Becoming a Nurse the Hard Way

I bumped into an old boss the other day and he asked what I am doing with myself these days. I replied that I am a nurse, he smiled and said that he remembered me at 18 wanting to become a nurse and how everything got in my way to achieving my dream. He was so happy that I finally made it that I thought about my journey of how I got here, yet I still have a long way to go. Nurses Announcements Archive Article


Becoming a Nurse the Hard Way

My interest started at the age of 13 when my mother dropped me at the local ambulance station, gave me a pen and notebook and told me to go inside. I became a St John Ambulance Cadet that night and learned how to stop a bleed with pressure and elevation. I never looked back, each skill had a meaning and I was fascinated to learn how to fix the human body within a First Aid context. I shunned the "Home Nursing" modules, they were for the girls, I wanted to learn about trauma!

When I was 17 I transferred to the Adult ranks of volunteers, yet had to wait before I could do the courses to ride the "cars". A friend told me about the Army Reserve, the medics can suture, give AB's and play with all sorts of cool stuff. I joined and loved it, another friend suggested becoming a nurse, I laughed but was intrigued. Nurses get to play with cool stuff, I must admit I had blinkers on even then, Emergency, was all I saw.

Finally, I got into a nursing programme at the local University, I was stoked! What more could a young bloke ask for, I was doing something I had worked hard for and I was surrounded by lots of girls! I finished the first Semester with passable grades, between the girls and Uni Bar I didn't study as well as I should have. As I started my second Semester my girlfriend told me that she was pregnant and we were getting married. I quit nursing to support my family because that's what you do, so I was told.

I got myself a series of dead-end jobs, cleaning, trolley collection, etc. Any work that would put food on my families plate. Fast forward 11 years and I was a security guard in a rough job, still using my first aid skills but usually, this meant knowing how to treat myself and my workmates in addition to teaching how to get blood stains out of uniforms. I was made redundant from that job when the contract came up and another tender won, so off to East Timor, I went. I worked security in Dili for 6 months before I was made redundant when the UN decided that East Timor was stabilized and didn't need any more help.

I came home realizing that I had to get something stable to support my wife and tribe of kids, I knew contract type work was not going to be reliable but also knew that I had to get some skills. I was still a medic in the Army Reserve and still loved the work and reconsidered doing nursing. The decision made, I went back to Uni while studying full time I had to work full time to support my family. Things went bad in my first year, I had a lecturer tell me that if I couldn't give the time to look up obscure stuff that was hidden due to her laziness I should give up Uni. Only the support of another lecturer got me to keep going.

Working and studying full time is taxing for the best of us, for me, it was sheer hell.

I didn't sleep much, my wife was miserable and my kids just saw a cranky man who came home to change clothes, sleep and sometimes eat. I thought it couldn't get worse, as usual, I was wrong, along came clinical placements. Working full-time with my placements, studying and working part-time in my other job, I had to drop to part-time in my paid job so I could sleep at times. Money got very tight, so did the expression on my wife's face. We stuck it out and I got my degree...finally!

You would think that this is the end of the story, you couldn't be further from the truth. I started a Grad programme, which meant on top of my work, I had education days, homework and a lot of accumulated stress from all of these sources. My first placement was not what I expected, lateral abuse from the senior nurses, (they were all senior to me) and a preceptor who still thinks that men don't belong in nursing. I came home from work after every shift wanting to tell my wife that I had stuffed up, nursing wasn't for me. I kept with it because of how hard I worked and more importantly, the sacrifices my family made for me to get there.

My next rotation was completely different, I worked with the greatest people you could imagine if I needed help or advice they were there. Social and professional support from the entire team was second to none, I just hated the work, long-term care in an acute setting was not what I was after. I came home physically and emotionally drained from looking after hypoxic brain injuries, strokes and others who would never get better. I still had the homework, filling in books to show that yes, I do know how to take obs and do know how to assess breath sounds. While I didn't want to quit, I knew that I wanted something different.

Finally, I got to the Emergency Department, I love it, the team, the work is what I wanted from nursing all those years ago. My job is perfect, I get annoyed like everyone, but this is my place. The moral of this story is that if nursing is for you, eventually you will get there, I climbed those hurdles, starting again in my early thirties because nursing is for me. The hurdles I think are just there to prove you really want to do something, if you want it enough you will get over or around any hurdle. Now all I have to do is convince the wife that I need my Post-Grad Diploma in Emergency Care...I might leave it for a while.

ED, Finaly got there!!!!; from AU. Specialty: Making the Pt laugh.

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I can soooo relate to getting it the hard way:)

Being the third of 5 kids; no money for me to go to school, heck, going to school was Never even mentioned by my mother; all she wanted was for me to get out

of her house.

Put myself through LVN school 30 years ago, never had the money though to go

back for my RN.

Here I am, all these years later, trying to Finally get it done and having to re-take my sciences is just devastating and as many on this wonderful forum

know, Micro is the absolute worst class I have because of the 'person' they've

got in the 'instructor's seat.

I have been so blessed to be a part of this forum because it has taught me that

there really are decent, caring people who will reach out and lend a helping hand.

