What It Means to Me

One student's road from STNA, to LPN, and hopefully soon, to RN. And all the life that can happen in between. Nurses Announcements Archive Article


I spent years in grade school, drifting in and out of detentions and remedial classes. My mom breathed a visible sigh of relief when I graduated from high school with a 2 point something. At least I wasn't a high school dropout but not much else either. Overshadowed by my naturally gifted siblings that came before me, I merely existed. No confidence to speak of, immature, unreliable, no drive, no voice, and no direction.

A friend convinced to take the STNA course with her, she had come from a family of nurses and was on track to do the same. I literally did not know one nurse at the time. I started the course with hesitation and with perplexed interest that I actually enjoyed interacting with LTC patients during clinical. I picked up the skills needed to pass the STNA examination quickly and still I was hesitant. Nothing had ever come easy to me, not that I had ever worked much for anything before then.

My first job was in a typical SNF, too many patients, too little staff, too much management. I didn't even think of nursing school until I interacted with the floor nurses and wanted to do the things they were doing. Sure, my job was difficult, back breaking at times, and the demands were unrealistic. But I liked that for the first time in my life, in the midst of the dementia patients and the never ending call lights, I felt like I belonged.

I signed up for an LPN program through a vocational school at 19 with the same friend that I went to my STNA course with. My image on the first day of school was her graduating and me failing out the first quarter. To my shock, I didn't. I don't know if it's because I finally wanted it, or I finally found it, or both but I excelled. Eventually earning a 3.5 GPA, I graduated with my class, one year later, almost 21, and unknowingly almost 2 months pregnant.

Well that wasn't in the plans. I was in the denial phase as I studied the next two months for my NCLEX PN. Either the baby or the nerves caused me to puke in the bathroom before I walked through the doors that would decide, in my mind, if I was good enough. I don't even remember the test, it turned off at the minimum questions. The next 48 hours were gut wrenching until I saw the three letters on the computer screen that I never thought I would see. I was a nurse.

That was in 2008. The recession had hit, jobs were scarce, and nursing broke my heart for the first time. I went to job interview after job interview. Literally, it had to be at least 50 interviews where I hoped to cover my baby bump and pass as plump. Even after I had my baby, no luck. I had been out of school too long, there were too many nurses, not enough money, no one wanted me.

In early 2010, I decided to go on one last interview. By this time, I had interviewed in every LTC I had the slightest chance in. I told my husband that this was it, after this, I had to decide on another path. I was still working in an STNA role, a job I accepted after the birth of my son to keep food on the table. I went into this interview dejected, I flubbed it, bad. I was without direction, confidence, and without hope. I gathered my things, tears welling in my eyes, getting ready to go before the DON even stopped talking. I couldn't hear another rejection when the DON looked at me and said "A long time ago someone gave me a chance and now I am giving you one. There is something about you I like, you haven't given up on looking for a job and haven't felt you were too good to work as an aid while you were technically a nurse. So I am giving you a chance. Are you interested still?". I mustered back my tears and eagerly told her yes, quickly wrote down my first orientation date, thanked her (actually pretty sure I hugged her), and ran to my car. Like I did after so many of the other interviews, I cried the whole way home. But this time, it was because I had a chance.

It was rough, I made mistakes, I was unorganized, and I was dangerous at times. The DON stuck by me and made me prove to myself and to her that I was good enough to be a nurse. I had weekly meetings with her where I had to show her how I was keeping myself organized during med passes and how I was charting. She is the reason why I even made it all as a nurse, let alone at that job. A few years passed, I gained experience, and found my place again. I had a lot to learn but it turned out I wasn't half bad. I wasn't afraid to ask questions and I welcomed critiques. I grew into a woman, had confidence I had sorely been lacking my whole life, and I had built a reputation for myself as dependable employee. I literally was surprised at myself. I turned my sight to RN school, thought I might be crazy, but the girl who was lost and then found in nursing told me to try.

I signed up for a well-respected university that offered a bridge program for LPNs at a satellite location and started picking away at pre-requisites part-time. I gained more and more steam as I breezed through each semester. It wasn't without sacrifice, I missed time with my kids, my husband, and lost 30 lbs. in the stress of it all. I was poised to apply for my bridge program after two years of hard work when I gave birth to our third child 2 weeks before finals last winter and fell inside the black hole that is postpartum depression.

It hit me like a train. It rocked my family and reduced me to the girl with no direction I had once been. I returned to my job only to give my two weeks, withdrew my application to the bridge program, and enrolled in some easy online bachelor pre-requisite classes at the urging of my husband who couldn't bear to see me throw it all away after being so close. My family had to give my newborn son the love I just couldn't find at the time and I had to take every day, minute by minute. Every day felt like it had too many minutes then.

It took a village and some strong medications to get me back but I did crawl my way back. I took the summer off to bond with my baby, do some healing, and prep myself that I still had what it takes to finish my RN degree.

Now here I am, still licking my wounds a bit but otherwise back to normal. My sweet baby boy turns one today and his gummy smile erases most doubts I have about myself. I applied for my clinical seat two weeks ago and tried to sum up everything I am writing here in this article in a 340-word essay about what nursing means to me that accompanied my application. Everyone goes into nursing for different reasons, not one reason is better than the other in my eyes. It's a selfless job so whatever reason you are doing it for means your amazing just because.

What does nursing mean to me though? It means for the first time in my life, I never gave up and I never made excuses. I didn't take the easy way out, I didn't wait for something to come to me, I went after it. I have direction, a path, and laser focus. For the second time in my 28 years, I am truly proud of myself. I finished every class I have taken with a 4.0 and that still is mind boggling to me. I won't find out if I get in till May and as many of you know, it will feel like the world's longest wait.

Nursing has broken me and has seen my darkest days but hopefully will see my brightest when I get my acceptance letter and one-day walk across that graduation stage. Because of nursing, I am empathetic because I have been shown empathy by a DON who owed me nothing but gave me everything when I needed it the most. I have confidence because others have believed in me, I have drive because being a nurse has demanded it of me. I am kind because I have seen those who the world has be unkind too and I finally have a voice because so many have needed me too. This job, this career, this passion, it built me.That is what nursing means to me.

What an awesome story!!! You are a great writer.

I too struggled to get through after turning down a full scholarship to nursing school after graduating high school. I felt like a looser a year later and wished that I would never have made such a dumb mistake. But at 17, I just didnt want it that bad. I worked dead end jobs when I graduated college and realized that I had no career I was hurt. I was devastated when I got laid off from my receptionist job, but I knew I had to try again. I enrolled into a 10-Month LPN program and graduated with honors, but I was not satisfied. So i went to community colleges and completed all my pre-reqs with a final GPA of 3.85. I just recently applied to and was accepted to a RN program right near my job. I tested out of the first semester because I am a LPN and will be graduating 6/2017 hopefully. I never thought I would make it this far starting out as a CNA at 17 and then turning down nursing school to then going on and become a nurse. I will forever be grateful however for my struggles because I now know that this is what I REALLY WANT, i know that this mountain that I have been climbing will soon be the ground that I stand on. It is possible!!!

You go girl! This is very inspiring!

Specializes in Pediatrics, Emergency, Trauma.

Our paths to nursing reminds us why we choose to stay in this business.

Excellent article!

This is awesome and inspirational! Don't stop telling your story. Keep chasing your dreams. :nurse: