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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why I love UVU's Nursing Program and How I Got In!

Hi there!

     The last three years have been aimed at achieving one goal:  finishing my degree.  I wasn't lucky like some to have a family that prepped me for college and was available to help me through it when I was a younger girl.  In a large part, with some help along the way from family and friends, I had to pursue college on my own as a working adult.  I took a few years off for my children and to be able to support myself, building to a day when I could pursue school full-time.

     After almost 10 years of working, taking one class at a time to fit my work schedule, or raising babies....the day came when I was able to start working towards my Bachelor's degree in nursing in 2011.  I'd done an LPN program in Idaho and had one semester left before graduating when my best friend died and I remarried.  I hadn't been in school in 5 years.   I had no idea what I was doing anymore.  I didn't apply to BYU as I felt too old and seasoned for those shiny kids out of high school and didn't want to be the granny fish in a small pond- I'd had my day at Ricks in the mid 90's (I'm old, ha ha).  So I opted for Utah Valley University, which was previously UVSC and sent in my application.  I remember feeling funny that I was excited to go to the campus where back in high school I'd teased classmates that they only went there because BYU wouldn't take them.  Times had changed and I felt UVU was going to be a good fit.  After being accepted in, I was promptly plopped into the rat race of prerequisite courses that would qualify me to apply for the RN program.  Let me say that it's not 1995 anymore and UVU is a great school and I'm proud of being a student there.

     Fall 2011 semester was my first at UVU and my schedule was packed.  Nearly all of my prior Licensed Practical Nursing and pre-RN coursework needed to be repeated as the credits had expired.  I was redoing one whole year of college to be current  Talk about an uphill climb!  I was mid 30's at this point and with 3 kids under my belt and ready to finally work on me.  My class list included Anatomy and Anatomy lab, Math 1010, Nutrition, and Library Science.  14 credits here we go.

     When class started, I transferred to the Honors Anatomy section and let me tell you, my life stopped until Christmas.  It was nothing but work and studying and midnight in the library and weight gain and bad hair.  I cried, threw soap from the shower at my husband when he told me to get on the ball....as I pulled A's and managed 3 kids and our nearly 5000 square foot house and Church, egads!  I prayed I could get the grades I needed because it was a terrible feat to get accepted into the RN gauntlet.  The nursing program at UVU is notorious for it's fallout.  40 slots open every semester and over 300 apply, only to mostly be turned down.  The average GPA is 3.8 with a TEAS score of 82 (national average is 65). You get two chances to apply and you really feel the heat if you don't get in on your first attempt- which nearly 70% don't get in.  I knew it was a long shot for me, but I was going to work my guts out to get in.  I didn't have any other option.  Besides my own drive, my best friend had passed away from Leukemia and she had told me that she needed to know I'd get my nursing degree.  I owed it to her to keep my word and finish.  I had a lot riding on whether I got in or not.  So I dialed in to my studies and it's all I focused on.  My house was a wreck, I didn't even really see my family, but at the end of it all I got all A's and one B- in math.  I was a-ok with that.

     The next semester it was more of the same.  I learned that I was lucky to get a B in Math 1010 (my previous math was Algebra II in long ago 1994) as most students flunk the first try and pray to pass the next.  So I had to make peace with my B.  I was also a bit gun shy about school after anatomy and math.  I was seriously questioning if I had the chutzpah to keep going.  I registered Spring 2012 anyway.  Another full schedule.  I was also teaching Anatomy two days a week for Dr. Shively to help his students review since I'd done well.  This I would soon find would be a real character builder.  The other TA for Shively tormented the students and made a complete mess that I had in a large part to overcome.  I was trying to help these hard working students learn the cranial nerves and keep their sanity intact and still give Dr. Shively a smile and not rat out the other TA's bumblings.  I'd just done the class and felt woefully unprepared to teach, much less deal with drama.  But, I am a firm believer that if you just work hard, it WILL work out.  It did.  I got the same grades, all A's and one B- in Chem.  Obviously I'm not a numbers gal.

