Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Deep thoughts?

Didn't there used to be a segment on a comedy show where some celebrity did a "deep thoughts" skit? Was it Saturday Night Live? Mike Meyers? I can't remember. Well today, it is deep thoughts with me - take it or leave it.

I think I was complaining a few weeks ago about the concept of critical thinking in Nursing School. In addition to teaching us the hands on skills we need, the professors are hell bent on teaching us how to critically think. Now I am not arguing this point, I think that critical thinking is an excellent skill to have, but I can't help but find this hypocritical. From the start of my return to school (many years after the first go round where barhopping and dating were more important than furthering my knowledge) I have had just about every professor tell me that the reason I falter on exams is because I "read too much into the question" or I "overthink" the question. They all tell me to just read what is on the paper, the "black and white"of it, and they all tell me not to bring any other knowledge to the question. So, quite simply, I must ask"Where do I start to critically think in a beneficial way?" It recently dawned on me that while they are bending over backward to teach us how to think critically, they really don't want us to do that at all, or maybe just want us to do it sometimes. As nursing students, I suppose we are expected to know when to turn on the critical thinking switch, and conversely, when to turn it off. Interesting.

Today I was having a discussion with some classmates about nursing school exams. Now, nursing school exams are unlike any other exams I have ever taken in my life. We actually had to attend a seminar on how to read and understand nursing exam questions. No kidding. Most, if not all, are in multiple choice format, some being "alternative format" questions which take on a "circle all that apply" approach, but for the most part there are no essays or short answer questions. Obviously, the multiple choice questions usually have A,B,C,D as answer choices - occaisionally there is an E, but that's not the point. Everyone has always told me that multiple choice format questions are the easiest to answer because the correct answer is right in front of you. While this point is valid, I have to explain that on nursing exams there is a "distractor" which is an answer that really seems like it could be the right one, the information all lines up, but, it is decoy. A trick. A ploy. A lure. A trap. A red herring. It's only purpose is to steer you away from the right answer. In my "infinite" wisdom I have a difficult time finding the fairness of this phenomenon. Really? We need to be tricked? We spent 90% of our lives studying this stuff. We eat, sleep, breath, and drink nursing information. We want to be nurses so that WE CAN HELP PEOPLE. WE ARE HUMANITARIANS -- Kind people who put ourselves ahead of others. Do we really deserve to be hoodwinked? The way I see it, you either know it or you don't. If you know it, you will choose the appropriate answer. If you don't know it -- you won't! Why do we need to be tortured with distractors? Do they want us to be nurses or FBI agents.

I have never been a very good test taker. I could sit down with best of the best and hold my own in a conversation about most of the stuff I have learned thus far, but when it comes to the written test I just don't do as well. I know the information, I just get all freaked out by the distractors, and the "stem" of the question, and the superfluous information that are stuck in the question that really aren't pertinent but, once again, we are back at the "Tom Foolery." (I have always loved that expression so I just couldn't resist sticking it in here :-p). I challenge anyone to explain this to me. I just want to be a good nurse. I want to be extremely competent at what I do and I want to help people. I don't want to be tricked.

So this is my rant for the day. If I try to get it straight in my head, this is what I come up with - I need to think critically, but not on exams, and I need to ignore the pink elephants in the room, no matter how pretty they are. If I focus on that, I guess I will be a good nurse. LOL!

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