Sean McHugh | Eclectic Autodidact: Embarking on a new career


It's official, I'm going back to school. Or rather, since I have been taking classes fairly regularly for the last few years, I am continuing to go to school on a greatly increased basis. All the hours I spent last summer taking classes at three different community colleges have paid off, and now I can ... take even more classes.

My program is an accelerated second bachelor's in nursing through UMass Amherst. While it's going to be a massive amount of work, 18 months from now I'll be able to sit for my licensure exams to become an RN. Class begins in August.

I just have seventeen thousand tons of paperwork to complete first. Going to school as an adult is valuable preparation for when I have kids of my own someday. After sifting through the documents now, I will have the experience to sit down little Gilgamesh when he turns 18 and say "You know what, son? I hear the army is a good path these days. Why don't you try that instead of college?"

It's not really as bad as all that. Most paperwork can now be completed electronically with my shiny new program-mandated iPad. (Sidebar: I had always assumed that silly "Sent from my iPad" tag at the bottom of emails couldn't be removed. It turns out that it can be. So anyone who sends you an email that ends that way really wants you to know they have an iPad.)

Most documents can now simply be photographed and uploaded through the sufficiently advanced technology of the tablet computer. This is great but from time to time it gets comically recursive. You can download and print a form, which is convenient. You can photograph and upload a form, which is more convenient. Taken together however, they seem like a few more steps than is truly necessary. We can digitally sign for credit cards now so it would seem that we should be able to authorize a document stating that you have downloaded and authorized the previous document.

But patently rectangular electronics aren't the only new toy for school. As a nursing student, I'll need a whole suite of accessories as though I was one of those action figures where the hero has some preposterous alternate costume in order to make kids buy a second copy of the same toy. I've the snazzy ID badge and matching iron-on patches that identify my program. The personal stethoscope so I don't need to get anyone else's ear wax on me. The official nurse bag with medicine-related objects (refills sold separately). And finally, scrubs: the all-purpose hospital wear for anyone who thinks they might be vomited upon in the course of the day's business (also the basis for various Starship uniforms).

Of all my preparatory arrangements, purchasing scrubs may intimidate me the most. I am terrible at buying clothes. Somehow anything that seems to fit in the store will have shrunk or expanded by the time I get it home, leading me to suspect that the clerks are switching out my purchase with something else while I'm distracted by the pin pad. To compound the issue, there are now designer scrubs licensed from popular hospital dramas (though, oddly none after "Scrubs" itself). I guess they're sexier or more dramatic than regular scrubs. I'm worried that I'll end up getting a pair from a show I never watched either by mistake or, worse, because they actually fit me well, and have to spend the next 18 months explaining I really don't know anything about "Grey's Anatomy," only the book it was based on.

I'm also super excited to meet everyone else in my cohort (and if any of them happen to read the Eagle, hi guys!). I think the most interesting part will be to have a class where every single person is working toward the same program. Even during my prerequisite classes everyone had different programs or degrees as end goals, but here everyone has the same one. This, I imagine will lead to an interesting social dynamic, creating a lot of really intense friendships between comrades in arms ... or facilitating a whole bunch of personality cliques. Either way, it will be fascinating from an anthropological standpoint.

So, in just a few short, incredibly long weeks, digital paperwork completed, variant costume purchased, accessories collected, I will be ready to embark on a program that will forever alter my future. Unless, of course, I missed a checkbox on a form.


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