I work on a pediatric oncology floor, that is, most of the kids I take care of have cancer. I have taken care of newborn babies all the way up to kids 21 years old. I guess that wouldn't make them a kid anymore now would it? :-) I also work with kids with blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia.
The typical day, well I work night shift mostly, so here's my typical night:
I get to work around 6:45pm, but we don't have to be here till 7pm. I like extra time to settle in and get ready, not have to rush. At 7pm we go into report. There is usually about 4-5 nurses who go into a room to listen to the previous shift tell about the patients. We do this by tape recording so the shift coming on can listen. It supposedly speeds things up. Report generally takes about 30 minutes depending on how many kids we have. I'm on a 16 bed unit. Right now, we have 16 kids so we're full. After report, I come out and get my med sheets to write down what medications my patients are on. Most of the time, I take care of 3 to 4 kids, usually 4. The remainder of the night is pretty much spent giving medicine (a lot of IV antibiotics), sometimes I have to give a patient a blood transfusion, or a platelet transfustion. Occasionally I'll have to give chemotherapy. I find many times it's been done on dayshift, but sometimes I have to do it. I had to become certified to give chemo, go through a course and have another nurse watch me several times when I gave it. It's a pretty serious ordeal, if it spills it could burn your skin and pregnant women can't give it due to the possibility that it could harm the baby. There's a lot of paperwork to do, notes to write on the patients as to how they're doing. That's the not so fun part. Then from 2-5am, we concentrate on drinking coffee to stay awake! In all, I love night shift. It's so much better than day shift. Not as busy, less people here. At 6am I go to tape report on my patients. Dayshift nurses get here by about 6:45. They listen to report for 30-45 minutes, when they come out I answer any questions they might have and then go home. In case you're wondering, I work 12 hour shifts. I usually either work all 3 of them in a row, or I work 2, off one, and then work the last one.
I started nursing school right out of high school. It took me 2 years to get my associate degree in nursing (ADN). I applied for a lot of scholarships and federal aid and was really blessed because my entire nursing education was paid for, books and everything. It depends on what your parents financial situation is as to how much federal aid you can get. The price of the school depends on where you go. I went to a private school, I believe the cost was about $2000 a semester. I lived at home during school also because there were no dorms.
Salary: I started out in August of 2002 making $17.05/hr. The hospital I am at pays an extra $10/hr on weekends, so that's nice. It's not bad starting pay.
Intangible rewards: You'd really have to work it to see. Having kids draw pictures for you, having them hug you and tell you that they love you, it's great. Despite the fact that most of my patients have terminal illnesses, they are so much more positive than adults it's incredible. Sometimes on slow nights the kids and their parents will stay up and we can talk for hours in their room. (That's a really slow night!) The rewards definitely make the job worth it!