Growing up with the exposure of Nursing was everywhere during my younger life. My grandmother and aunt were already LPNs....either working in the the hospital or nursing homes back in the 1960's. My mother became an Aide and later a Tech in the hospital setting....mostly in the ER setting in an inner city hospital. She would come home and discuss with her mother and sister "shop talk".....the gun shot wounds, the MVA's, et cetera. My mother really enjoyed her work and the service she offered to her patients. She spoke of one trying situation when a terminal man was received after an MVA in the ER, his head laid open (with brain matter oozing out) and his dying in her arms....because my mother believed no one should die alone. She stayed with him to comfort him...to be at his side. She also spoke of the time when a man came into the ER to pepper the walls with bullets as everyone ducked for cover until he was apprehended. My mother loved the excitement. And despite the chaos, she loved providing care to others who needed it. So, my mother was a major influence to me....getting me to entertain the idea of Nursing as a possible field.
When I was in High School, I was also attending Vocational School in a Med Lab Assistant program....trying to get my feet wet in the medical environment. Nursing was still a possibilty at that time....but, I wished also to explore what else laid out there....so, Med Lab became an interest for awhile. I totally excelled in this program, later graduating with honors. However, it was during a field trip to a Ronald McDonald house (during the latter half of the program) that changed my mind back to Nursing. In the Ronald McDonald house, there were two twin boys, 2 years old, who had been terribly physically abused and were now MR as a result, who didn't even have the muscle strength now to sit up on their own. They sat on the floor in car seats to hold them upright in a sitting position to be amongst the other children....all who were staying there as a place to layover (in a home like environment) as they were getting medical treatment at a nearby hospital for their ailments. The house was ran and staffed by nurses and aides. There was alot of joy and sadness in that house. I wept afterward. I was changed. Nursing would be my calling....much due to my family's experience....but, also much due to this field trip. Med Lab seemed so meaningless and too cold/clinical afterward. But, how was I to pay for it....nursing school? High School was about over and I was from a very poor family....what avenues did I have? I had to think it thru.
During my last year in the Med Lab program, my main instructor was a Mrs. A. She lived and breathed Med Lab, an excellent instructor....I learned a great deal from her. But, what impressed me more was that she was a "life eater", seeking out and grabbing what opportunities laid out before her. This impressed me. Mrs. A was a 40'ish married woman of 2 young boys who didn't allow herself to become stagnant. She, herself, decided to join the Army to further her own learning and experiences....and she did....becoming a Captain right off the bat in the U.S. Army. Wow! Yeah, I was impressed. So, I began exploring the option of going military to pay for my future education. I couldn't pay for it. My family certainly couldn't pay for it. It seemed the option before me.
After taking some time to explore all the branches of service and their respective Reserve and Guard components, the Army National Guard presented the best package at THAT time regarding educational benefits. This was in 1979. So, on my 18th Birthday, I enlisted....with plans to go off to Boot Camp after graduating from High School. I did just that. After graduating from High School with Distinction and with Honors, I kissed my mother and family goodbye for awhile and jumped on the plane to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to begin basic training.
Culture shock was a mild way of putting things upon entering Boot Camp. But, I had already had an idea as to what it may be like. The Drill Sergeant making your life miserable as he/she molded you into the Army character....was a given. Many a time, his/her breath was upon my face, yelling to intimidate (as well as upon others) where I could swear I could either discrimate what he or she ate for breakfast that very day...if not dinner the previous evening . I took nothing personal....it was Boot Camp... I understood it....and molded as per expectation. Again, college was in the forefront of my mind. Soon, I found myself enjoying Boot Camp, to my surprise. The exercise, the training, the food, the folks I had come to know...were most excellent. But, what most impressed me though was one thing....our unit and how it came around to take care of itself during all of this ordeal. A guy by the last name "S" was our Gomer Pyle sort of character, always screwing up, getting the whole unit in trouble....which was not good. Many of us in the beginning blamed him for our misfortunes and headaches with the Drill Sergeants. When "S" screwed up, much I believe due to his being of a borderline intelligence (not his fault), the Drills came in like hungry wolves to devour him, then to devour us, with much gleem in their eyes. In the beginning, "S" had to take on not only the taunts of the Drills but also from his buddies. A couple of us guys decided to take "S" under our wing, to help him along, to take the brunt and taunts for him from time to time. Soon after, the rest of our little happy unit began following suit, to carry some of his load (not all, but some) so that all could live in more relative peace. Boot Camp was hard enough....so by all doing their part, we began to own our parts and each other more...which also entailed "S" duties "as needed". The change was almost overnight and was most profound, actually. Embracing "S" as unit kin instead as an outsider (with the hope of being kicked out) greatly impacted morale in a most positive manner. At Boot Camp graduation, we were very proud to have completed it, twas over....and we were especially proud of "S" completing along side of us.
