The Department of Nursing Science at Ewha requires students to take opportunities for health care experiences in clinics, research institutes, and hospitals.
During the first two years, Nursing Science majors work and play as much as any student. In their sophomore year, they start their medical practice, but only inside the safe and comforting walls of Ewha, at Helen Hall. In their last two years, however, they must practice at real hospitals in real situations as nurses.
Not until students go into their junior year do they taste the bitterness of ‘working yourself to death,’ and understand the true meaning of the word, ‘busy.’
Starting with their junior year, students must commence their medical training at various facilities, either in the day, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., or in the evening, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Whatever shift they take, the rest of their time is filled with school lectures that they are yet required to take.
Junior representative, Park Sae-mi (Nursing Science, 3), says that it is not that their students have a whole lot more to study than other majors do, but the added fact that they must spend half a semester, or eight weeks, participating in first-hand hospital practice in addition to their regular classes is what makes it hard.
“For those eight weeks, we have to finish mid-terms, final exams, projects, papers, and medical practice at once,” Park said.
Unlike other students, Nursing Science majors must study for eleven mid-term exams, according to the Nursing Science administration center, compared to the average five or six that other students take.
Not only that, but the designated time for the hands-on medical practice is never consistent. The assigned day and evening times interchange throughout the week making it hard to have a healthy social life, as it is difficult to make a set appointment with friends or family.
Nor are the hospital faculty nursing students practice with necessarily kind or cut them any slack. Since they are practicing in real life situations at hospitals, they are under the watchful eye of the doctors and other professional nurses.
“We do get punished a lot, even if it’s our first time; that’s why it was so hard to adjust at times at first,” Park continued.
As anyone who has ever had to be dragged to the hospital in an emergency knows, nurses are required to have soothing smiles plastered on their faces to make patients feel at ease. It is difficult for these young students to adjust to such an environment immediately, sympathizing with the suffering patient in front of them, but having to act strong at the same time.
“Many students starting their junior year oftentimes cry,” said senior representative Kim Sun-ok (Nursing Science, 4). “They cry because of the strenuous work pressured on them, out of pain, out of physical, mental and emotional stress.”
Additional stress is incurred due to the social stigma of being a nurse. In truth, doctors are more greatly appreciated than nurses, as there are often negative stereotypes about them. For instance, nurses are often stereotyped as medical students who did not do well or hardly worked in school.
“We study as much as medical students do, but because of the disappointing fact that they get far better treatment than nurses do in reality, there are always quite a few students who consider switching their majors or apply for medical graduate school in the future,” Kim said.
Yet, there are also some who are moved to tears by their heartfelt experiences as a nurse in training. For some, it is worth enduring over the years, after getting used to such an atmosphere.
Kim herself had one such memorable experience during her practice. It was not only Kim’s first experience witnessing a birthing procedure, but it was also the mother’s first childbirth. “The mother was really scared, she could not stop crying,” Kim said. But as the crying ensued, the mother’s love for the unborn baby grew and she tried her best to bear it. “It was a moving moment, and I just felt so proud of the mother, I couldn’t help but cry.”
“It is understandable why and how our Nursing Science students spend so much time working and helping out at the hospital,” Professor Park Hyo-jung (Nursing Science) said. “But like anyone else, it’s important to stack experience for your résumé, and it’s good for our girls.”
The life of a nursing student at Ewha is one full of hardship and mourning, yet emotional and fulfilling.