     Then the summer of decision was upon me.  I'd done my prereq's and the TEAS needed to be taken.  I was so disillusioned with my GPA.  I knew the average was 3.8 and mine was a crummy 3.63.  I truly felt battle weary- was college supposed to be this hard?  I was sad about my low GPA as some transfer grades were B's and an A-.  I knew I wasn't dumb, but a 3.63 was a far cry from the average applicant of 3.8.  I knew that my grades were enough to get me on the Dean's List- but nearly all applicants to the RN program were top notch- it was a matter of being the best of the best.  So, truth be told, I knew it was a long shot for me based on grades at this point.  It was a small comfort that I had gotten the best grade in Honors Anatomy (the HARDEST class at UVU it seemed) and was one of Dr. Shively's first TA's in years and the first to teach on my own, but that didn't mean anything...the points weren't high enough.  I also knew that a lot of my school buddies had 4.0's.  Some had kids, some didn't.  Some had jobs, some didn't.  I couldn't complain that my path was harder than theirs as it wouldn't matter.  Either way, my getting in was up to the TEAS and whether God felt this was my path.

Here's how I stacked up:

BIO 101:  B (transfer of Microbiology from another college)
ENGL 1010:  A (transfer)
CHEM 1110: B
PSY 1110:  A (transfer)
NUTR 1020: A
MATH 1050: A
ZOOL 232H: A
ZOOL 2325: A
ZOOL 2420: B (transfer)
ZOOL 2425: A (transfer)
ENGL 2020: A- (transfer)

Applicant GPA: 3.63

     I prayed, received a Priesthood blessing from my husband (who realized how awful it was at this point and gave me lots of hugs and support), and headed to the testing center to take the TEAS.  I knew I needed to do above average to have a prayer of getting in.  The TEAS is directed at nursing students and is similar to the GRE or MCAT, but obviously not as difficult, just in the same vein.  It weeds out those who aren't up to par.  It is 4 hours long and divided into 4 sections.  I said a prayer and dug in.

Here's my score in May of 2012:

Reading: 97.6%
-Paragraph and Passage Comprehension 100%
-Informational Source Comprehension 95.7%
Math: 90%
-Numbers and Operations 89.5%
-Algebraic Applications 100%
-Data Interpretation 66.7% (ha ha I told you I stunk at math!)
-Measurement 100%
Science: 83.3%
-Human Body Science 100% (Go Dr. Shively!)
-Life Science 73.3% (Um, Geology?  Like I know anything about that)
-Earth and Physical Science 78.6% (This was physics- are you kidding?)
-Scientific Reasoning 87.5%
English/Language: 90.0%
Grammar and Word Meanings in Context 93.3%
Spelling and Punctuation 77.8% (okay, okay...embarrassing, I know)
Structure 100%

Adjusted Individual Total Score:  90%
National/Program percentile rank: 99% (national average 64.3%)

     I was floored.  I'd done well enough to stand a chance with the 4.0 applicants!  I compiled my paperwork and dropped it off at the pre-nursing center.  Time stopped a little as I dropped my stapled packet into the bin.  I knew it was out of my hands and I'd done the best I could.  Maybe it wasn't perfect, but it was all I could do.  Now I just wait.

     There was speculation on who would be given an interview and who would get a 'try again next time' letter.  We had a family vacation mid-summer and if I was granted an interview, I'd fly back to do it and then return to LA for our vacation.

     About two weeks after I dropped off my application packet, I got the letter that said congrats, I was scheduled to interview at the end of June.  I jumped up and down and nearly cried.  I called all of my friends to see who'd received an interview and we all screamed and whooped into the phone.  The interview was determined by grades/TEAS composite alone.  You received so many points for your GPA and so many points for your TEAS score.  Based on that, you'd get an interview or you wouldn't.  I knew my GPA wasn't stellar so this was the biggest hurdle and it was step 1 of 2 down!  Next, the interview!  I went down to the Career Center and did a mock interview and practiced my letter of application.  I tried to center on my love of nursing, my hope to care for others, and what I'd do to be a good nurse.  I ran through mock questions and was nervous as all get out.  I worried I was too fat.  I worried I'd give a stupid answer.  I tried to buy a  nice pantsuit to look professional and prayed I wouldn't look like a man in drag clomping about in heels.  I'm a bit of a worrier you see :)

     Pantsuit bought, mock interview done, our family drove to Oceanside and I stared at the beach for a few days.  I tried to relax and leave it in God's hands.  I'd gotten this far and I knew that the interview was based on personality and aptitude.  There was a hushed secrecy about the interview process on campus.  You have to understand, we pre-nursing students talk.  We weigh our grades.  We compare prior years.  We hear the war stories of anatomy and applications and failed attempts.  We hear of guys who tried twice to apply, had 4.0's, had prior experience in medicine and STILL didn't get in.  We were a very cynical but optimistic bunch.  Fools of the highest order with brilliant grades and eager hearts.  I think it takes a blind positivism and drive to be a nurse.  You help others at their lowest point and have to think on the fly.  At this point, watching the waves crash in, I just wanted the chance and didn't want to blow it, never having even joined the race.

