Gringo's Question

During my five years as a “hair stylist” (as I preferred to be called), I realized I loved interacting and talking with my clients but did not enjoy cutting and styling their hair. A friend of mine who was attending nursing school introduced me to the term ‘licensed vocational nurse’ (L.V.N.). Nurses Announcements Archive Article

Gringo's Question

The decision to further my education and become a Registered Nurse (R. N.) has affected my life in ways I would have never imagined. Twenty years ago, I did not have any aspirations of attending college. Like many others, I was not a particularly bad student; I just did not apply myself. When I learned of the Cosmetology program my high school offered to junior and senior students, I decided that was for me. I remember distinctly telling the counselor, "I have no plans of going to college. Becoming a beautician is how I am going to make a living."

During my five years as a "hair stylist" (as I preferred to be called), I realized I loved interacting and talking with my clients but did not enjoy cutting and styling their hair. A friend of mine who was attending nursing school introduced me to the term 'licensed vocational nurse' (L.V.N.).

Certainly only having to attend school for one year was tempting, but could I do that?

Could I be a nurse?

My mind raced back to a conversation I had with my grandmother when I was about five years old. My grandmother, nicknamed Gringo, owned and worked at a small nursing home located next to her house. During summer vacations, my cousins and I would chase each other in wheelchairs up and down the hallways of the nursing home. One day, Gringo asked me if I wanted to become a nurse when I grew up. "Sure," I replied nonchalantly, focusing instead on the Hoola-Hoop that for some reason would not stay on my pudgy hips no matter how much I gyrated.

"You know, sometimes older people can not control their bladder and bowels and they have accidents in their pants", Gringo said. Then she added softly, "One of the nurse's jobs is to clean them up."

"Gross! Forget it!" I squealed, horrified at the thought. Roughly, fifteen years after that conversation, my beloved grandmother was gone and I enrolled in a vocational nursing program.

Throughout my eighteen years of vocational nursing, I have worked in hospitals, public health, and a pediatrician's office. Hospital nursing has captured my heart. I think nurses have a remarkable gift- the ability to somehow mentally detach themselves from those they care for. For nurses, it became a necessary evil- a coping mechanism if you will. Occasionally, that well-oiled coping mechanism fails and the gift fades. During these brief but poignant moments, I feel myself becoming attached to a particular patient. I identify with them. They haunt me. Their faces are seared into my memory as if put there by a red-hot poker; the young father diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer; the grandmother with a failing heart who is not ready to die; and the innocent child with a fractured femur, an unfortunate victim of child abuse. I am grateful for these bittersweet memories; they are why I chose to become a nurse. I made a difference in their life and, in turn, they in mine.

While I respect my co-workers and value their expertise, I secretly get a little annoyed when some of the registered nurses ask my opinion and advice about their patients knowing their salary is significantly more than mine. I should only be annoyed with myself for waiting so long to return to school. Performing the duties of a nurse in an acute care facility and not receiving a higher salary is no longer acceptable to me. I crave financial compensation for my knowledge, experience, and critical thinking skills acquired during the last eighteen years as a vocational nurse.

The decision to obtain my Associate's Degree in Nursing had gradually been fermenting in my head. The first step in pursuing my degree was the hardest. Taking the college entrance test was a nightmare! I practically had an anxiety attack as I numbly gazed at the Geometry and math word problems. "How am I going use this in my current job at the hospital?" I panicked silently. Instantly, an image popped into my head. "I'm having chest pain!" my patient cried.

My cheerful reply was "Hmmm, I do not know what to do about that, BUT, did you know to obtain the area of a triangle you must multiply half of its base by its height?"

Then another image came to mind. "What were the results of Mr. Smith's radiology and laboratory tests?" the physician asked me. "Gee, I'm sorry Doctor, I do not know, HOWEVER, I do know if a train is going West at 55 miles per hour and another train is going East..."

I am happy to report that I am in my last semester of transition from a licensed nurse to registered nurse. I have learned like many others before me the reasons for taking classes with subject matters that you know you will never use again. The reason is simple: just to know you can. I look forward to my new title and the changes that new license will afford me.

Nursing is not for everyone. Some days I wonder if it is even for me. Unappreciative patients, impatient and demanding family members, and doctors with less than favorable attitudes are a daily occurrence. Long gone are the days of the nurse wearing a tidy little white hat and pristine uniform who instinctively follows every order just because it was written by a physician. We are independent thinkers who have mastered the art of caring for our patients physically, mentally and spiritually. We do touch lives daily. Sometimes it is a caring word or understanding nod, but mostly in ways that are unknown to the patient or the family members. We do so much behind the scenes. We are an integral part of the healthcare team. We recognize those subtle changes in vital signs and intervene before the patient goes into shock or we may act as our patient's advocate by discussing with the physician ways to resolve a particular concern or problem.

After countless days of grueling 12-hour shifts that stretch the workday into 14 or 15 hours, I have often walked through my door emotionally and physically exhausted and cried on my husband's shoulder. The frustration streams down my face as if cleansing my spirit, thus preparing me for another day. I hear my sweet grandmother's voice inside my head. Her question is simple.

"Do you want to be a nurse when you grow up?" she asks softly.

"Yes, Gringo, I do."

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that was so touching... Great article... Pls keep it up

omg thank you so much for sharing that story.

Specializes in OrthoRehab/Med-Surg.

Not only are you a wonderful nurse, but a gifted writer as well! Thank you, you touched me!

Fantastically touching story, mahalo nui loa (thank you very much) for sharing with us all!