What happens when we have to find a new dream? When we came to a fork in the road; chose our path; ran towards our destiny and hit a dead end? Nursing is career of passion and a commitment not only to ourselves but to those future faces waiting with a name and date of birth. We sample different floors and hospitals throughout our education and excitedly tell each other stories of what we saw that day. We may have started school with a specialty we're sure of, but then it happens. We have that day; our day; our epiphany moment where we choose our path. Maybe it happens during clinical, maybe it happens long after we've been at the first job we're offered. There is that moment where those are OUR patients and that is OUR specialty.
For me I was on a trauma unit for school; a far cry from the pediatric oncology unit I thought I would be on when I applied to school. My patient had crashed his motorcycle, had an MI, and a K+ of 6.8. We were bandaging his road rash while ortho discussed his broken bones and then we whisked him off to dialysis. I walked out of this step down and with wide eyes asked my instructor where these patients went when they were sicker.
From that moment on I was on the fast track to SICU. Those were my patients. That was my unit. Fast forward 8 months to multiple knee surgeries and a fleeting return to work where I couldn't lift "My patients". I couldn't handle "My unit". Obviously I could have been in far worse shape, but that wasn't the issue at hand. Where do we go from there?
How do we start over when we were so sure of what we loved? I talked to a friend recently who was leaving her dream unit and felt an enormous sense of fear and dread. There is a guilt we feel when we switch our path. That sense that we're giving up; abandoning the patients we once called "ours".
In the days that followed leaving behind my dream I talked to friends and coworkers and scoured the internet looking for my new passion. Repeatedly I was told to go to the NICU. " The patients are lighter and the cribs are higher" I was told time and again. I dug in my heels, because as trauma nurses we don't do cute and cuddly. There was a sense that I was turning my back on my people by even seeming interested in the idea. I spent weeks toying with jobs that I had no passion for, but would allow me to sit. Something I didn't enjoy, but would provide me the time to go to school while I figured it out; anything but working with babies.
Out of loyalty to my hospital I finally went upstairs to tour the NICU. I walked around arms crossed looking on respectfully. The first baby I saw was only 23 weeks old. As we continued to make the loop I saw hopeful parents sitting, waiting for news of an ounce gained. By the time I walked to the last decorated door, I was filled with questions for the nurse and a secret I was keeping from myself. A secret, that I may just be fully confessing now. I loved it. My head was spinning when I left.
How could I love this unit? This was the unit I had shy'd away from since I started school. Babies? Babies. I thought it would never be me. I was afraid to even hold them and yet there I was. And that's when it hit me. I am a nurse. We are not our units. We are not our specialties. We may love them dearly, and we may thrive in one environment over another, but we are nurses first and foremost. We see people in distress, no matter how small, and we want to help. We want to fix the situation, and we want to learn. We accept the challenge and charge ahead. Our abilities are not limited to what we already know, because we were work in a field with an endless number of possibilities that we should start taking advantage of.
While this story may be a bit autobiographical, it is meant to give hope to the other die hard specialty nurses out there whose circumstances may have changed. Whether you have to leave because of family, a big move, injury, or burnout, you are not alone and there is hope. This is not the end of the road, but an opportunity. The scariest dog is always guarding the door to the biggest prize. You will still find your way, because you my friend, are a nurse.