Your Why: The Most Powerful Tool You Have In Nursing School

Trey Parker
Published on Jan 17, 2022. Updated on Apr 6, 2022.

Today, Osmosis Student Nurse Ambassador Trey Parker shares what has helped him get through nursing school set on "hard mode". From the pandemic disrupting clinical learning to a hurricane wreaking havoc on his community. He shares just how important a "WHY" can be and how you can pair that with Osmosis to get through almost anything in nursing school.

Nursing school during a global pandemic is a difficult place to be. People ask me all the time, "How is nursing school?!" For the most part, I am able to respond with one-off phrases, like: "Oh, it's good!... I love it!... It's going well." However, sometimes, I'm speechless with "Oh boy, how do I respond?" bouncing around my head. This is especially unfortunate whenever that question is asked by prospective nursing students! 

I completely understand why students ask this question—they want a look on the inside. They want to see what school is like because nursing education is intrinsically different from traditional undergraduate education. I never want to discourage anybody from going into nursing. In my opinion, it's the best job on the planet. However, I don't want to sugarcoat it either. I do my best to shift the conversation from how I'm doing to why they're interested in going to nursing school in the first place.

The thing is, nursing school during a global pandemic brings additional challenges on top of regular nursing school, which is by no means ordinary to begin with. Academic schedules for the semester change often, assignment due dates change, tests are rescheduled, and communication can be very frustrating.

However, these frustrations are not unique to nursing school—all educational programs have felt these frustrations due to the pandemic. But, there is one distinct component that separates nursing education from traditional undergrad programs - Clinicals.

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This is where you put your classroom and skills to the test by taking care of actual patients with complex conditions.

The pandemic has made clinical placements and schedules change often, and in some cases, has caused students to forgo in-person clinicals for virtual. Honestly, it isn't ideal. In some cases, professors have to substitute clinical experiences altogether for group projects when clinical placements are not an option during lockdowns.

At some point I thought, "Nursing school and a pandemic… what could be more challenging?"

Well, then, Hurricane Ida hit Southeast Louisiana in week 3 of the semester. While I was left relatively unscathed, I know many people who were devastatingly impacted by the hurricane.

Now, not only do students have to stay on top of school and the rapidly changing environment of the hospital, they must worry about housing, electricity, water, etc. Now, I'm not insinuating that nursing school is above all other priorities, for that is truly not the case. You are your top priority—your holistic well-being is your first priority. However, I bring all of this into view to show how stressful and overwhelming nursing school can be. There will always be something unexpected that throws a wrench in your plans, either personal, educational, work related, or a natural disaster… or, a horrific combination of them all.

- Check out our blog about seeking mental health services as a medical student! -

During the past week, I have found myself asking questions such as, "Why in the world am I doing this to myself? Why am I choosing to wake up at 4:30 am to be at the hospital? Why am I choosing to miss family and social events over the weekend to study for an exam?… Why do I choose to care for the sickest and vulnerable in our community?... Why do I choose to see things that would make others lose sleep for weeks?"

At some point, you'll have to ask yourself these questions, too

For me personally, my response is the same every time—my WHY I went into nursing. Your WHY is one of the most powerful things you have in nursing school. Your WHY will motivate you to adapt and persevere through times that make you question your life choices.

Your WHY can be personal. Maybe you were in the hospital as a patient or had a family member in the hospital, and during these experiences, you saw how the nurses cared for you or your family members and wanted to be that for other people.

Your WHY can be generational, being that you had a family member who was a nurse, and that is what inspired you to do that as well. Your WHY can be a second career opportunity. Maybe you tried a career in another field and want to make a mid-life change. Your WHY can be situational-related. Perhaps you need to advance your education in order to provide for your family.

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Everybody's WHY will be different, and in that way, you own it. It is unique, and it is yours alone.

If you haven't started nursing school, I highly encourage you to reflect on why you want to enter this profession. Reflect on what motivates you to give and sacrifice yourself for other people. You are the only person who can say what your WHY is. This is also a good time to uproot any false or imprudent reasons to go into nursing. I promise you, that if money or status is the reason you are pursuing nursing, you won't stay for long.

If you are in nursing school, it's critical that you find your WHY

Your WHY not only carries you through school but also through your practice as a registered nurse. Especially right now. Even after you graduate nursing school, learning never ends. In school, you learn the textbook version of diseases in a perfect-world scenario. In real life, cases are very rarely textbook. Medicine is constantly evolving, nursing is continuously improving, and no two patients are alike. Often, you get patients with rare presentations and irregular symptomologies that push you to go back to the fundamentals and think about the cases from the ground up.

And, even if you have been out of school, you probably won't remember the gritty details of anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, or even pharmacology for that matter. This is why, when you pair your WHY with Osmosis, you'll be able to stay motivated. It helps you consolidate information in short bursts to remediate your knowledge in times when you come across an unfamiliar disease process or you need a refresher of the basics.

When I first started in pediatric intensive care, there were many pathologies I began to see that I hadn't been exposed to during my tenure in adult intensive care, one of which was Wilms tumor. This was not a topic covered in class, nor had I seen it on the adult side of medicine, so when I had some free time, I went to Osmosis to learn more about the pathology.

Once I reviewed the information, I felt like I had a better understanding of the condition, and was able to take better care and better advise my patient now that I had a better understanding of what was going on. If you're like me and haven't heard of Wilms tumor before, click here to watch an Osmosis video about it!

What is your WHY?

Because I was so aware of my WHY, it gave me the motivation and desire to seek out the information Osmosis had and provide better care to my patient.

So, if somebody asked me how nursing school was during a pandemic and after Hurricane Ida, I would sardonically reply, "Pretty weird and confusing." I would then add, "Yes, it's hard, and it's not getting any easier, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

Nursing is my passion. I am not just going to school to get a degree. I am going to school to become a nurse for other people, to care for the sick, the poor, and the most vulnerable; therefore, even when the school, for lack of better words, sucks, I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

About Trey

Trey Parker is a senior level BSN nursing student at Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University. Trey's nursing interests are pediatric intensive care, research, and education. When Trey isn't at school or the hospital, you can find him spending time with his friends or serving in his community.


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