I've got to try and get through this stupid class and then I will have all my pre-req's done, Again but that's just the beginning because I still have a problem

with not having an 'official' transcript from a school that was less than ethical(oh, if I had only known) but I am determined that I will not let that stop me.

I love nursing, love seeing the look in patients' eyes when they know you care about them and that's why I will not stop, either:)

Specializes in Med/Surg; aged care; OH&S.

I love reading things like this - this is who we need more of in nursing; motivated people who love their job!

I too can relate! I joined the Coast Guard right after high school so that I could get the money for school. It would be 3 1/2 years after joining that I made it to Health Services Tech school (our version of medics). Our school is only about 13 weeks long, so a lot of what we learn is OJT. I immediately loved it. HS's do a little of everything, pharmacy, lab, outpatient, admin, and supply. After 7 years I wanted more, so I decided to leave active duty and begin my path to nursing. The hardest thing to accept was that NONE of my military experience would be accepted as any type of credits. The other was how the good majority of schools in my area stamp a GPA on your forehead & that's all they see. They don't give those with experience to "battle" with the 4.0 students. Needless to say, 4 years after I started school (part-time), I made it into a program! (This school does an interview process). The program started this Jan, which means my first quarter is! I've been a little bored this quarter. Doesn't help that just a few months before school I was in a field medicine course where I learned how to do surgical crics & put in chest tubes (I'm still a CG reservist). Although I have to sometimes remind my brain that I'm not allowed to do certain things in the "civilian" world, I couldn't be happier. I can't wait to be a RN.

I applaud all those who are going to school while working period and those with kids. I'm fortunate to not have to work, don't have kids, and have a very supportive husband. I don't know how you guys do it, but you do. Currently my only worry is whether I may have to leave the program due to the possibility of my unit getting deployed. Thankfully the school is supportive and would allow me to return with the next class.

Thanks for the great story Twistedpupchaser and the inspiration to keep at it. And Afranklin, you can do it!! I loved micro and I still struggled with it (took it twice). Good luck! :)

wow, very nice story! thanks for sharing. I'm trying to get into nursing school, so this was very much needed. Congratulations on your accomplishments! You are a true role model.

Thanks, GCmedic:)!!!

" I couldn’t give the time to look up obscure stuff that was hidden due to her laziness I should give up Uni. Only the support of another lecturer got me to keep going."

Ah, yes, all too familiar. Their are definitely instructors that were so bad that they practically made me quit nursing school (kinda weird business practice after taking all my tuition money from me, huh?) But their were times that i would have quit if not for the support of other profs. Its interesting that the ones that were the nastiest were the ones that LOVE the theory and buracratic aspect of nursing and all the tedious crap that separates nurses from patient care but the Nicest and most supportive instructors have been the nurses with the CCU/ED type background..Thank god for them.

My earliest memory of fascination with all medical things is watching spinal surgery on TV at the age of 6 with my mom and loving it! I work full time off and on, been in nursing school for 6 years while doing this becasue the community college that i started at didnt disclose that their was a 2year waiting list for the clinical part til i was very far into my classes. I had to start as a sophmore when i transferred, even though i had 60 credits already, and I was an honor student with a 3.5. During this time, I have been sick off and on from not having health insurance, my dad got a MRSA infection following heart surgery, had to have 5 corrective operations and almost died, brother was shipped to Iraq twice, Grandmom died, ect. MY sister, brother I all give a signifigant portion of our crappy low wage income to my dad every month just so that he can pay the mortgage. But I actually stuck with nursing, even through long periods of time with out a day off, many times when all that i had in my pocket was 14$ for two weeks of groceries (peanut butter and jelly spagetti, lol) discouraging faculty members telling me all the time that since i am tired from this schedule and late at times with getting to school and papers, i am obviously not cut out to be a nurse.

Now that im about to graduate nursing school in 2 months, that light at the end of the tunnle is ever brighter. I feel like this journey was in a way a kind of spiritial "fasting from Life for 6yrs" I dont think i would have gotten through this if it wasnt what God meant for me to do. I cant believe how lucky I am to be able to soon do a job for the rest of my life that I LOVE. I hope to get into ED/CCU type areas soon to really develop those skills and then I would love to do some mission type work overseas somewhere.

Thanks so much for the encouragement. I could have never done this while supporting a family like you did. Kudos to you and your family!

OH, what a wonderful nurse you are going to be:)!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And, btw, I love PB&J and my hubby is the Spaghetti King:)

Specializes in Labor and Delivery.

I would like to thank you for sharing your experience. I start my clinicals this fall and I have had a few trials and tribulations along the way but, guess what nursing is in my heart and I will get there. My father use to tell me no pain no gain and that a quitter will never be successful we all are here to achieve not only a degree in Nursing but, a true love for other people and that is a 4.0 in the subject of being an unselfish person.

Specializes in home health, LTC, assisted living.

Can I ask what country you live in? I really enjoyed your post! :up:

Specializes in Making the Pt laugh..
luv2quilt said:
Can I ask what country you live in? I really enjoyed your post! :up:

I am Australian. I am glad that you guys enjoyed reading my post. My idea was to show students in particular that becoming a nurse may be hard but it is doable, even with the hurdles.

Specializes in Psychiatric, Detox/Rehab, Geriatrics.

Very nice story that you posted. Thanks!