep telling me — I sound more at peace with where I’m at. This isn’t going to be easy but I’m in the right spot and I’ve chosen the right field.

And since my brain shut down ages ago I’m giving up on  reading and going to bed.

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How does one begin a blog post about one topic when another’s firmly on your mind?  I write, not because I have an abundance of time, rather I write because it’s important for me to do this, now, today.

Arizona. For me it holds many memories. I was there the other week, as readers of this blog will know, and I was there several years ago (2005 I believe). That trip, in 2005, was the beginnings of some challenges I’ve alluded to in this blog in the past.  This trip was much different. It was on my own terms, and I did what I wanted to do.

There were many highlights:

  • My first trip to a rock climbing gym! I had a great time! It may not be very ‘touristy’ but I loved the mental challenge as I clung to the holds trying to figure out how to get to the next level and eventually to the top of the route I was climbing. It was great exercise, but like all my favourite exercises, it didn’t feel as such.  I was visiting a friend of mine, and we went together. As I finished one climb my friend exclaimed “Wow you’re fit!” — it was my first time up the climbing wall and I spent probably 10 minutes in one spot just hanging out thinking about climbing, how I’m doing it and how to get to the next level.  I wasn’t tired and was certainly able to just hang there. I loved it. I don’t know when or how to fit this into my insane schedule but eventually I’ll try to fit it in.
  • Hanging out at the Hohokum Historical Monument. It was relaxing, hot hot hot and very quiet and this small historical site captured my imagination. I could picture what it may have been like to live 1000 years ago in that community that was built. It raised questions for me regarding how this history shaped the region and the culture — and how it played a foundational role in the culture that certainly exists there today, particularly among the aboriginal groups.
  • The impression of the priorities and the lifestyles of the residents. I don’t know if this is a ‘highlight’ or more of a profound thing. But as I stepped onto the airplane, I was surrounded by bleached blonds sporting jewels and fake nails. It felt like I was on the wrong plane. But no, that was the community of travellers heading to Phoenix. Phoenix struck me as a ‘car’ city. One where a person simply cannot choose alternate methods of transportation. Following this is that RECYCLING doesn’t seem to exist. I couldn’t believe it. With all the talk of sustainability, and with all the volume of bottled water that each person goes through in a day — or even in just a morning — one would expect that recycling would be paramount. But it simply didn’t seem to exist. That bothered me.
  • Eager sales people — I went shopping and I have never had such eager sales people approach me. Perhaps it’s the recession, perhaps it’s that I was at a huge mall on a Wednesday. But, I had people running out of the stores to try to entice me in to look at their products. Ironically, at the one store where I wanted to try shoes on (for nursing), they ignored me. So no shoes for me. That trip, at least.
  • Pool — it was hot, sunny, relaxing so I certainly spent a great deal of time at the pool relaxing.
  • Dancing — I loved it there. The people were friendly, full of energy and excitement in their dance and they easily recognized that I wasn’t local and grabbed me for a dance. It was a dance culture very unlike here, it didn’t feel flat and uninspired and I didn’t feel like I had to work to get dances as I sometimes have to here, or even in (my beloved) Seattle.

And this brings me to the Goodbye part of this post. I had some delightful dances with several leads. One lead I remember watching as I was standing to the side of the dancefloor. A friend of my host, we were all hanging in the same area — but I hadn’t yet been introduced to him and we hadn’t danced.  A ballroom instructor came up to me to talk dance, and we chatted for a bit. It seems his idea of what makes a great lindy hopper and mine are quite different. While I was watching this one lead, he pointed out several leads that he like (because they were so smooth).  It was funny, I danced with those leads by the end of the night and the reason they looked so smooth is a lack of pulse, and well, inexperience. So while this one person was watching some forgettable leads, I was observing this one lead who was inspired in his dancing.

He certainly had pulse, was able to mix in Charleston at ease into his dancing and the follow he was dancing with had a look of delight on her face — and why wouldn’t she — it was obvious he was a lead well worth dancing with, and he knew how to make her look wonderful on the dance floor.

On this trip, I was in a phase a bit where I didn’t feel like doing work to dance (IE chasing leads to dance with them), and fortunately I didn’t have to. This lead and I did dance that night and it was a delight. It was full of fun, energy, I was given the freedom to play within the confines of the music and he was willing to push things a bit. All things I love. We danced again that night, and it too was a dance that will stand out as a ‘memorable-delightful’ dance.

Sadly, however, this morning I had some terrible news. This same, delightful, lead from Phoenix AZ passed away very suddenly early yesterday morning (Sunday September 13, 2009).  Our meeting was brief, yet I am still saddened for him — also, his friends and his family.  So, for now I’m going to leave this post with a video that highlights another talent of this young guy who’s gone much too soon:

Next post will be the New Mexico Portion of the trip.

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… don’t worry, I haven’t vanished, I haven’t stopped posting permanently. I just haven’t had a free second. I’ll try to find time this week or maybe next weekend to write a trip summary post — the individual posts I was describing likely wont happen very quickly. Then I’ll give you my first impressions of nursing school. Tomorrow (er… later today) the real work begins. Last week was orientation for nursing school.

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Well, not literally, but it has seemed like I’ve dropped of the blogosphere lately. I’ve been feeling sadly uninspired in my blog posts — if my purpose of this blog is to talk about the stories of my life as I seek to live my life well, I am seeing blog post  topics that fit this idea. How does a person live their life, and do it well — all while having a ‘normal’ life?  And really, for me — what does it mean to live my life well?? All key questions.

I’ve been thinking about some posts, none of which I’ll touch on in this post, but hopefully the inspiration for the topics will remain so that I can come back to them:

  • community and fostering a healthy balanced and growing community
  • sustainable living and how the culture of a region plays a role
  • thoughts on adoption, identity, and further explorations into this topic — what’s the next step?

For right now, though, I’ll leave it there. I’m currently on vacation in Arizona and not really that connected to the internet. I’ve been mulling around blog posts in my brain (if I have time I’ll journal them and transcribe them) and I will try to post some posts when I’m home. Some upcoming topics:

  • My first experience at a rock climbing gym
  • Dancing dancing dancing
  • Exploring a historical monument

Upcoming plans: SHOPPING (this is afterall Arizona –> great shopping), more relaxing by the pool, Tuscon, Grand Canyon, New Mexico, more dancing hopefully.

I’ve definitely needed this vacation and I’m feeling mellow and relaxed. I may not have gotten everything done before school starts, but I will definitely be ready to hit the ground running once I’m home!

So, even if I don’t post again on this trip, I haven’t permanently disappeared. Stay tuned!

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