November 4th 2020, and I am in day ten of isolation. And why is that you may ask as if you didn’t already suspect? Well here is what’s been happening over the last two weeks.
Starting an MSc in nursing during a global pandemic is perhaps to the normal thinking person, not something to be taken lightly. In fact, it’s not something to be taken lightly full stop, but when I applied and was accepted onto the course, Covid-19 wasn’t even a concern. Before the original outbreaks and long before lockdown I was already preparing myself for a career change and was brushing up on my anatomy. Well, corona came and decided to hang around, but my course persistently didn’t back down. Like many other university courses, the delivery methods were adapted and a whole new way of teaching emerged to quench the masses wanting an education. In my opinion, this was done quite successfully. Having completed a masters only the year before from the luxury of my little corner of the lounge, I was used to distance-learning and the discipline of self-guided study. So starting a new course that has adapted its delivery to be mostly online was not such an oddity for me. Collaborate, Blackboard and Microsoft Teams have all been quite successfully integrated into the daily delivery of lectures and tutorials. I must admit though that going into university at least once a week is a nice change, albeit if the university has been reduced to a scene from ‘twenty-eight days later’. No longer the thriving metropolis of learned peeps, now just a mostly quiet and empty labyrinth of echoey corridors. The few people I see are those having a pre-lecture Starbucks, all keeping their distance, and all looking a little lonely.
So, I’m quite happy to do the majority of work from home, and my god there is a lot of it. Do not undertake the MSc in nursing with any misconception that it isn’t a lot of work. When the course leaders joke and laugh about the intensity of the course at open days, there are real tears of anxiety I’m sure accompanying that grimace of a smile, because they don’t want to put you off. The course is a BEAST, whichever branch you opt for. But you know what, I absolutely love it. Maybe it’s a perverse attraction to teetering upon the edge of an endless precipice, maybe my brain has just decided hara-kiri is a good option considering the current climate. It is no exaggeration when I say that I study approximately 5-7 hours six days a week and the other day I work a double shift as a carer. It is full-on, and even then, I feel I am constantly falling behind. I’ve known people tackle similar courses and try their best to remain working 3 or 4 days a week. My hat goes off to them. If not for the need to top up my student finance, I would drop all work to focus on my studies. I suspect even then that I would still feel overwhelmed. Don’t underestimate the necessity of at least one day a week to recover from the mental fatigue.
Which brings me on to the next issue, that of my poor Fitbit. I bought the thing with great intentions of it motivating me to be more active, however, when it comes to hardcore study, there’s not much room for having a little walkabout. I don’t have a walking station, and even if I did, I wouldn’t trust it. I struggle not to fall over myself when I’m not making notes on the anatomy of the heart. So, my brand-new shiny Fitbit sits upon my wrist, occasionally vibrating and with as much enthusiasm as it can muster, suggesting that I only have 250 steps more to reach my hourly target. But do I ever rise to the challenge? no. But my Fitbit persists, or at least it will do until I finally just put it in the drawer. When you have a bucket load of study, it makes exercise a thing of myth and that is what I’m sticking with. I’m sure there are many people out there that can and do manage a healthy exercise routine and a full study schedule, but they are no friends of mine.
If you remember back to the beginning of this post, you’ll recall me saying that I am currently on my tenth day of isolation. The reason for this is coronavirus. Living with a vulnerable person and also looking after another, I am very alert to the symptoms of the virus, and when one evening I began to develop said symptoms, I immediately got onto the NHS track and trace website and ordered myself a test. For those of you that are fortunate enough not to have done the test, let me walk you through it. The home test option was the one I chose because our car was at the time, out of action, so it arrived in the normal mail promptly the next day. I opened up the box to find an instruction booklet, a swab which resembles a big cotton bud, a sample tube with some liquid in it, a hazardous contents baggy, an absorbent cloth, and some stickers. You read the booklet, watch the youtube video, then prepare yourself for a most unpleasant experience. Thorough handwashing precedes standing in front of a mirror with a torch, trying to not yak up as you gently tickle your tonsils with the cotton bud. This is not a nice thing, although I think the pre-psyching up builds the tension more. I recommend just going for it, the more you think about it and the more you tease your agape mouth like a moth to the flame, you make it worse. So, a brief twizzle on each tonsil and then ready yourself to insert the same cotton bud up your nose. This you do up both nostrils, making sure to get all the good stuff for the boffins in the lab, minus bogeys. The dirty little stick then goes in the sample tube with the liquid and is secured shut. This goes in the baggy with the absorbent cloth and the whole lot goes in the box they provide to send back. There are some bit you need to complete online before using the stickers to seal up the box and get a kindly father-in-law to post off in the nearest postal point. The track and trace people got back to me with test results within 24 hours. The whole process took about 2-3 days. And the results I so dutifully had earned were negative. Which was a relief, however, I was still required to isolate for a further two weeks, just in case. As I said, I’m currently into day ten of my isolation period and feel fine. Better safe than sorry though, I guess that’s the point.
My isolation period has meant two weeks away from university, but then that was fine as I do most of my work that way, however the few in-person sessions I miss, I can catch up with through Panopto recordings (a benefit of online learning). I’m also off work, but everyone who needs to know does know and the NHS ring me every day or so to check in on me and see if I have any questions and that I am capable of looking after myself. Fortunately, my isolation ends just in time for my five weeks of simulation practice at university. Huzzah. The positive thing about the university adjusting their delivery of the course due to COVID-19 is that even with having to take two weeks off, I still managed to attend most of the lectures and remain an active student. It makes you wonder if universities will ever go fully back to the old way of educating.
Well, I’m going to sign off there as my healthy chicken tikka kebab and chips have just arrived. My poor Fitbit is having kittens.