Fake it till you make it


Last weekend, I found myself at my first sample sale.

Apparently, there’s this clothing brand out of the UK called Boden, which, as far as I can tell, makes very nice, very pricey clothes for your most well-dressed aunt. The young, cool aunt – the one with a successful boutique business doing something lucrative enough to afford a fabulous, crave-worthy condo and a closet full of, well, Boden.

I shop the clearance racks at Target and H&M. Maybe Loft, but only if I’m feeling a little spendy. So how did I find myself at the back of a mile-long line waiting to file into a convention center filled with communal dressing rooms, aggressively sharp elbows, and piles of off-season fashion?

I blame obstetrics.


Before I’d even started nursing school, I had the idea bouncing around somewhere in the back of my mind that I might want to teach someday. I like talking, I like people, I like the idea of sharing my deep and vast knowledge about the secrets of nursing with the next generation of nurslings. It’s not like I’d actually acquired this deep and vast knowledge at the time I was telling myself all this, but I was confident it was on its way.

And then before I knew it, there I was, a newly minted health care provider, with a license and prescriptive authority and a raging case of imposter syndrome. I’d put on my white coat and grab my stethoscope and bluster into an exam room with a confident smile, certain that any minute now someone was going to figure out that I didn’t belong.

There was no way in hell I felt ready to teach. I barely felt ready to go to work every day.

Thankfully, spending a few years actually working as an actual nurse practitioner does wonders for treating imposter syndrome, and eventually, I felt legit enough that I agreed to start precepting NP students. Precepting is kind of like dipping your toes in the shallowest wading pool at the water slide park of nursing education. You don’t even really need to be wearing a bathing suit. All you’re really doing is explaining why you’re doing what you’re doing with the patients you’d be seeing whether you had a student with you or not.

Don’t get me wrong, the clinical placement is in many ways the crux of the whole learning experience for the student. It’s super important. Check. But for the preceptor? Your expertise is only expected to encompass the stuff you already do every day. Easy peasy.

So when one of the nursing schools I’ve been working with asked me if I wanted to teach a clinical seminar, I thought, you know what? I’m pretty decent as a preceptor. How much harder could teaching a real, live, in-person class be? Nah, I got this. Let’s go.

But it wasn’t until I started really preparing for this class that I realized one of the problems with for-real teaching: you don’t get to only teach the stuff you know and like the best. My class of women’s health NP students wouldn’t be expecting an entire semester of the kinds of things I see in a college health clinic.

In particular, they’d be expecting to spend at least half their time learning about obstetrics.

I haven’t cracked an OB reference book since grad school. My role in managing my patients’ pregnancies typically begins and ends with a urine hCG, a long talk, and a referral.

The first couple weeks of class we managed to keep things firmly in my wheelhouse: vaginitis, molluscum, herpes, IUDs. HEY LOOK, I KNOW SOME THINGS. A one-off question about first trimester screening was deftly turned back to the students, since those things change constantly and who could possibly be expected to keep them all straight? Please.

But next week, I’ll be forced to lead an in-depth discussion of cervical incompetency and cerclage. And just like that, imposter syndrome comes roaring back.

Solution #1: retail therapy. I can’t wear a white coat to class, but if I start dressing Iike an actual grown-up, maybe my students won’t laugh me down from the front of the classroom, right? Which is how I ended up in line on a Saturday morning with hundreds of other women at this sample sale. Yes, I now have a few nice things that I didn’t have before. And they are quite pretty, even though I’m 100% sure I’ll be trashing these cashmere and silk blends in a hot second with my unsorted, overloaded laundry style.

Yet for some reason, the $125 I spent on blouses (not shirts! BLOUSES) doesn’t seem to make me any more of an authority on cervical cerclage than I already was.

So I suppose I need to deal with my discomfort with not knowing everything about everything the same way I did as a new NP: a confident smile, and a metric ton of reading.

And in the meantime. “Hey, you look like a professor!” was an actual quote from one of my colleagues in the clinic this week. BEHOLD THE POWER OF THE BLOUSE.


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