Then, off to Advanced Individual Training or AIT....where I went from Missouri to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas to begin Medic Training. Loved Texas....AIT much more relaxed than Boot Camp...sort of like going to college in a way, but with a military framework. Loved the sight seeing. Loved the training...and the Army life. Loved the Riverwalk, the Zoo, the Lone Star Brewery, the museums. After completing my basic medic training there, I then went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky for advanced medic training...which in the Army was the equivalent as an LPN then...working and training in their old hospital, rotating from ER to OR and PACU to OB to Critical Care to MedSurg to Immunizations to Surgical Care to et cetera. Great experiences. From Sept (Boot Camp) till May (completion of advanced AIT), I had been away from home, but kept in touch via writing and phone calls....to let folks at home know that I was OK...and enjoying myself.
So, I returned home after all of this, thoroughly enjoying my previous experiences, and signed up for college at OSU, beginning my pre-nursing coursework in 1980. During my stint in the Army National Guard or ANG, I played the weekend warrior...becoming the chief medic along side our Physician Assistant or PA. We ran the Battalion Aid Station together, sharing duties with other medics there. I also became a platoon sergeant over time, perfoming my duties well. During my time in the ANG and my going to OSU in their nursing program, I also took on additional training in the military, earning several additional specialties. I remember one program that I enjoyed the best...an extensive program at Fort Campbell in Nuclear, Biological, Chemical training...my graduating with top honors in my class (1983). Also, during this year (1983), I received the Army Achievement Medal. And again in 1983, I also placed as being the top Guardsman in my entire state, being awarded honors by our then General who came out to present me with an award and to meet my father. 1983 was a very good year to reflect back upon.
In 1985, I graduated from OSU with my BSN (military paid for) and received my Honorable Discharge...coming out of the service with an E-6 rank. I was thinking at that time of course....hmmmm....should I re-enlist....now become an officer? But, at that time, my attentions were on my then fiance...who was also coming close to re-enlistment soon (Air Force Reserve), but was desiring to settle down instead. So, re-enlistment for me came to naught....and I chose to remain civilian to begin a new life after taking my RN board.
She and I married and then moved to Cleveland with the intent to go to Grad school together. We applied and began studies together at the U of A. I worked at the nearby hospital in various fields....Medical, Med-Surg, Rehab, Neuro, Oncology, Ortho, and IV therapy. I also began volunteering at a local community mental health agency since counseling was becoming my then interest. She and I graduated together in 1992...with my obtaining my MSEd in Counseling. This degree I paid for out of my own pocket. I later obtained a position in the community mental health center as a RN in their partial hosp program. Soon after, I obtained my counseling license as well....my LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor) after taking that board. So, I wore both hats for awhile....as a nurse and counselor. I ran treatment groups, provided individual counseling, gave staff and community inservices, supervised other counselors, and monitored patient medications.
A couple years later, the county where I lived (but did not work in as a psych nurse) was offering a limited scholarship for those folks who may be interested in obtaining their MSN in community behavioral health. A MSN totally paid for with the stipulation of only working in that county in one of their agencies for a couple years. I, of course, jumped on it. I attended U of A again....despite my wife's chagrin. In my wife's mind and of her family, a nurse is a nurse is a nurse....a waste of time. The sad thing about this was that they never truly knew or loved the profession like I or like others did. My own family, of course, was very supportive of the idea...and had a very good knowledge base of nursing. So, during the course of our second child, I attended Grad school again....as well as working full time to support my family...and building a new home along side my wife. I graduated with my MSN in 1997 with a GPA of 3.97 (MSEd and MSN GPA's combined), not owing a dime. I was elated. I paid my dues back to the county by working in one of their agencies...again, excelling at what I did. Now, time to stop and smell the roses in our new home and family of two children. I began work in inpatient psych again at our nearest hospital, close to home....becoming charge nurse on their mental health and detox floor. I flourished and enjoyed what I did....working both as a nurse and as a counselor.
