Back to School. Again.

Only 107 days to go until graduation… I’ve almost made it into the double digits! Have I mentioned that I’ve been dreading this term a little bit? That’s because through past terms I’ve watched some political struggles between faculty factions being played out with the seniors as their pawns, and I hate political games, and I hate being sucked into them against my will, especially when it’s costing me some $30K/year. Academia is definitely NOT a consumer-oriented world! We’re more hostages than consumers, especially now, because we’ve put so much time and energy and effort and money into this that they know we’ll jump through whatever hoop they hold up no matter what, because we’re too close to the end to give it up now.

Also it seems like there’s just a whole lot of busy work for seniors. The first half of the term is all management and leadership stuff (which I’m still very burned out on, after my previous career), and reading all these theories of people who have figured out totally obvious things that any second grader could have told you, and put their names on them so that forever after, students will be forced to memorize their names and remember which totally obvious thing they “discovered.” Like some person named Rogers who developed the Diffusion of Innovation theory. This describes the process through which new ideas are adopted.

Any preschooler instinctively knows this process. First you get the idea from somewhere. This is known as The Knowledge Stage, where you become aware that there is another way to do something. It goes like this: “Hey, look — Jimmy has a bike and it makes him go really fast. Jimmy is a kid, just like me. I could have a bike, and go fast like Jimmy, instead of just walking or running.”

Then comes The Persuasion Stage. This is where you beg and wheedle your parents to get you a bike, and tell them all the reasons why it’s such a Good Idea. Next comes The Decision Stage. This is where your parents decide to get you the bike so you’ll shut up and quit bugging them. Then is The Implementation Stage. This is where you go out and figure out how to ride the bike. Finally comes The Confirmation Stage, where you take the bike out on the sidewalk and ride it past people who are walking, and verify that you are indeed now able to go faster than you used to.

This Rogers person probably got a million-dollar grant to study this, and undoubtedly spent thousands of man-hours refining and polishing his theory (or making grad students do it) and writing all sorts of articles about it for fancy publications (or making grad students do it), and got teaching fellowships and honorary degrees and speaking engagements and book deals because of it, and now is immortalized in all these management and leadership textbooks and we have to spend countless MORE man-hours reading about it and memorizing the terms and definitions for each stage, when we’ve all already known the whole theory ever since we first figured out that if we cried when we were hungry, people fed us.

Meanwhile, they DON’T teach us stuff people aren’t born knowing, like how to do a blood draw. THAT we have to figure out on our own. Apparently the school’s insurance company doesn’t want nursing students going around poking holes in each other. Because that would be Dangerous. Nonono, nursing students can’t be trusted with sharp objects!! So instead we have to wait until we’re actual nurses and then poke needles into actual sick people (who have no idea it’s the first time we’ve ever done it), and hope that we can get some blood to come out and and that more of it will end up in the tube than on the bed and that we won’t accidentally puncture any vital organs or anything in the process.

I think I’m just feeling particularly cynical because today I had to take the HESI test, which we are required to pass in order to graduate. The HESI test is developed and managed by this company that claims they can predict a nursing student’s ability to pass the NCLEX, which is the licensing exam you have to take to become an RN. And since it makes schools look better if higher percentages of their graduates actually pass the NCLEX, so they can lure more hopeful wannabe nurses into paying them lots of money to learn to be nurses (and about how innovations are diffused), our school has decided to force us all to pass the HESI test before they will allow us to graduate. Of course the cost (no, the HESI people do not do this out of the goodness of their hearts!) of the HESI study materials and test fees are not included in our already incredibly expensive tuition, oh, no. We have to pay for them on top of that. I personally think that the school should pay us to take it, since if we can’t pass it that means they haven’t given us what we’ve been paying for (which in any other type of business would make it their fault, wouldn’t it?).

Anyway. I missed 23 questions out of 160. In a rational world, that would be a passing grade. But this is academia we’re talking about, not a rational world, and that would make the testing process too simple, because then HESI couldn’t charge all that money for their fancy scoring methods and 10-page color-coded graphical scoring analysis along 16 different dimensions. On the HESI, the questions are weighted according to difficulty. (I would argue that since we’re going into a profession where people’s lives are at stake, they should be weighted according to importance. Sometimes it’s not always the difficult things that are important! But they didn’t ask me.)

So it could be that I missed 23 really high-point-value questions and totally flunked the thing. Or it could be that among the 23 I missed were the 10 “pilot” questions that don’t count at all, and 13 other low-value questions, and I could have aced the thing. On the practice HESI that was part of our final in acute care last term, I missed 14 out of 100, which to me looked like a low B, but ended up somehow converting into a 98% when they factored it into my final course grade. Not that I was upset or anything, but since when, without a curve, can you miss 14% of the questions and score a 98%???

I won’t know my results until I receive the 10-page breakdown by subject area and percentile ranking analysis with all its color-coded graphs and charts (which the school prints out for us in black and white) and complex intricate patented calculations, to see how I did.

Actually, the only thing I’m interested in, in all those 10 pages, is the number in the upper-left-hand corner of the first page, known as the “HESIScore”(TM). It has to be greater than 850. What does 850 mean? As far as I can tell, nobody knows. According to HESI, “…scores range from 0 to over 1,000, and can be as high as 1,500…” It’s apparently not a cumulative point value, and it’s (obviously) not a percentage. It’s a mystical number that pops magically out of their highly classified analysis and calculation process. The bottom line is, if the number is more than 850, I’ve made it through another hoop. If it’s not, I have to pay another $140 to take the HESI again. And then maybe again.


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