My stepmother, with my dad’s help working double shifts, enrolled in nursing school when I was about eight years old. I can remember many weekends spent in total boredom because she had to study or prepare for some upcoming exam. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything that required that much homework!
After she graduated, she took a job on the night shift at a university hospital, working in the NICU. The following summer, she took me to work with her for a few of her shifts (after manager approval, of course!). At 14, that’s when I decided nursing was for me.
Watching her study and become a nurse was one thing. Seeing it for my 14 year old self, well, you could say premature babies chose my career.
There were so many babies in the NICU. Many of them were very, very sick. Some of them had no family. Often, they were given up for adoption immediately after birth. Almost every one had something more than just “prematurity.” HIV, sepsis, you name it.
It was so sad for me to see all of those precious babies given no more human touch than what the VERY busy nurses could manage to give them before the next alarm sounded. I watched as those babies would start to “turn” for the worse. Then, a nurse would quickly “turn” that baby right back around using her skills, and more importantly, her instincts. I was amazed.
Gradually, I worked up the courage to start holding and rocking and feeding the babies that were well enough for it. I felt so important, all “scrubbed up” in my borrowed hospital property scrubs, with my paper gown and mask. I started to see just how much I was doing for those babies, by holding them and talking to them, and giving them the gift of touch.
Even my step-mom’s co-workers began asking when she would be bringing me back again. I was helping them by giving them that extra pair of hands; performing an “intervention” that they usually had to reserve for those “quiet nights.” And the nights I was there were never quiet.
I could tell that this group of nurses were doing what they loved. And by the end of that summer, I had a very clear understanding of what I was meant to do, too.
I want to be a nurse.
Reality is harder than the dream, but worth it
Unfortunately, life came first.
I didn’t graduate from nursing school until after I was married and had two children of my own.
Thankfully, my husband respected my dreams, and supported me through those VERY long days and nights of homework!
It paid off, and I graduated, with an award in pediatric nursing. My career path has led me to surgical oncology, but I never forget where my desire to help others started to grow.
I meet many of my patients on the worst day of their lives.
I know in my heart that my time in the NICU was a gift. Being a nurse is not necessarily about your skills. Often, the ability to provide compassion and comfort is what makes nurses who they are.
I wouldn’t choose any other job for myself, no matter the pay, the benefits, or the perks (can you say lunch break!? bathroom break!?). My greatest reward has always been the gift of the “thanks” I get from my patients.
And, oddly, the pride I hear in my children’s voices when they tell others, “My mom is a nurse.”