Pre-nursing: A Love Story...
For every nursing student who has ever: Asked yourself, "Why am I still doing this?" Been accused of "doing it for the money." Initially avoided the career after being told it is "too hard." What career worth having is "easy?" Cannot wait to start saving lives and enrich your own.I do not yet have tear-jerking or moving story of my triumphs and experiences as a nurse--this is my account of my journey to find one. To this day, a very close family friend of mine still will not let me live it down that she caught me on tape at the age of 12 “telling the world” that I wanted to be a pediatrician. From junior high on, I carefully sifted through careers, attempting to find one that would satisfy all of my interests at once--the all encompassing position that would be the ultimate manifestation of my interests in fine arts and classical music, food, science, children, education, and helping others.
While I still have not quite found that particular position, in my search I did find something else: a career that provides a more holistic approach to caring for the human being--one that does not simply focus on the inner workings of human anatomy, but includes all the aspects involved in care-taking and healing, from family involvement, to mental health, and level of comfort. Nursing has come a long way from the predominately female occupation that was once undertaken by some for the primary purpose of finding an affluent medical doctor for a husband. It is a rare gem of a career that is sometimes bittersweet--not many other positions that are directly involved in the quality and maintenance of life are as under-valued and respected. Its difficulty is what makes it rewarding.
When asked what I wanted to do as a youngster, I would usually answer something that sounded fancy, difficult to pronounce, or something that would warrant shock value--botanist sounded complex, chef sounded eccentric, and pediatrician warranted the most respect (and you could immediately spot the “thought bubbles” with dollar signs in them floating above people’s heads). After all, Pediatrician, M.D sounded so much better than “pediatric nurse,” which is the specialty I am currently pursuing. The fear of saying nurse, even at a young age, stemmed from a lot of stigma surrounded nursing.
Being a nurse was and still somewhat is a very “cliché” profession for women to pursue and a sign of lack of masculinity in males, often looked at as a career for those who would never be able to cut it in medical school, a quick start occupation for those with no previous education, and rebound divorced and single moms looking to make money to raise their families. My own mother began to pursue a career in nursing as a second degree when I began junior high. My fascination with the career began then, but I ignored all thoughts of making it a career, telling myself that it would be much too difficult or that one nurse in the family is enough.
Like in many professions, level of respect is often associated with that of education/title. Doctor is to nurse as principal is to teacher, but for me, the same holds true--although no institution could run smoothly without a network of professionals, there are always those directly involved in impacting lives, often those who spend the most hands on time with people. One of the only things that ever assuaged my fears of being in a doctor’s office or hospital, was the friendly disposition of a nurse, or their ability to hold a casual conversation with patients, distracting you from your pain and treating you like an acquaintance rather than a body out of homeostasis and in need of treatment. The doctor was always masterful in their diagnoses and level of knowledge, but their jobs would not necessarily be threatened by lack of people skills. The nurses seem to have a masterful balance of medical application and a natural way with people that never failed to impress me.
In high school, as a requirement for my membership in the National Beta Club, I had to offer a certain amount of volunteer hours at the community nursing home. Our club spent hours with the members playing bingo, talking, eating, and laughing. I made a new friend, and spending time with her taught me information so valuable, I am sure no amount of education in nursing school will ever be able to match her wisdom. Simply spending time with her was therapy--for the both of us. Her husband had died, her children left her in the nursing home and never brought her grandchildren to visit her. She often told me how much I reminded her of her granddaughter and told my mother how lucky she was to have such a lovely daughter. She quizzed me on U.S history, telling me all of the wars and presidents she lived through and saddened me with all the depressing conditions she had been diagnosed with.
Here, I saw some of the less appealing sides of the profession--The nurses were condescending to her and treated her as if she was senile, communicating with her in a language of archaic, over enunciated child-speak--unprofessionals with long, fake, glued-on acrylic nails and mouths full of gum. “What in the world are they doing working as caretakers?” I kept asking myself.
