I’m startled from my slumber to the sound of a pounding alarm at 5 a.m.
“I’m sorry,” Belle Bradshaw shamefully whispers as I plunge myself under the covers.
I hear her creep out of the room with her scrubs and book bag before I fall back asleep.
That’s a glimpse of what a typical morning looks like when your roommate is a nursing major and has to wake up early for clinicals twice a week. But, in all honesty, it’s really not an inconvenience. In Belle’s defense, I’m a fairly light sleeper, so there’s only so much she can do to not wake me up when her bed is only six feet away.
Despite our opposite schedules and different career paths, having a nursing major as a roommate is a rewarding experience, especially when it’s someone you’ve learned to admire. If anything, they can teach you about perseverance, dedication and discipline.
It’s important to know how and why Belle chose her major, as well as how she ended up being my roommate.
It wasn’t until her junior year of high school that she first found her calling to help others. Belle was a youth leader at a middle school summer camp, when suddenly one of the campers got hurt while playing a game.
“I had a sense of ‘I wish I knew what to do,’” Belle said. “All I knew about first-aid was to just slap a Band-Aid on it, and call it a day.”
Consequently, her initial urge to help people in times of emergency encouraged her to enroll at Florida Gulf Coast University as a nursing major.
However, just because a student enrolls as a nursing major doesn’t guarantee them a spot in a nursing program. During their freshman and sophomore years, they must pass a series of prerequisites to apply for their school’s nursing program. Along with having a stellar GPA, the students must also have a high score on the program’s entrance exam.
In Belle’s case, her GPA was nearly a 4.0, and she had a competitive score on her standardized test. Her hard work and determination proved that no science class could crush her compassion for people. There was no question she’d earn her acceptance letter for FGCU’s nursing program … until she didn’t.
So, Belle knew she had to persevere before it was too late to apply anywhere else. Not taking much time to grieve, she quickly entered what she says felt like “an impulsive blank state.”
“I’m not going to think about how I didn’t get in,” Belle said. “I’m just going to move on because I didn’t want to think about it … I’m going to get out of my ‘what’s next’ phase and see what happens.”
Her mom suggested looking into Palm Beach Atlantic University, since she heard they were still accepting nursing major applications. In less than a month, Belle applied, got accepted and began preparing for summer classes at PBAU.
My Conversation with My Nursing Major Roommate
I wanted to talk to Belle about the real challenges and triumphs of being a nursing major and our time as roommates. Here’s a bit of our conversation:
Amber: First of all, I’m a journalism major, our other roommate is a communications major and then we have another roommate, who’s a nursing major, but she was in the prerequisite stage [last year]. Were you hoping for other nursing major roommates, or did you not care?
Belle: Honestly, it really wasn’t something I was thinking about, because after going through summer [courses] and realizing how hard I had to work, I came in thinking, “I really hope we get close, but I hope they understand that I might not be able to hang out all the time.” One of my main concerns was that you all wouldn’t see who I really was because I was going to be so busy with studying.
I didn’t want you guys to think that I was super serious, and I never wanted to have fun. I’m serious when it comes to school, but now you know I’m really goofy and stupid sometimes. My true self was just buried in books.
A: I first saw that your [classes] were really hard when I saw your textbooks and your three-inch thick binders. You’d say, “Yep, I have to memorize all of this for the final.” It kind of intrigued me seeing how treacherous your major was.
Our desks were right next to each other [in our room]. If I looked to my left, I saw you in your books, and when you looked to your right you saw me transcribing interviews. I think it was comforting to see someone else working hard even though we were doing two totally different things. When I watched you work, you motivated me.
There were a couple times when I’d look over at you and you’d be crying in your textbooks.
B: I was internally crying everyday (laughs), but sometimes I’d outwardly express it.
A: (laughs) So, let’s just be real. What do you hate about nursing school?
B: I hate the feeling of jealousy. I put 100% into a really hard class, and I know there’s classmates out there who study for 15 minutes and get A’s. It’s not a competition, but I felt like I couldn’t achieve the level I really wanted to.
Also, I hate studying, but I love learning. I don’t like sitting down, reading a book that’s telling me a million little details and taking a test that includes one sentence out of that entire chapter. That was annoying.
A: What drives you to push past those challenges?
B: I think it all ties back to what I believe in. I believe in Jesus Christ, and I believe that He gives us a calling. I look back to what He’s brought me through — the two years of prerequisites, not getting into FGCU’s program, finding PBAU out of the blue — and just realizing all the tiny little steps I’ve gone through. This all has a purpose.
If I fail, it’s not the end of the world. If I fail, I want to fail being able to know that I couldn’t have done any better than I did. I can think, “Well, I did my best, and if it’s not for me, then it’s not for me.”
A: Okay, now what do you love about nursing school?
B: I think my favorite part is seeing other nursing majors feel so passionate. One of my friends and I went to a psych ward [for clinical], and she’s had a lot of really tough times with mental [illness], so she feels very compassionate about people in the psych wards.
The gross stuff, like wiping up poop and vomit, doesn’t disgust me because it makes me happy to think that somebody is being taken care of. No one wants to sit in their own poop, no one wants to sit in their own vomit, but when [nurses] make sure that [the patients] are comfortable, that makes me happy. Doing the things that are gross does make a very big difference.
A: Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to be a nursing major or is a nursing major?
B: It’s cheesy but it’s kind of true. Don’t be scared to fail. Don’t be scared when you don’t meet your expectations because life is not about a test. Life is about taking care of a human being. You can learn more from a human being than you could ever learn from a test.
My other advice would be to just take one day at a time. Know what you have to do ahead of time, but don’t waste time thinking, “Oh, I should’ve studied more.” Just do what you need to do in that moment in time.
Also, it’s okay to take a break, because you don’t need to feel like, “My friend is studying right now, so I need to study too.” It’s okay to watch TV at night, and it’s okay to take a day off.
As I type this conclusion, I’m sitting at my desk in my apartment. Belle, sitting at her desk holding an orange highlighter, reading through a lengthy chapter in a giant textbook. She’s already preparing for what’s ahead.
For her final year of nursing school, Belle is eager to learn about obstetrics and pediatrics during her clinicals — she wants to figure out if she should specialize in those areas. Belle is also planning to go on a mission trip to El Salvador for spring break.
As for me, I’m looking forward to hearing an alarm at 5 a.m. every other morning, because I know that’s protocol for someone who’s training to save lives.