     I flew from LA back home and got ready.  I was sweaty, my hair was too big, and I tried not to wear hot pink lipstick and muttered happy slogans to myself as I drove to campus.  A group of six sat on little chairs upstairs in the nursing faculty area of the HP building.  We all looked tight around the eyes and mouths.  We were competing against each other, but we were friends.  I knew a couple of people and the others were strangers.  We fidgeted on our chairs, not knowing what to expect.  Would we have to don sterile gloves not knowing how while instructors watched?  Who knew?

     We had several portions to the interview.  One was a mock up scenario of a med error and we discussed who was at fault.  Different roles were chosen by the students in the group of six and I think they were looking for initiative and deductive reasoning.  Following that, we personally interviewed one on one with three faculty members.  I was asked to define loyalty, how had I displayed that in a prior situation, how would I handle a needy family member interrupting me at the last minute?  At one point, my letter was read and I sat there watching the instructor scan it, hoping I measured up.  She asked me to visit with her, let's just talk.  I felt as though I should be sincere, even if I risked looking emotional.  I told her how much I'd wanted to be a nurse and that one experience solidified it for me.  When my best friend had leukemia, I remember seeing her eyes change.  They were big, light blue, and round like Katy Perry's- stunning eyes.  As she became more and more sick, the luster faded and they became sunken and tired.  The life had left.  I explained how I watched my friend's face as I left her room at City of Hope in Monrovia, California.  I didn't know if I'd see her again and we watched each other as I was leaving her little cancer cell, knowing after this final pane of glass I faced a hallway to leave and she faced death.  We locked on to each other and I dragged my fingertips along the window as I took steps that felt like lifetimes, desperately hurting and lost, knowing I couldn't just blithely walk away and this was my last  inadequate goodbye.  I walked so slowly, she was frail and sallow skinned, hunched over in the bed, bald, terrified and tired, and staring fiercely with those eyes- they haunted me.  Her mouth was drawn and all the pain seared from her and I felt such utter loss as we looked at each other, sisters really, and had to cope with a grief we couldn't even fathom.  In my mind all I could say was "I love you, I'll never forget, my heart is so heavy, how can I leave you?" and it broke my heart.  I finally reached the end of the window and it was a fog as I entered the elevator to get to the parking garage.  But when the elevator doors shut, I sunk to the wall and sobbed.  It was so unfair and her eyes held all the grief in the world.  I shared this with the instructor and we choked up and she shared that she too knew those eyes.  She'd seen them in her grandbaby's face as she held her, while the little one also died of cancer.  We knew that nursing wasn't glamorous, that death is terrible for many, and it had to be handled with all the human dignity you could offer over and over again.  That you had to be strong so others could be as well.  I felt a connection and hoped I was understood.  From there, we went into a room with a scenario and had to deduce the best plan of care and follow written instructions.  The final aspect was a computer lab where we were given a directive from the nursing school's mission and to write a briref essay as to how we would fulfill that throughout our lives.  I finished mine with a quote from Robert Frost (although I felt cheesy about it) and then drove home.  I had a few hours before I flew back to LA.  It was done, now I had to wait.

     We finished our vacation and I knew this was it and there was nothing more I could do.  The application had been done, the interview had been done, I'd tried to shine and stand out- be noticed but not overbearing.  I hoped I hadn't looked unstable and weepy, but heartfelt.  I tried my best.  The word was that if you got a fat letter, you got in.  If you got a thin letter, you had to apply again.  Never in my life had I wanted so badly to be fat.

     The letter came and I couldn't tell!  It wasn't fat or skinny- it just was an envelope with paper.  It was letter size and I feared the worst.  Trembling, I ripped it open.

     I'd been accepted!

     Fall 2012 I would enter the RN program, slated to graduate with my ASN Spring 2014, with option to finish my Bachelor's by Spring 2015.  Exactly 20 years after my first semester in college, I would finally graduate and be a nurse!

     I began the program and remember being nearly gleeful to fulfill the immunizations, background check, and attend orientation.  I remember wishing to be part of the student presidency in green scrubs, looking so confident and capable that spoke to the students about UVUSNA and being involved in leadership.  I was scared the program would be as difficult and demoralizing as the pre-req's were.  But glory hallelujah, I was in!

