Hard to believe last weekend marked 12 years in which my career in nursing began. Perhaps due to this I have been thinking a lot about what being a nurse has taught me, where I have gone, the jobs I have worked and the people I have met. I have made life long friends and memories from being a nurse. Even though it’s not exactly the route I initially would have taken, it has been the absolute best route for me. It has made me stronger, more confident, and able to withstand intense situations. I wouldn’t change one part of my story which has led to me to the exact point where I now am. I still don’t know where the nursing path will take me, but I look forward to the future.
I have always been drawn to the medical field. As an 8-year-old I wanted to be a pediatrician. I went to a high school focused on health professions. But I never really saw myself as a nurse until the opportunity presented itself. I was attending the University of Houston studying to be a dietician when my life took a new turn. I found myself moving back home because I was expecting a child and I knew I needed to get on a career path which would provide a faster route to sustain my daughter and I. My dad had seen an ad for a local LVN school in the paper and suggested I apply, so I did. I started LVN school in November 2003 when my daughter was 3 months old, I completed LVN school in December 2004 when she was about 15 months old. I look back on those years and I honestly don’t know how I did it, but I just did. And I am so glad I had my parents to support me, encourage me and take care of my daughter. I missed out on so many things the first year of her life but I am thankful my parents were able to be a part of it.
After LVN school I continued to work in the hospital while working on my RN. From 2003 to 2007 I lived, breathed, and worked in the hospital and nursing school.
Some pictures below from RN school, graduating with my RN in May 2006 and the bottom right one was taken while working during Hurricane Dolly at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas in July 2008 which actually ended up flooding our ICU.
There is no way to really explain all of the intricacies of being a nurse until you actually go through it. It’s a lot like having a kid. You can read all of the books, take classes, buy the clothes, set the crib up, be as prepared as you can be, but there is nothing which truly prepares you for nursing other than just diving in head first.
So today I reflect on some things I have learned from nursing over the past 12 years.
- Nursing school is hard, but being a nurse is that much harder and challenging.
- The first year of any job you take in nursing is always the hardest. Be gentle on yourself. While the work load may not decrease, it does get better.
- You have to have a deeper calling. If you are going into nursing because you think you are going to make a lot of money, then don’t do it. It’s a lot of work and you will burn out quickly. Yes there is money to be made, but it comes at a cost.
- If you can’t deal with the dirty, don’t expect the accalades.I told a coworker once his patient was asking to be put on a bed pan. He responded with, “I didn’t go to nursing school to put people on bed pans, find someone else to do it.” Well, allrighty then.
- You will not be able to save or rescue everyone out of their situation. You are not a savior, you are a nurse. Sometimes death is the better option.
- Don’t become a nurse snob thinking your job is the most challenging, hardest, job and other nurses who don’t do what you do aren’t really nurses. I was guilty of this at one point until I went through some humbling circumstances. While there are nursing jobs which are a lot more physically demanding than others and require a lot of critical thinking, each job in nursing brings its own set of challenges and stress. I went from working in ICU to case management where I don’t do hands on care. While ICU is very challenging, there is a lot to learn in case management and different challenges I would have never anticipated had I not done this job. Every nurse makes an impact in their own way in their own area. And depending on your current life situation, you have to find what fits you and your family best.
- Treat everyone with equal respect, if you can’t treat the janitor who is cleaning up the spills and your messes as nice as you treat the trauma surgeon when he makes rounds, then don’t be a nurse.
- Nursing is an umbrella of several other jobs. You will be the social worker, counselor, janitor, wound care nurse, family counselor, the list goes on and on.
- You will make mistakes. Own them, accept them, learn from them and move on.
- You will see people at their worst and their best.
- Do not take things personal which patients and family members may say when they are at their worst and best.
- There will be patients who make you crazy, complain about everything and you hope to never see again in your life.
- There will be patients you remember forever who actually help you more than you help them.
- You realize the strength and tenacity of the human spirit and body.
- You realize and appreciate the frailty of human life.
- Don’t take things too personal from coworkers. There are some crazy nurses out there with incredibly complex lives, who love drama.
- Don’t compare yourselves to your coworkers. Everyone has their own niche where they shine. I personally do not like Mental Health. Does it mean I won’t take care of those patients? No, it just means it’s not my preferred area of choice. What may be a good career path for one, isn’t the one for you. Don’t be afraid to take your time and develop skills right where you are at rather than always trying to chase the next best thing.
- Unfortunately nursing is known to eat their young. It begins with each of us stopping what was done to us. Yes nurses have made me cry, belittled me, left me high and dry with crazy admissions, written me up for the littlest of things. But the only way to stop that is to stop the cycle.
- Never stop learning. Some of the best nurses I have worked with are always eager to learn more, reading books, watching videos, attending classes. We never really “arrive” in nursing, we just keep moving forward.
- Don’t be afraid to advocate for your patient even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone.
- The best nursing care you can give is often not in the doing, but in the being. Being a good listener, being present, being a keen observer of clinical and non-clinical things. Some of the biggest compliments I have received from patients and their families usually isn’t the ones I worked the hardest on or did the most for, but it was usually the ones where I just listened and took time to care about them.
I probably could go on for a while more but I will stop. If you are considering a career in nursing I recommend familiarizing your self with it as much as you can. The great thing about nursing is there are so many different avenues and areas you can work in, but it is a lot of work and takes dedication to get there. Hats off to all my fellow nurses who go out there day in and day out. May we support each other every step of the way.