Via Kim over at Emergiblog, I learned about this nursing scholarship essay contest. All her talk about going back to school has inspired me. I'm a little pensive about it, though. The essay is a little personal. But I thought, what the hell? Y'all don't know me and it's $5000 we're talking about. Anyway, here goes and wish me luck.
Why I Chose Nursing
I went to nursing school on the advice of my case manager. At the time I was on welfare, having just left a physically abusive relationship with nothing but the clothes on my back, a suitcase and a diaper bag. When I enrolled in college, my 2 year old daughter and I lived in a transitional housing program for homeless families. I wanted to go to LPN school and get to work as soon as possible. My case manager, Carol, convinced me to stick it out and get my RN. “You can do it,” she told me, “and it’ll be worth it in the end.”
A few weeks into clinicals and I questioned if it really was worth it. There was so much work, and so much of it seemed pointless-nursing care plans? I just wanted a paycheck, but I kept my eye on the prize. After graduation, new nurses in my area made about $35,000 a year, unimaginable riches to someone who thought a night a McDonald’s was a big splurge.
I never pictured myself in nursing school. My mom was a nurse and I loved hearing about her job, but I didn’t think it was for me. When I was little, I wanted to be a medical examiner. Specifically, Quincy. I wanted to see what went on inside the human body and solve crimes with my trusty sidekick, Sam. Looking back, I can see I had all the makings of a good nurse: curiosity, intelligence, a love of science and a desire to do something useful and important with my life. I had just never thought about those qualities and nursing together.
I don’t think there was one defining moment that changed me and the way I felt about nursing, but by the time I graduated, I loved it. Maybe it was the way nursing school molded me. I learned to prioritize. I learned to think differently. I learned to speak up, pitch in and help out. I learned how to be a little more human, how to laugh and cry with people. I saw how much trust nurses inspire in people. I’d put on my blue and white student nurse’s uniform and suddenly people, sometimes much older than me, would say, “Nurse, what do you think?” It was a scary, but heady, feeling. Nursing school made me a better person. I was still a self absorbed twenty-something when I started. I was always late to clinicals. One morning, changing in the L&D locker room, my instructor confronted me. “When you’re late, it means someone else can’t go home.” After that, I was on time.
Nursing changed the way I think. It seemed like a drag, doing care plan after care plan. “We are never going to use these in the real world,” we’d complain. The same with the exam questions we’d get, written to emulate the NCLEX we’d soon be taking. “This isn’t reality!” But it shapes my thinking to this day, what’s best, what’s first, what’s most important. One day, a few weeks before graduation, I had a question for my instructor regarding whether or not to hold someone’s Maalox. In exasperation she looked at me and said, “You’ll be a graduate nurse in two weeks, make a decision!” I don’t know why she snapped at me, but 10 years later, when I’m overwhelmed and not sure what to do, I hear her voice in my head, “Make a decision!” and suddenly I stop spinning my wheels and find some clarity.
A couple years out of school, I ran into an old roommate. I told her I was a nurse and she said, “That’s so codependent.” She had this image, I guess, of women in white, bending straws and fluffing pillows. By now, I had a year of critical care under my belt and another year working at a Level I trauma center. I had seen people at their worst and at their best. I helped save lives. I wiped a lot of butts. Most of all, I learned what it takes to be a nurse. No, it’s not codependent at all. It’s the best job in the world.