My Nursing School Experiment


USF Nursing School Teachers Are Just Plain Bad

Be careful what you wish for -- it may disappoint you when you get it. My dream was nursing school. For a couple of years starting in 2008 I attended USF, a $38,000/year private school. Expecting a top-quality, inspiring educational experience, instead I got a surprise that ultimately defeated me.

The surprise was the difficulty of going back to school as an adult: I found that I had grown bullshit detectors. The mediocrity of the faculty of the graduate-level nursing program was shocking. And if you're crusty like me, you don't just let bullshit slide; you confront it.

This didn't win me friends. Nurses earn well; why teach? It is said, "Those who can't, teach." And the strategy popular among people like that is: the best defense is a strong offense. The treatment I received was neither kind nor honest.

Was nursing school a bad idea for me? Though I learned huge amounts (little in the classroom -- the hospital was the worthwhile part of the nursing school experience) and loved the actual care delivery and patient interactions, I hated the mediocrity and dishonesty of the faculty (I can name names and recount acts -- small-minded, frightened little people) and they hated my bristly righteousness.

One of the issues was another surprise, a kind of reverse racism. They were unaccustomed to an older white man in their midst and people tend to attack that which they find unfamiliar. Compounding this problem is the fact that I have never mastered the art of holding my tongue. One teacher retaliated against my complaints of her incompetence (she covered very little of the syllabus in her pharmacology class, couldn't lecture in intelligible sentences, didn't seem to know how to use a spelling checker on gibberish-laden Powerpoint, etc.) by falsifying my exam grades.

Disappointments were numerous. I had a so-called advisor who provided no advice nor guidance nor assistance though I asked for it. Rather, she seemed to think her role was to defend her incompetent colleagues. Another instructor (who prided herself on being tech-savvy) became enraged when, in all sincerity I (being genuinely tech-savvy) offered to help her to include graphics in her Powerpoint. She had been attempting to teach us to read EKG strip charts without actually showing us any. What I discovered was that she was incapable of this basic computer task and too humiliated to admit it.

Another sad little woman was frightened by the small Javascript web page I wrote to solve the blood gas analysis problems she had assigned and thought that if I shared it with my classmates her teaching would be subverted. The real problems of course are the archaic nature of much of what is taught to student nurses and the fear-driven, hidebound teachers.

After a couple of years I gave up fighting and dropped out. Was it a waste of time and money? I did learn a lot, both good (the practical side of nursing) and bad: if you're a grownup, don't study nursing at USF.

Yet I'm reluctant to call this experience a failure. True, the outcome I expected (an MSN) didn't happen. Dropping out is not synonymous with failure. Bill Gates and Michael Dell are dropouts no one would call failures. In nursing school I did learn a lot, both about the medical world and about myself. And I pruned a branch from my education tree.

Ultimately, USF spat me out. Too bad for the medical world; I have a lot to contribute. And I am. But not with a diploma from USF.

Postscript: The following year, I matriculated at Samuel Merritt University's School of Nursing from which I graduated cum laude with a BSN and a California Registered Nurse license.