The Short Version
I have been an RN a long time, done a lot of different things, and loved every minute of it even when I didn’t. I love helping new nurses realize their dream of becoming an RN. Here’s my story.
It all started for me one evening in the cafeteria of the hospital where I worked on the switchboard.
I was seated down table from some ED nurses who were talking about a code on a “frequent flyer” that was “called.” They kept on in this manner with all kinds of stories involving body parts and functions. Outwardly nonchalant, I strained to hear every word. My heart beat faster. Having worked on the switchboard, I was vaguely aware that fascinating medical things were happening all around me. I was primed. The fire inside was lit.
I wasn’t exactly sure what nurses did, but I was pretty sure it was fast paced and glamorous. I wanted in. In on the action and the excitement. I love helping/caring for people, and I knew it was for me. I didn’t know how to start pursuing my newly chosen profession, but I knew I had to get busy and quick, as I had a high school education, 3 small children, and a marriage with a fast approaching expiration date. Also a car with retreads, a 2 bdrm rental, and no family within 4 hours. Oh, and a big dog.
For me, the expedient thing to do was to get my LVN (LPN). As an LVN, I was able to pay the rent. (Ironically, by the time the meager child support I was awarded finally kicked in, I was finished with school and had my RN.) My by this time ex-husband steadfastly attempted to block my progress- often quite creatively. Once he snuck into my house and stole all my uniforms (except the ones he didn’t know were in the dryer). To this day I have no idea what he did with them. Another time he disabled some (apparently critical) wires in my car so I couldn’t get to class. That’s another post- but I include it because in one way, shape, or form, determination is something all nurses have in common.
Within 2 weeks of graduating with my LVN, I was back in class at community college completing pre-reqs for the RN program. I was accepted into the program, and for the next (oh, eternity) I attended clinic at 0700 or class at 0900, and worked from 1500 to 2330 as an LVN. Eat lunch out with the other RN students on class days? Never. I was always broke, always one flat tire away from financial disaster.
I love learning, and I love school, but it was tough. I cooked many meals stirring food in a pan, holding a toddler on the opposite hip, with a textbook propped up on the counter. Some nights I woke up dreaming about organic chemistry equations. Afternoon lectures were the worst-I often nodded off. Once I awakened to drool on my hand which was propping my head up. So, yes, I did achieve glamorous.
I had one babysitter for mornings before school, and another for evenings. I saved my sick days at school and work for when the kids had chicken pox or other such calamities. I always felt so guilty, and my heart broke a little every time I dropped them off . Whenever I doubted whether I was doing the right thing, I reminded myself that school was temporary and that I was teaching my children the value of education.
Finally the day came, and I graduated! I threw myself wholeheartedly into my new career as a new nurse. (Except, the first few weeks of my career were disastrous read- about how I was suspended.) Often I would skip lunch because what if I missed something exciting while I was off the floor? I focused on my new role and raising my kids, working Med-Surg, Tele, ICU and Ortho. I worked it all- nights, days, pms, 12 hrs, 8 hrs, rotating shifts, overtime, weekends, holidays- you know, the usual. After a few years, I was offered a job as Tele Manager. Quite likely because I was a gifted IV starter. Regardless, I naively jumped at the chance to get in over my head because I could be home weekends and evenings with my kids. I also returned to school for my BSN and MSN.
Despite the steep learning curve, I loved being Tele Manager and looked at my nursing staff (RNs, CNAs, Tele Techs) as my new patients. I loved helping them grow. I was forever presenting the bedside RN’s point of view to Admin for which they were forever grateful (snark alert). But being a manager in any field means politics. And if you’re not careful, you can end up soulless. After 10 years as Tele Manager (oh, and they threw GI Lab in there, too, because……wait, I’ve never figured out why) and some soul-searching, I returned to the bedside, occasionally doing Charge and House Supervisor (Sup). Bedside nursing let me touch patients again, Charge is yet another skill set, and House Sup is just fun. When you’re House Sup, the shift goes by lightning fast.
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Not the End
I went into Informatics for a couple of years when EMR started being a thing, and am currently a Nursing Professional Development (NPD) specialist in acute care. On the side, I write, and speak, and do career counseling. About Nurse Beth
I love acute care; new nurses; policy; nursing; learning, and teaching. Also babies and coffee and the smell of ocean.
Oh, and along the way, I happily remarried and we raise chickens.
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Until next time friend,
Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth career column at allnurses.com for all kinds of entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question Or visit me at bsntomsn.org and StaffGarden where I also blog. Buzzzzzz…I’m a busy little bee !