Perspective: My Path to Nursing and Beyond
From failing science major to completion of a Master's in Nursing Education my path, like many nurses, has been in bits and pieces. Understanding those who empowered me along the way provides insight into who I want to be for others.
Back in 2000 I was a a failing science major. My ideal career at the time was a double major in Physics and Chemistry. In 1996, after failing even choir, the only words on my mind were "Academic Bankruptcy". Bouncing in and out of community centers for the next few years was basically my attempt at finding a path, but instead finding nothing but slowly mounting student debt.
Around 2000 I was dating a mediocre man who suggested I "just be a nurse". I didn't take him seriously because he had also told me to "just be a secretary like my mom" which pretty much showed me how much respect her had for her. A few months later I gave up on that relationship, earned some cash waitressing, and set off for a new city. $1000 in my pocket, a casual boyfriend to crash with while I looked for a studio, and no plan other than to work at a local restaurant.
I moved in January and by May that year I was itching to figure something out with school. I had several friends in the massage therapy so I went to the local technical college with that idea in mind. That was when my life changed completely.
"What other careers have you thought about?" mused the adviser.
"Well some have mentioned nursing." I stated matter of factually.
"Ok well then, how about that?"
Up until this point I was convinced the only way to gain a meaningful career, especially nursing, was through a four year college. However something about the ease of this adviser was all I needed. She informed me of the lottery process for the program, the two year completion, and the career opportunities afterwards. I felt like I was being handed a good movie that someone recommended. I took it home, watched it, and before I knew it was #109 on the waiting list for an ADN program.
While it took me about a year and a half to get into the program, this gave me time to build something I desperately needed, confidence. After repeated mediocre work and failings at the university level I was approaching my mid-twenties and didn't have much to show other than the ability to hold a waitressing job and maintain an apartment.
In that year and a half I grew to love my school. I mentored other students in my Natural (super beginner) Chemistry class and got my first A+ ever. I moved on to take microbiology, Anatomy and Physiology, and Spanish. Being able to take these classes at an easy pace, while maintaining my minimal lifestyle was great for me. I learned to be involved, joining Student Senate, and actively enjoying my classmates and classes.
By the time I started my ADN program I was already showing improved study skills, attention to detail, and proficiency. What I loved about the nursing program was the combination of science and humanity. Learning how patient's bodies were working, while at the same time getting to know them as people in clinical was mind-altering for me.
I remember my first clinical. I hated my instructor. She was the type of instructor that liked to talk about how wonderful of a nurse she was. Sufficed to say her and I did not get along. Being an more descriptive writer at the time we went round and round about my nursing journal. Where I expressed my days in poems and stories, she wanted a break-down of tasks and perceptions. I tailored my work to fit her needs and garnered a strong B, but what I remember despite that were my patients.
The clinical was at a LTC, as most first rotations are. We were expected to help with ADLs and later med passes. I learned not to get someone up before putting their TEDs on first, I learned which ear my patient could hear out of, and I knew exactly what time Price is Right was on. I was fortunate enough to get scheduled with the same resident for two weeks straight, which gave me time to really appreciate her.
On the third week my patient was given to another student, however one day she came and got me, nearly in tears. The patient wouldn't take her medications because of some intermittent confusion she was experiencing. When I approached the patient she was pill rolling her shirt and confusing her buttons with the medications. I stood behind her, as she was mostly blind, spoke into her good ear and explained what was going on. The student had waves of stress coming off of her and it seemed to have exacerbated the patients confusion. After a few quiet moments she took her medications and started to watch Price is Right.
I will never forget that sense of accomplishment in my life. While I felt bad for the student who had issues, I felt this was beginning to solidify the idea that I was on the right path.
Two semesters later I hit a wall I never expected. I was in a clinical focused on management. It was a cardiac unit and I was heavily engrossed in Student Senate, serving as President at the time. My world was spread pretty thin and the student group I was in was older and aggressive, however I hadn't realized this just yet.
In the 7th week of an eight week clinical my instructor pulled me aside and told me I wasn't safe to pass the clinical. She could tell I wasn't focused, didn't know my meds, and generally wasn't ready to move on. I was destroyed. After so much success and realization on my path, I was failing again. I remember telling my classmates that I would have to repeat the clinical, which meant I wouldn't be with them anymore. I cried like a baby in front of my class while unimpressed faces looked on. I felt broken.
However, this instructor assured me I just needed to focus and I would move on with grace. I took her word on that and also the comfort that I would have a different instructor and re-evaluated my priorities. I dropped back to a more manageable role in Senate, got a new job at a more prosperous restaurant allowing me to work mostly high volume weekends, and focused on what I could do better in this clinical.
Thankfully, my instructor couldn't have been more on point. Because of my prior experience in the clinical, and the fact that the new group of students I was with were younger and more team-oriented, I was able to serve as more of a mentor to the group. We worked together, studying medications, evaluating patients, and in the end I got another strong B. I went back to my previous instructor and thanked her for helping me get my head back together and on a better path.
The rest of went pretty normally. I was challenged by a clinical instructor known for flunking students based on confidence, and got a solid A from her. My last clinical was on cardiac and I knew I had found my love. The instructor was wonderful and taught me so much about patient care beyond the tasks. She taught me how simple tidying up in a room, or washing someone glasses could make a huge impact on that patient's day. I graduated in 2006 with a solid 3.1 GPA. It wasn't stellar, but it was an amazing achievement for me. I also managed through a bad roommate break-up that cost me $675 a month in rent for most of my last year in nursing school. I was proud.