     The first semester we waited to interact with live patients.  We learned about catheters and wound care.  We learned dressing changes and injections.  We had passoffs where we were timed and had to perform a series of skills while an instructor watched.  I wrote papers and floated around in my green scrubs- I was so dang proud.  I remember walking on main campus in my uniform, knowing I'd gotten in and was so happy.  It felt like I'd finally accomplished something big.

     The second semester was a bit more in depth.  We learned about common disorders and felt more at ease with injections.  Clinicals were early and long and I never felt like I knew what I was doing- but boy was I gonna try.  I wrote more papers and looked up a lot of meds.  We did presentations, grumbled about being tired, and felt one step closer.  I realized at the end, I was halfway done.  Halfway to being a nurse!

     Last summer I had to fit in a couple of classes, so I took Pathophysiology in 7 weeks.  Whew!  I loved it- it was a lot of work, but I loved it.  I felt the seams of my education zippering together.  Suddenly it made sense why immune reactions and cancer and diseases happen and maybe, I'd know a little something as to what to do about it.   I also took a 490R nursing elective (we need 10 credits for our BSN of nursing electives) and got A's in both.

     So far, my nursing GPA is 3.92.  My cumulative GPA at UVU is 3.82.  I ran for VP of the UVUSNA (the group in scrubs at orientation that I wanted to be a part of) and was elected.  I have been on the Dean's List every single semester.  I still get requests for my anatomy study guide and that horrid other TA was finally sued by a student for bullying and was fired.  I'm now facing semester 3 and will graduate with my ASN in May.  If all goes right, I'll finally wear a cap and gown with distinction from Phi Theta Kappa, university honors, and end my ASN magna cum laude.

Great friend Jerri & I, first day of Program
     I love the faculty.  They are nothing like the pre-req's and some I feel are friends.  They encourage, they expect a lot, and you laugh and learn every day.  I wear my green scrubs with pride and I feel like being a nursing student means something at UVU.  We are the best of the best and it's something I'll never take for granted or forget.  This program has changed my life and I feel so excited and proud to learn how to become a nurse and give a little something back in my career.

     So, here's where you come in-  if you're in the middle of pre-req's, or you have applied and are biting nails waiting to see if you get in, be at peace.  Maybe you bombed anatomy and feel all hope is lost- don't.  Do everything you can and you'll find that if you do your best, life will work for you.  Maybe nursing isn't your future- but if it is, at UVU or elsewhere, it will happen.  Just have faith and work hard.  I never thought I would get in and the odds weren't exactly ever in anyone's favor, but I've since seen many get in that didn't think they would and I firmly believe it's because it was their path to walk and it had to happen that way.  Some didn't get in and although I felt they deserved to, perhaps it wasn't the right time.  Some just didn't have the grades and had to face that, which is hard but honest.  Either way it happens, everyone finds their niche.

In closing, I love UVU's nursing program.  It was worth every bad hair day, throwing soap at my husband (he earned that, ha ha), and every wrinkle I've since gained (and pound) to learn to become a nurse.  I won't quote another author about it being the worst of times and best of times, however it has irrrevocably changed my life and expanded my heart in such a joyful and meaningful direction.  I am so happy to become a nurse.  I know I'll be a good one and nothing comes easy that is worth it.

     I hope this gives some insight into nursing school and how to get in at UVU.  It's hard, but it does happen, and it can for you.  Good luck if you're trying and I'm proud if you've succeeded-  it's a great thing to be a part of.

Take care,

P.S.  If you want to see how my experience went in Anatomy at UVU and how to get an A, here's a link to my post about it here:  http://baroque-in-babylon.blogspot.com/2011/12/how-to-get-a-in-dr-shivelys-anatomy.html


Bubbliciously Dana said...

Thank you for this post! I going to start my pre-reqs in the fall 2014 and am really scare/anxious to compete for a chance to get in and your post has given me hope, so thank you! I have 4 kids (all under 11yo), a big house to joggle and my husband travels a lot so i dont have much help from others and i dont know how ill do it but ill sure try my best and then some to get all As.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick question, when you applied for the UVU nursing program did they determine your gpa based on all the classes you listed on your post or did they only count these 7 classes: English 1010, Chem 1110, PSY 1110, Math 1050, Nutrition, Anatomy, and Physiology?