However, in 2000, I became very depressed after the sudden death of my young colleague, 28 years old, a RN, just married, with a baby on the way, a true gentleman. He died of a massive coronary...falling dead before he hit the ground. I and the unit were devastated. I being the nurse that I was spent time helping my colleagues thru it....pushing away my own needs at the time. Then, another colleague almost died soon afterward from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm....supporting her, visiting her at the hospital. Then, my wife and two children were in a major car accident at the fault of my wife, my being called at work to come to the ER, seeing my family in agony and terror, on backboards, and I wept for the first time...with my youngest daughter, of 4 yrs of age then, having a severe spinal fracture...my having her life flighted to a trauma one hospital for better surgical options out of fear of paralysis....spending time with my daughter to help her thru this...to ease her fears. Then in a time of privacy (alone by myself outside, to smoke a cigarette out of worry over my family...and after a six year smoking abstinence), my mother-in-law happened to walk upon me, catching me with a cigarette in my hand and a couple of tears in my eyes, and then scolded me for it. I was a man...men don't cry. She then took it personally somehow about my smoking the cigarette because she had stopped smoking some time back herself...how could I be so uncaring to her own feelings for starting up again? Out of the blue, she told me, "@$*#% You, and @$*#% your feelings" and then stomped off. Yeah, my mother-in-law. She didn't seem to understand that it was my own family too in that accident...nor did she seem to care. At work, some time afterward, a patient suiciding on the floor, my finding him, my attempting to revive him to no avail until the paramedics came...he didn't make it. My then buddy at work, who assisted me, cried in my arms afterward for this terrible loss of life...my comforting him, my buddy. It was a nasty suicide. For me, this was my 10th patient suicide in my psych career...too many, too many. On top of all this, additional other folks (family and friends) were having other similar crises and losses. I felt spent, the structure of my life falling apart...people were dying or hurting badly...people I knew, people I loved...even strangers...and I died inside, aching from it all.
So, I became depressed and then more depressed....thinking, I'm a professional....I can handle it....I can pull myself out of it. But, I couldn't. My wife and her family thought it was selfish of me to mention it....so I didn't....so, I waited for help...pushing myself off. I suffered in my silence. As long as it didn't rock my wife's world, I was being "the man" that she and her family needed. When the pain became too great, I either hid myself in my bedroom or garage in attempt to get thru it....out of the eyes of my wife or her family...an embarrassment. A man is not to admit weakness or lack of strength in their eyes. So, I hid, I cried, wiped away my tears, and plastered the happy face on for them...until I could do it no more. I was miserable. When the pain became exceedingly great, I'd occasionally raise the topic with my wife in privacy...she would then stare at me in cold disbelievement and shame. Her words would often take on a harsh, dismissive, condescending tone. "There is nothing to be sad about...I and your kids are happy". So then, shame on me. I hid my depression from my own family as well....so that they would not worry. But, the nightmares and daymares were the worst....reliving it all (past...some past abuse of my own as a kid...and of the present....present deaths and near deaths of loved ones)....getting no rest, no comfort....sometimes, waking up crying, my face wet from tears, and often not having any memory as to what I had just dreamt. My PTSD, along with its resultant depression, felt like "my soul was caught between two pieces of sandpaper, grating it into nothingness."
I finally had had enough and sought counseling and treatment for myself. I did this, and on my own...to spare my families and out of love for my children (for Dad was miserable). This depression was so not me and was so unlike my personal character/baseline. My wife did not support me in my decision to go for treatment...refusing to be part of any of it, to understand it, or to be associated with it....and this cost me my marriage. Thru counseling, I was able to see the dynamics of my marriage and of her family....twas not good. I left the mental health field....because it was something I needed to do for myself during this time. I even gave up my counseling license, not wishing to return to it (although, quite good at what I did) and I placed my (psych) Clinical Nurse Specialist license on inactive. I began work at our hospital's Ortho-Neuro Med-Surg floor and loved it. Health and Living would entail and mean my being a little selfish on my part, putting some of my own needs first once again....my counselor was able to point this out to me originally...and I knew this on some deep level, but I was too paralyzed to act upon it at first...and that my staying in the marriage would have simply cost me my life....not out of my own selfishness...but out of the selfishness of my wife's/her own family's codependent need to live in a world of Rose Tinted Glasses in a fragile suburbia. For the sake of their own happiness, my living or dying held little consequence to them. What an awakening this was for me! I needed to see some hope again, folks living, not dying so much...especially at their own hand. I needed to see and live a genuine life once more. I needed a change.
