Failing to Succeed
By Chelsea Epling, RN, BSN, MCCN, EMT-P
Many times in life we fail. We fail a test, we fail at a relationship, we fail to reach a goal, we fail to lose weight, sometimes we fail to wake up on time for work. What I’ve come to learn, is that the only way you truly fail, is if you give up. You fail when you don’t try. You fail when you give in. You fail when you don’t learn from that “failure.”
Here’s my story, which I like to title “Failing to Succeed.”
I started nursing school in 2012, in a four-year program, at a private university. I assumed that being at a prestigious school meant a better education. During my third year there I was struggling with a particular med-sure class. I had sought out help from my professor and she all but told me to give up, that I wasn’t going to make it, and literally said “if the switch hasn’t flipped, I can’t switch it for you.” I had some outside circumstances going on at the time that made passing this class even more difficult. Ultimately I ended up getting a 79.94% when an 80% was needed for passing. I failed the class by 0.06%. This was my first academic failure and I took it hard.
In order to continue in the program, I would have had to repeat the entire year over, making me spend 5 years at the private university instead of 4. I couldn’t financially do that. I felt defeated, I wanted to give up. Heck, my professor told me to! But I chose to press forward. I wanted to be a nurse and I was determined to achieve that goal one way or another.
That summer I found a community college and enrolled. It was a two-year degree instead of four, meaning an ADN instead of a BSN. All of my three years at the university equated to one semester in the community college, so I needed to complete three more semesters to become a nurse. I was frustrated, but determined. It was there, at the community college, that I learned not only how to pass tests, but how to be a real nurse, how to critically think, and how to really care for patients. What I saw as a failure on my part, was really a blessing. I might have graduated from the university if I had stayed but in addition to being 30K+ in debt, I don’t know that I would have had the clinical knowledge that I had gained from the community college. I had to fail in order to succeed.
To become a flight nurse in the state of West Virginia is a little trickier than a lot of other states. In addition to 3+ years of experience in an ER/ICU setting, you have to become an EMT, a paramedic, and then take a course to become certified as a Mobile Critical Care Nurse (MCCN). I completed all of the necessary “minimums” and went in for my first interview with my top choice company. Did I get the job? If you said a big ‘ol NOPE you’d be correct.
Not getting my dream job only pushed me to do even more, be even better. Getting a job in the HEMS industry isn’t an easy task. You’re not competing with 60+ average folks for 80 spots, you’re competing with highly trained, motivated, and skilled individuals for maybe a handful of positions. I decided that though I loved my current job, I needed to branch out into the areas where I lacked experience and come back with a “look what I did to improve” attitude. Personally, I love the heart, I love cardiac patients, and the sound of a balloon pump makes my heart swoon. However, I lacked trauma experience so I chose to give up my cardiac patients and move to a level one trauma center. In addition to that, I also started working for a critical care transport ambulance. I’d never worked independent of a physician, I’d never worked in a tiny little space that was MOVING. While caring for the patient was no different than caring for one in a hospital room, the weight of responsibility to that patient hits a little differently when it’s just you and your partner. In the time between my interviews, I also became a PALS and ACLS instructor. Any area I was deficient, I wanted to cover.
I came back and interviewed again and this time, I got hired. SUCCESS! You see, I could’ve stopped after my first rejection. I could’ve seen it as a failure. Don’t get me wrong, for the first few weeks after being told I didn’t get the job, I did feel a bit like a failure, but I didn’t allow myself to stay there. I got back up, and asked myself “how can I improve?” Again, I failed in order to succeed.
Now this one is one I’ve yet to conquer. I set out to take the CFRN. I studied hard. I took a million practice tests and did well. Test day comes, and guess who fails? That’s right, yours truly. Again, disappointment and defeat came over me. BUT THEN THE COOLEST THING HAPPENED. The very next shift I worked, something I had learned from studying for that test was detected in a patient by ME and because of that, the patient survived! Sure I may not have passed the test, but did I fail? Absolutely not! I learned something that I otherwise would not have known, and that subtle change in the patient might have gone unnoticed. You never fail as long as you learn. Plan of action for correction this time:
- Obviously taking IA MED’s Flight Medical Provider (FMP) course.
- Reaching out to instructors
- Gaining some hands-on experience (I’ve always learned better this way).
- GIVING IT ANOTHER GO
I believe to be successful, you have to fail. You have to stumble and fall. It’s how you pick yourself back up and what you do to overcome those failures that matter. I’m just about to start flight academy as a brand new flight nurse, and I’m certain I’ll have many more “failures” to come. At this point, I’ve realized that we should all embrace our failures, learn from them, and overcome them. It is through failure that we become great, and ultimately it is how we succeed.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison