Now, nowhere in that dream did I EVER want to be a nurse. Yuck! Everyone knows what kinds of things nurses have to do. I couldn't even stand to see my step-dad take out his dentures, let alone me thinking about brushing them for him. NO WAY.
So when the time came that I was looking into that dream job, after it soaked in that I was now divorced and a single mom, I went to our local community college to see what they had to offer. I was interested in being a Med-tech. I thought it would be really cool to work in the hospital lab and take blood samples and look at them under the microscope. But when they told me that I would need to take math and science....well that was enough for me to say no. This kind gentleman who was helping me decide what fantastic career choice I was going to make said, "We have a brand new nursing program here at the college"
No Way was the answer that I gave to him. Simply not interested. He wrote down some numbers and slid the paper across his desk to me and said, "this is the starting wages for nurses now." WOW! I took one look and said "sign me up." (I still have that bitty little piece of paper, and I laugh now to think that $8.69 an hour got me so excited.)
Anyhow, to make a long story short, I started college that fall. I opted to take all of my required courses before I started the actual nursing program. The math classes and the science classes and the psychology and sociology classes. Remember those classes that I DIDN'T want to take. And I found out that I was pretty good at this going to school thing. The hardest part was that I still needed to make a paltry living for these two young sons, so I worked at 3 different jobs while I went to school. And I still made the all A Honor Roll. I graduated from nursing school in the spring of 1983 and started my career as a nurse.
Being a nurse is one of the most challenging, rewarding jobs I ever had. It caused me the most happiness and the greatest sadness of anyplace I ever worked. You need a lot of heart to be a nurse. You need a lot of stamina. You need a big bladder. And you need a good pair of shoes. You will probably have to work the night shift at some point in your career (I spent almost 23 years working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift). You will not be off every weekend. You will work most holidays. Your shift doesn't end just because the clock says that you have full-filled your 8 hours (or most nowadays is 12 hours). You can't leave until all the paperwork is done. You are going to deal with blood, vomit, drainage from wounds and holes and orifices that no one wants to talk about. You will deal with pee and poop and mucous. You will have to make phone calls to nasty doctors, calls to family members to let them know that mom, or dad, or their husband or wife has just died. You will hold hands and puke pans and bedpans and all other kinds of pans. You will have to put up with people screaming at you, pulling your hair, throwing things at you, kicking you and biting you and pinching you (those little old blue-haired women love to pinch) They will call you honey and sweetie and bitch and all other kinds of not so pleasant names. They will thank you, and love you, and blame you when things don't always go right.
You are going to have to think fast. What action needs to be taken right now to save a person's life. You will have to juggle more than one patient and sometimes supervise the work of other nurses. When I first began my nursing career on a busy medical floor I had charge of 23 patients, giving direct care to 12 of them. My only other co-worker was a graduate LPN. We were a couple of fish out of water who really did not know what we were doing in the beginning. We learned as we went. We relied on other nurses, our supervisor, the good doctors who were willing to take the time to teach us, and each other.
And even though by the time I left nursing I was no longer the bright-eyed new kid on the block, I would do the job all over again. Even with all the cuts that have taken place in health care. Even with all the bad things that can be said about nurses. Even with all the names that I was called. And all the body fluids that I had dripping off me. I would do it all over again. Holding the hand of a dying person and calming their fears as they take their last breath is a feeling like none other. Preforming CPR on someone and watching the life return to them is a rush that no drug could ever give me. Having someone call me an angel and give me a hug and thank me for helping them cannot be replaced with all the flowers and candy in the world.
I am glad I became a nurse. I am proud to be a nurse!
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