In 1988, as a teenager in my first year of college, I still suffered from the crippling insecurities of adolescence. Although I always worked hard and made good grades, I sold myself short. Gina, my best friend and college roommate, chose nursing. Her mother was a nurse, so I figured that Gina was a natural fit for the profession. Day by day I observed Gina closely as she came home from school, deeply absorbed in her studies. Every week I looked forward to hearing her animated stories about caring for patients. As a student nurse, Gina was taking on so much responsibility and being challenged in so many ways- intellectually, emotionally, physically.
While I envied her, and a part of me wanted so badly to walk in her shoes, a little voice inside my head insisted I wasn't good enough. That little voice convinced me that there was no way I could give someone a shot...or clean up an incontinent patient, or, worst of all... deal with a patient dying. So, I decided to earn a degree in business administration.
In college I had the opportunity to take a semester off to work full time as an intern at a technology firm, earning college credit plus a generous wage. The work was interesting, the money was good, and the employees I worked with were engaged. However despite the positive environment, during that semester it hit me: if I continued on the current path, I was very likely to have a "desk job" for the rest of my working life. Even if I were to find a career which allowed me to move around a bit, the goal of my work would likely be to make a company more profitable. While this may be exciting and motivating to many, it was depressing to me. I felt doomed, and realized I had to do something quickly to re-route my future. I needed to find a career which allowed me to work to benefit people, not corporations. A career rich with intrinsic rewards which would keep me motivated and interested, and actually wanting to go to work for the next 30 or 40 years.
By the last semester of college, armed with this realization, a little additional life experience and a lot more confidence, I decided that I was going to become a nurse. Nursing was exactly what I wanted to do, but didn't have guts to pursue until I was 21. I graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration, moved back to my home town, got a job, then went to a community college for four years, part time, to earn an Associate's Degree in Nursing.
From the minute I began the program, I knew I had made the right decision. For the first time ever, every class fascinated me. The "work" of patient care was more rewarding than any job I had ever had or could imagine having, and I realized that nursing was a dynamic, stimulating career. I couldn't wait to be a "real nurse". The four years of nursing school flew by.
Almost 20 years later, the learning continues and the rewards of the profession are endless. There have been plenty of bumps in the road, but none that have made me even consider taking another path. Instead, nursing has given me the opportunity to walk many different paths at the same time, and see new scenery every day. I have even learned to give shots, clean up poop, and deal with death. In fact, some of the most rewarding moments I've had as a nurse have been in the midst of very challenging or sad situations. Being able to find the rewards in these moments has been the key to my resiliency and is the main "skill" I try to teach my nursing students. I think this "skill" will probably benefit them more as nursing students and later as "real nurses", than any other skill.
Currently I work as a clinical instructor for new nursing students, a staff nurse in a Pediatric ER, and write periodically for Allnurses.com. I'm preparing to return to school to earn a PhD in Nursing. Every day that I go to "work", whether it is as a staff nurse or as an educator, I am humbled by the rewards of the profession I chose. Nursing truly is the greatest career in the world. And now I know that I'm good enough.