I think I was about 25, working full-time @ a hotel & taking general liberal arts classes when I could when I decided it was time to get serious about going to college & getting a degree I could actually use. Had never worked in healthcare before.
I opened up the classifieds one Sunday & thought, "Mmmm...Nurses make a lot of money." After doing the initial research @ my college, I learned that the first step would be taking a CNA class. Took the class, decided since I had this CNA-thing that I should probably use it. But I absolutely positively did not want to work in a nursing home. I had a major fear of nursing homes being absolutely depressing places, that the residents must just be humiliated now that they can't even dress themselves, etc.
I was talking to a bartender about it one night & he said, "Well, you can come work at the place I work at, but I'm warning you, you're going to hate it!" Larry told me he was the maintenance engineer @ a center for mentally retarded people. He said the turnover for CNAs there was constant. But...it wasn't a nursing home.
When I went to pick up a job application there, there was a wooden sign permanently staked into the ground that said, "Now hiring for CNAs!" Not a good sign, I thought. I filled out the application & went through the interview process. I told the people interviewing me that I had absolutely no previous healthcare experience, that I was terrified of getting my first job in healthcare & I told them point blank that I did not intend on working @ this facility long at all because they had an absolutely terrible reputation. My friend Larry told me later that the ladies who interviewed me had decided to hire me on the spot.
This place puts you through 2 weeks of classes as orientation before they even let you see a resident there. Before I started working there, I think I'd probably seen about 5 mentally retarded people in my whole life. Once I got to my assigned unit, my co-workers just threw me to the wolves, which was exactly what I'd needed. My first day I had only 1 pt, a 1 yr old little boy, trach, feeding tube, non-verbal. I remember the first time I picked him up, I almost dropped him twice...every baby I'd ever held hugged my hip. This one's muscles were so rigid he was nearly flat as a board. I bawled my eyes out from the second the unit doors closed behind me once my shift was done until it was time for me to go to bed that night.
I cried that way every night for the first 2 weeks I worked there. I could not believe there were actually people in this world that physically & mentally disabled. I saw residents born with their arms on backwards, male & female genitalia, little boys & girls that would chew their own arms down to the bone, grown men & women that were no bigger than a 1 year old child, one resident with elephantitus, another with his nose literally turned inside out, near-drowning victims, shaken babies, fetal alcohol syndrome babies, crack babies...oh, my heart just broke. I remember thinking, "I thought there was a limit on how disfigured God could make somebody." And I could not, for the life of me, figure out why God would make people like this.
I remember one night my mom called me to see how my new job was going. I was in the middle of one of my crying rants & she asked me if I had a cold. I told her, no, it's just this job. I told her about some of the things I'd seen there & how sad it made it me. She said that maybe I should think about working somewhere else.
I don't know what made me stay. I think maybe I had something to prove because I'd heard so many horror stories about what it was like to work there. I'd met so many CNAs that had worked there at some time in their lives & almost all of them had the same thing to say: "Yeah, I worked there for a few months...they treat employees like garbage & the work is really hard..."
After I'd worked there for a few months & had fallen in love with a few of the residents, it kinda hit me: I'd gone into nursing for the money. Pure & simple. Never had a desire to help people, or take care of anyone. I went into it for purely selfish reasons. So maybe the reason God made people like this was to create compassion in people like me.
I had to leave that job to start nursing school nearly 2 years ago & I miss it so much. I miss the people I took care of. I was so good @ that job...certain residents would be assigned to my unit that nobody wanted to take care of that would only respond positively to me. I'm actually worried that I'm going to miss being a CNA once I become an RN.
So that's my story. I definitely think Developemental Disabilities is going to be my specialty, but I'm one of those that believes every nurse should work MedSurg for at least a year before going anywhere else, so that's my plan.