Another visit to a geriatric hospital with a friend brought a similar experience. Nurses joking over the heads of patients about other patients, patients not being allowed to participate in their own care, ageism, and abuse. One day, I watched an elderly man sit quietly in a wheelchair as a nurse poured him grape soda with his lunch, to which he replied, “I asked you yesterday to please not give me anymore soda. I don’t like it. It makes my kidneys hurt.” The nurse shouted across the room to her friend, “You hear that Linda, it hurts his kidneys!” As they wheeled the man away, they began laughing with one another, joking about how the patient was the “husband” of another nurse and to let her deal with him. My mother would call me upset about her clinical rotations in a long term care facility where she worked with patients who were frantic upon being picked up and begged her not to drop them or “hurt” them “like the other nurses do.”
I wasn’t naïve enough to believe that all health-care workers were so unprofessional, but something told me that I had a certain amount of responsibility to change this. In today’s society, those who would make the best care-takers are afraid of the perceived challenge of doing the job. I myself got mixed reactions upon telling people my choice of being a nurse. Some replied, “You have a nursing aura about you--you’d make a good care-taker.” Others, “The money is great, go for it!” Or, “Wow--you don’t think it’s too hard?” The latter was the most prevalent. “Thank you,” “Any career sought after simply for money is time wasted,” and, “Every career comes with its challenges.” Were my replies.
My frustration came from the fact that people indeed were well aware of the level of difficulty involved in nursing, yet still did not respect it as much as other careers with similar pay and equal or even less of a demanding job description. The very reason I believe people do not highly respect it is the very reason it should be more valued--direct patient care and comfort is the ultimate goal of nursing. I am currently training to become a nurse’s aide, and the main job description is entirely patient-centered. You work for the patient and treat him/her as a person with needs, not simply a disease-ridden body, or complex diagnosis. Although nurses are trained professionals whose medical knowledge is similar to doctors, they do the majority of the “dirty” work, wearing down pair after pair of sneakers in the process.
Although I never found that “All-in-one career“ I thought would make me happy, I do not feel at all slighted or have a sense of having “settled” for something. Caring for people is a rewarding, humbling, and ever-evolving field that needs more specialties than there are currently available and has no room for pride or arrogance. Seeing people at their “worst” makes you better, and you will ultimately learn more from them than they will from you. I am anticipating that future patients will teach me what they couldn’t teach me in clinicals. It takes a special brand of human to apply patience, empathy, and grace to medical practices, and those human beings are nurses. Nursing school only refines their skill and gives them the formal training they need to do what comes naturally. My only hope is that I can one day earn the right to be ranked among the professionals before me that have already set such high standards.Last edit by Joe V on Aug 6, '12
Current child care provider, aspiring nurse w/ concentration/specialty in pediatrics.
sixela21 has '2' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Mental & Behavioral Health/Geriatrics'. From 'Atlanta, GA'; 24 Years Old; Joined Jan '12; Posts: 74; Likes: 72.1Aug 6, '12 by AnsumanaYou took the words right out of my heart. I feel the exact same way. Your message is a tear jerker but not the sympathy tear jerker type but with integrity and honor! I feel as if, if a person is going to go through nursing they should take it seriously when dealing with people and if everyone felt the same as you in the health care profession world, this world would be a much better place1Aug 6, '12 by sixela21You are absolutely right, and I agree. Unfortunately, nursing skill set would not necessarily make one better prepared for medical school in terms of credits already earned. You would have to go the traditional route =/...thank you for reading. =)1Aug 6, '12 by JenRNtoBeThis was truly moving, and so well-written! I myself have completed a CNA course last year. Mostly just to get my feet wet and to see if my passion to be a nurse was something I could do in reality. I have taken a year to think about it, and your post just sealed the envelope. Nursing IS for me. I have not been practicing as a CNA because as sad as it sounds, I can not afford to lose money, and I make more at my 2 retail jobs. I know the experiences would be extremely helpful, I just do not know how to schedule a third job in for myself as a single mom. Anyway... THANK YOU for this post, it was motivating and deeply touching.