I applied to two hospitals. One was a Magnet hospital in the metro area I lived. I quickly received a "thanks but no thanks" letter and moved on. Understanding my experience was an issue, I moved out of the area about forty minutes and applied at a small rural hospital. I quickly received an interview and offer, and began my orientation in January 2007.
2007 was a year of change and trust. I had met someone online in a video game that I had a crazy obsession for. An obsession so hard core that I actually scheduled myself 11p-7a so I would be available to participate in nightly online events. I moved from a house full of loving students and friends, to being isolated in a town of less than 10,000. The only entertainment I had during the night was my game or a trip to the 24 hour Wal-Mart. I gained 20 lbs on McDonald's and Pizza Hut. I was miserable. The job was interesting and I had some of my first profound patient-caregiver moments there, however managing the isolation and a long distance relationship was taking a large toll on my life. I knew I couldn't stay there, but I didn't know where to go.
It was then I made the second biggest move of my life. I left my home state, my family (I am an only child), and moved to Georgia. I applied at one hospital and within a few minutes of posting my application had a call for an interview. At the time I was still home, so I flew down between shifts, had an interview and was hired that day. A month later I moved, waited for orientation and began my life as a complex medical-surgical/cardiac nurse.
Thankfully by this time I knew what I wanted from my relationship and one year later we were married. Then came the itch to do more. I knew I loved nursing, however I knew my body and mind might not be built to do it forever. I casually mentioned to my husband about going back to school. He was completely supportive and I posted my applications to a local brick and mortar. After about three months of no response I moved on to evaluate online colleges. I had some experience with an online class in my ADN, and was skeptical the environment would work for me.
The first college I applied to was at a education fair held by my employer. Walden University happily took my application, however they never followed up. I would get more mailings from them in the subsequent years after starting with my current school, than I did when I was trying to get in.
I heard around work that there was a pairing with Grand Canyon University. Rumors of tuition discounts made me request information from them. Within 15 minutes of posting my online request I got a call. By the end of the week I was enrolled, and shortly there after I started my first RN-MSN class.
Midway through my undergrad classes I got pregnant. However, something in that was just perfect. I delivered my Emma approximately two weeks after completion of my undergraduate classes. It was the only time in my accelerated program where I could take an extended break from my classes. Two months later I was back in the groove and charging forward on my MSN-Ed classes.
Here I am now, less than six weeks from completion of my Master's and due with baby #2 in eight weeks. Timing once again seems to be on my side.
So what is the point of all this "here is your life" monologue? Perspective.
There were several points in my life where I had to look at conflict and failure in a different light. I had to focus on what I could change in the future, and not what I had done in the past. Among those conflicts were also people who made simple impressions on me that turned out huge outcomes. From an adviser who wasn't afraid to set me on a path I didn't see, to an instructor who knew that I needed a kick to move forward, to patients who taught me not to be afraid, there were influences in my life that to this day I don't even think know how influential they were on me.
So this brings me to my final point. Sometimes a simple action can have an amazing effect on a person. A comment, a statement on a forum, or an encouraging conversation can provide more to someone than you may ever be aware of.Last edit by Joe V on Jan 13, '15
34 y/o soon to be mother of two, currently in the final stages of completing her MSN-Ed. Passionate about creating a stable environment for nurses to facilitate a healthy balance between nursing and life.
Tait has '5' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'General Med/Surg, Complex Cardiac'. 39 Years Old; Joined Jul '07; Posts: 2,594; Likes: 5,051.Mar 11, '13"Sometimes a simple action can have an amazing effect on a person. A comment, a statement on a forum, or an encouraging conversation can provide more to someone than you may ever be aware of." Yes! I have often thought this, as well.Mar 12, '13tait---i loved your story. it was very uplifting and encouraging. i'll bet you're a wonderful mentor.Mar 12, '13Congratulations on finding your niche. You and I could trade places, haha. I'm looking at medical laboratory, and biomed equipment repair and later, sales, because I just want to work and not have to do nursing all day. I can relate to your first academic failure, because I am a natural at things like physics and chemistry and technology, but I failed to like nursing or motherhood very much at all. (I never had children and am quite happy staying away from marriage and child-rearing, lol.) I do think that nursing is another universe, compared to science and technology, and that a person who has very strong affinity for the one kind of thinking will not be content in that other universe.
Best wishes in your future endeavors! :-)Mar 12, '13Thank you for sharing your winding journey in life, Tait. Your story proves that it is never too late to bounce back from early stumbling blocks.
Congratulations on motherhood the second time around!Mar 12, '13Great thoughts. You're more thoughtful and engaged than a great many nurses.
That is a very good thing.Mar 12, '13Tait, that was amazing! I read the article literally thinking OMG; this sounds soo familiar. However, i thank you for sharing your journey with us. This will shed light when the road seems dark. Thank youMar 13, '13The road to me does seem dark right now. Reading your inspiring story gives me hope that there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you so much for that. And many good thoughts and wishes to you as you live out your "place in the world of nursing, marriage and motherhood!" I am sure you realize just how blessed you are. =)Mar 13, '13What an amazing life story! Thank you so much for sharing with us! I'm 2 months into my MSN-FNP program. It's an entry level Masters program that will lead to a family nurse practitioner specialty. I come from a Communication background, so this is a huge change for me and it's a little overwhelming. You're so inspirational and congratulations on everything and the new baby!Mar 14, '13Thank you for sharing your story Tait. This is exactly what I needed to hear to keep me pressing on, and to hope that one day I to shall see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes we often wonder how did I stumble upon this page, but God always know the appointed time. I am feeling broken and down just trying to get into nursing school, but a big thank you once again for you encouraging words and inspiration. Good Luck with everything and enjoy your two little bundles of joy.
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