So, we divorced, with my then wife and my preparing our two children as this being a positive thing for the adults...and all involved. My concern was that my kid's world would not be rocked in the slightest....other than Dad just not living there any more....but, all else remaining unchanged for them. I love my kids so...wishing nothing but the best for them always. I try to be a good Dad. I certainly tried being that good husband....I worked, I provided, I came home, I spent time with my kids in the studies and sports, I didn't fool around or drink or make my wife a sports widow. But, despite all that....I had to eventually come to the conclusion after the "true test of fire"...that she is not my mate and is unable to be one for me. What a true growth experience this has been. And yet, my own needs are quite simple really. Interesting to note, my nightmares and daymares totally stopped after moving out of the house. And shortly there after, the depression lifted and has not returned. I no longer have needed counseling since, nor have had any further need of medication to help me simply "get thru" it. I believe my experiences then were primarily PTSD mixed with depression. Like how the structures of my life crumbled, placing me at risk for great sadness...creating new life structures allowed me to recover from it. In many ways (as my post here indicates), I have always been my own man, paving my own way, putting realistic dreams into place. My message to men in this is simple...that we all have a limit...come to know your limit...there is no shame in this...and please, take care of yourself. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you. Sometimes, it takes a man to be human.
I disclose this purely because my experiences have shaped me as a person and as a nurse...as well as my career path. I recently relocated closer to my family because my parents are now older, requiring occasional assistance from their children. I try to be a good son to them....my never riding my parent's coat tails for handouts....this is how I show them too that I love and respect them. But, I did move closer to them if they should need me as I keep in contact with my kids. My family and friends honor me back in their love in their own ways. Being respectful, I never ask for it...for love is a thing that is freely given in the spirit that it is given in. Working now in a trauma level one teaching hospital, I am beginning to provide a way for my girls to enter college one day soon at this location (if that should be desired by them). And I enjoy what I do now...as a nurse, as a man. Always learning, always growing...I continue moving forward. Next year or two, I will begin exploring the Doctoral programs here at the University....not sure which yet...or if it will be Teaching versus Clinician or Both. Well, I have time.
As a Moderator of allnurses.com, I simply see my role as an additional way in giving back to my profession....a profession I strongly believe in. From my experiences as a nurse and as an ex-counselor, I would like to believe that I have offered much support and feedback to others here during my tenure...to our students, to our new grads, and to our seasoned nurses. You and I will continue to grow together as a people and as nurses on this board. I am proud to have played a small part in the creation of the Male Nursing forum (my request to staff when I was but a registered member) and in my actively creating the NAI forum, the Nurses & Recovery forum, and the Poetry/Song Lyric forum for our members. This board's founder, Brian, had a vision at one time...creating this board out of nothingness...and it has grown tremendously. I am very proud of him. And I continue to be very proud to be a witness and an active participant in its further growth. I also encourage all its members to use this board for what it is meant to be....a place to come together as nurses, to grow and share and support each other. Our jobs and profession are hard enough. If you are in the nursing profession and have not joined allnurses.com yet (lurking only until now as a non-member), I encourage you to come onboard in order to contribute your insights, your strengths, your wisdom as a member. Let's always extend a warm hand to each other in welcome as we all continue to grow here...as nurses, as peoples, regardless of race, creed, orientation, religion, work specialty, et cetera. We have alot to offer, you and I, to our profession, to the board, and to each other. One member can make a difference. I have seen it here...often.
Pilamaya (Thank You) and Mitakuye Oyasin (We are all family here) in Lakhota Indian.
My best to all,
Previously---> MSN, MSEd, RN, CNS, LPCC...but less is more...I sort of like my shorter version now
----> Thunderwolf MSN, MSED, RN
Future?----> PhD, RN, CNS (or NP)?...who knows?