I remember the exact moment I knew that I wanted to be a nurse. It was Career Day at my High School. Junior year, 1983. I walked into the building not knowing where to start, feeling completely overwhelmed with rows and rows of tables with feathered-out brochures displaying a variety of options and fields of study. There were smiling college recruiters promising success, and colorful poster displays showing happy, culturally diverse students hanging out at the Student Center, engaged in thoughtful discussion, books in hand. Many of the parents who attended this event seemed more excited than their offspring; each believed that their child was destined for greatness, hoping that at the very least, their child would exceed their own career choices.
It was during a mad rush of well-meaning parents, teenagers in tow, proceeding with focused determination to interrogate a recruiter from a nearby Ivy league university, that I was literally shoved into the corner of one table that was repeatedly being passed by, without even a second glance. (It is important to point out that back in the day, and by “day”, I mean, the 1980’s, there was a nursing shortage; it was not as popular of a career choice as it is now.) This table that I “found” had a sign that simply said: Be a Nurse. I remember thinking “OK, sign me up!” After all, I spent so much time in the school nurse’s office, she was on a first name basis with my parents; she always came through in the clutch when I needed a break from my classes and/or wanted to go home early. Call it fate, luck, or literally being pushed into a career; it was, as Oprah would say, my “Aha! moment“. I made the decision right then and there, and never looked back.
To this day it has been one of the best decisions of my life. It has been a job that has professionally sustained me for 29 years (and counting). But to be clear, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Yes, making the decision was easy; nursing school, not so much. The harsh reality of nursing was even harder. That first year after graduation was downright painful at times. As a new graduate nurse, you literally leave nursing school/college feeling on top of the world, thinking “I’ve got this!” (insert the laughing-out-loud with tears flying out of your eyes emoji here).
Then, you are “lucky” enough to get a job right out of college, working on the night shift, and your entire body, mind, and spirit are mercilessly handed to you on a silver platter (or bedpan, in this instance). You think that you are prepared to share your “gift” with those in need; heal the sick, save lives, cure cancer, maybe even meet a nice, handsome doctor (bring back that laughing emoji)…but soon, you realize that you are working with people who easily make Regina George from Mean Girls look like a Disney princess. Oh, and that handsome doctor is the one yelling, and hanging up on your for asking a “stupid” question. “Excuse me Dr. McDreamy, did you mean to order 500 mg of acetaminophen for a child that weighs 10 kgs”?
Yes, there have indeed been a few times (maybe more than a few) when I questioned “Whyyy am I doing this”? But here’s the thing, nursing is one of the best jobs in the world in my humble opinion. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Every time that I am asked what I “do” for a living, I am filled with complete pride when I say “I am a nurse“. For every challenging and painful shift, I have received tenfold in amazing moments. I have patients and families that will forever be engrained in my mind as my “favorite”. I have learned about compassion, courage, strength, empathy, hope, faith, and love almost every single day in the patients that I care for, and in the nurses who care for them. They are my colleagues. My friends. My brothers and sisters in healthcare. Yes, there are bullies, but they are small in comparison to the amazing nurse heroes that I have come to know and love. We share similar stories, and it connects us in the same way that brings sports teams to championships, and war heroes, solidarity.
So when you consider leaving your job as a nurse, and you will, it’s ok. We have all been “there”. To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, “nothing worth having comes easy”. Tomorrow is another day, and if you still feel that way, consider this: “If you don’t like where you are, move; you’re not a tree” (author unknown). Just don’t give up on nursing as a profession. Nursing is the gift that keeps on giving, there are so many different career paths that you can take; try them all if you so desire! Please don’t focus on the bad shifts; each shift is a lesson learned and presents you with opportunities for greatness, I promise you.
This article was published on Allnurses.com: