I was totally looking forward to this rotation in nursing school. My classmates that had gone through it already said it was a piece of cake. The only rotation I’d gone through to this point in my education that fit that description was OR. But I had been a surgical technician prior to nursing school…

Rehabilitation means working with people that had had stokes or heart attacks, or maybe they were in a motor vehicle accident. It requires an equal amount of patience/compassion mixed with the hard-assed approach of a drill sergeant.

Rehab was just about the last clinical rotation I had left to complete before graduating. It’s safe to say my attitude was not the best when I started my run into the home stretch, and it didn’t get any better when I discovered my classmates had deceived me. Rehab wasn’t a piece of cake, it was a pain in the ass. As a result, my performance was less than stellar, and my grades were equally lackluster.

My scholastic performance in the classroom was proportionally linked to how much I liked my instructor. If I had an instructor that delivered an engaging lesson, I was an A student. If not, I was a C student. All of my instructors were aware of this. Even Sister Mary Jude knew this. She once described me as being lackadaisically intense.

Barb Hansmeier was our Rehab instructor. She had also taught various aspects of nursing theory to us. Barb was a nurse; all of our nursing practice instructors were. Most of them were older gals, and they stood behind the podium, reading from the Big Book of Nursing, and, I got a C.

Barb was different. For one thing, she was young. She was in her early thirties. And she was attractive, always a plus for me. Well, almost always. She was a dynamic teacher. I loved her. I had been an A student in her previous classes. I was barely a C student in Rehab.

We were about halfway through this rotation, and it was a clinical day, so we were at the hospital, practicing to be nurses. Barb was usually very supportive to her students, but on this day she seemed a little agitated. She rather curtly gave everyone their orders for the day, then said, “Mark, I want to speak to you. Privately.” And my mind went, Oh shit. Here it comes. And it did.

“I am so pissed off at you right now I could slap you!” she hissed.

Of all the things I was expecting her to say, this wasn’t one of them.

“If I could, I’d kick you out of school right now!” That, I was expecting. “But I can’t because you’re so goddamn smart. You could sleep through half the classes and still get an A. And you’re so good that you can put in half an effort and do okay in clinicals, but that’s not the kind of nurse I want taking care of me, and it’s not the kind of student I want to teach. Your problem is your attitude.”

You can’t argue with the truth. Barb had correctly assessed me and had come up with the correct diagnosis. Now the only thing we needed was a cure, and she had already provided that.

Fear can be a great motivator.

I agreed with her assessment. I apologized profusely to her. And I promised her I would have a long, hard talk to my attitude and get that sucker fixed immediately.

“I think the heart of the matter is this, I’m tired of being a nursing student.”

Anyone that has been in nursing school can relate to this. Barb understood. And then she went back into the perfectly supporting preceptor role.

I did what I said I would. I regrouped and ended up with a B in Rehab.

I’ve had to have several conversations with my attitude throughout my nursing career. If you’re not passionate about this job, it will eat you alive. And just like your car, your attitude needs maintenance and tune ups on regular basis.

You get out of life what you put into it, and what you put into it depends solely on your attitude. When it comes to determining how successful you’re going to be at the end of the day, attitude is everything.