Overachievers’ Anonymous

My name is Nurse Teeny and I am an overachiever.


There is a culture that is forming in my program that concerns me to no end.  It is a culture of negativity and criticism.  It is a culture that tells us that when we work hard or succeed, we are going to get teased and ridiculed.  It is a culture that seeks to tear down rather than build up.

One of my recent posts was about negativity and not getting sucked into a potentially endless string of complaints about the experience of nursing school.  And that negativity feeds right into this culture that is so destructive, I can no longer remain silent.

Today in our family nursing class, the instructor pulled up the reference list of a fellow student who had turned hers in a few days early – the due date is Thursday.  The professor was simply showing us (with the student’s permission) what our own reference lists should look like. Someone whispered to the student, “You overachiever.”

I have a habit of finishing exams quickly. I’ve often been the first over the last couple of semesters. That’s not a boastful statement, I just test quickly.  Always have.  But I’ve actually been asked by other classmates to wait 5-10 minutes after I finish before turning my exam in so that I don’t make them feel bad (I actually tried it once and then left when I realized how ridiculous the whole concept was). People have taken bets on how quickly I’ll finish finals, or dared me to purposely be the last one.  And when I’m not the first one, I get teased about how slow I must have been that day.  So I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.  And it’s getting old.  Really old.

When someone does well on a test and others find out, it is often to their detriment.  Rather than be congratulated for a job well done, they get teased for studying for the test too hard, or some other nonsense.  It makes the happiness of succeeding on a test feel bittersweet; it makes me reluctant to discuss how I do on tests and papers because if I do well, then I’m gonna get ridiculed for it.  Whatever happened to a simple and sincere “Congratulations”?  And does it really matter how someone else did on an assignment anyway?

I have no doubt that the teasing and the ribbing is intended to be good-natured on an individual basis.  But that doesn’t make it okay to me, because the cumulative effect of being teased for being successful is to feel bad about being successful.  The cumulative effect of being teased about how much you study is to downplay how hard you are really working in this program.  We all busted our butts to get into nursing school and we’re all busting our butts in our own way to stay here.  Shouldn’t that be recognized and applauded within our community, rather than seen as a negative?  We all have different outlets to deal with our stress, we all have different study habits, and we all have different goals.  Mine happens to be ultimately earning my doctorate, and therefore yes, my grades do matter to me because my GPA will affect my next steps academically.  And regardless of that goal, my own expectation is that I should do the best that I can.  Not in comparison to anyone else, but compared to my own standards for myself.  So if I work my hardest and do the best that I can, and the outcome on a paper or test is favorable, then fabuloso.  I like school, I like being a student, that’s who I am.

I was expressing my frustration about this culture to a professor and she said that the unfortunate reality of nursing is this: when nurses feel threatened, they circle the wagons.  Then they shoot inward.  But she also told me that it’s up to us as future nurses to help change that culture, to lead by example.

So I guess for me, it starts here.

My name is Nurse Teeny and I am an overachiever.

A damn proud one.

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