Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

Tomorrow I begin nursing school.  It's been a long, slightly bumpy road to get to this point, and right now I'm alternating between feeling ecstatic that this is really happening and being terrified that this is really happening, but mostly (as cheesy as it sounds) I just really can't wait to take what feels like a huge leap in the path that will lead me to the career I've dreamed about for a long time now.

As part of the application process, I was asked to write two essays, one about what I would do to make sure I was successful if I were selected for the program, and one about why I wanted to be a nurse in the first place.  This poor blog has been neglected for so long, and I don't foresee any likelihood of more regular posting anytime in the near future, so I think it's fitting that I intentionally leave it with a post about why I'm doing what I'm doing.  I know my girls will read this one day, and I'd like them to know what motivated me.

So, without further ado, here is my response to the question "Why are you pursuing a career as a nurse?"

I haven’t always wanted to be a nurse.  In fact, for as long as I can remember, my plan was always to be a teacher.  After graduating from high school, I enrolled at a junior college as an elementary education major and earned an Associate’s degree.  I even taught for two years at a private school.  However, I took some time off from school, got married, and started a family, and at that point, pursuing a career of any sort was put on hold.

And then I met Bonnie.

My oldest daughter was born in a teaching hospital.  Over the course of my 12-hour labor, I was checked on and tested by a variety of people, but aside from my obstetrician, only one stands out in my memory.  Bonnie was a nursing student shadowing one of the other nurses on duty that night.  As my contractions ebbed and flowed and she observed the nurse in action, we were able to chat.  She was a grandma who had decided to change course and go back to school, and she was just beginning her clinicals in labor & delivery.  She hadn’t had the opportunity to witness a birth yet, so she was extremely excited at the prospect.  She was very professional, and also very talkative.  In fact, Bonnie reminded me of some of the women I’d known at church while I was growing up – big, kind, cheerful, and very friendly and chatty – and I was happy to have her there to help distract me from the labor pains.  My husband enjoyed her company, too.  We were young first-time parents, and she kept us smiling and talking with stories about her children and grandchildren, and about how excited she was to become a nurse and how proud she was to be doing so at her age.

As my labor progressed, it became apparent that, although it would be close, the baby wasn’t going to arrive before it was time for Bonnie to leave for class, and she asked if we would mind if she contacted her instructor for permission to skip the lecture so she could be there for the birth.  I suppose some people would have been happy to have as few people as possible in the room while they were giving birth, but I welcomed her presence.  She was so warm and cheerful, and it made me feel so honored that, even though she had only met me that night, she was so excited for the birth of my baby.  It made me feel special.  She received permission to stay, and a little while later our daughter was born.  After exclaiming over the baby and giving us her heartfelt congratulations, and thanking us for allowing her to be a part of something so special, she slipped out and went back to school.

I only had a few hours with her, and it has nearly been thirteen years, but I will never forget her.

Bonnie’s enthusiasm for nursing stayed with me.  I remembered her when I was in the hospital giving birth to my second and then third child.  Both were born in hospitals that were not affiliated with universities, so I never had the opportunity to interact with other nursing students.  The nurses attending me were all very nice, but having a Bonnie there to distract me from the contractions would have been very welcome.

Once we decided our family was complete, I began to entertain the idea of going back to school.  I had always assumed that I would continue on with the elementary education degree, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that that wasn’t what I really wanted after all.  Around this time, my husband mentioned to me a story he’d heard about a woman who was trained as a doula and was using her skills to assist teen mothers before, during, and after their deliveries.  This struck a chord with me.  As I considered my options and thought about different career paths, the memory of Bonnie’s presence during my labor, combined with the emotional response I’d had to the story about the doula, helped me to realize that what I really wanted, more than anything else, was to be able to be that kind of presence for somebody else.  I wanted to follow in Bonnie’s footsteps and become a nurse, ideally a labor & delivery nurse.

As a mother of three active children, I have had many interactions with nurses.  From regular pediatric checkups to appointments when they were sick to the occasional ER visit, the nurses have been the first to greet us.  Their kindness and patience, their support and reassurance and encouragement: all those qualities have always impressed me.  I so admire nurses and all that they do.  More often than not, they are the ones who first greet the patients.  They are with them through the ups and downs of sickness and health.  They are there for the joys and the sadnesses, the losses and gains, the good news and bad.  And I have found that I want so badly to be a part of that, to be able to be that support and comfort, to hold someone’s hand, and breathe with them, and to give hugs and encouragement and a shoulder to cry on.

I started life with a desire to teach, but as my life has evolved, and my experiences and situations have shaped who I have become, I no longer have that same desire.  I still enjoy working with children, but now my desire and enthusiasm lies in nursing.  As cliché as it sounds, I want to help people, but even more than that, I want to simply be there for them.

I want to be somebody else’s Bonnie.
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