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Nurse's Notes--Should I Become A Nurse?

Updated on January 10, 2012

"I want you to--tell mama. All about it. And I'll make everything all right..." ~as sung by Etta James "Tell Mama"

We are less than one month into the new year, and already our newest team member, "the swear jar," is getting no respect. Filled to the brim with coins, dollars, and even a 5-dollar bill, (don't ask), the nurses have reneged on their promise to clean up the language. As a team, the swear jar has become the price they pay for being themselves--a toll if you will, that grants them permission to speak in ways that would make sailors blush.

"Ok, guys," I start, "Don't steal my idea, but if we change this to a pimp-slap jar, you can put me on auto-payroll deduction."

Laughter ensues.

"No, no. I'm serious. Hear me out. I think a pimp-slap should cost 20 dollars. And I truly believe 4 to 10 pimp-slaps to the right people per week would completely redeem the entire week. But there should be a cap on it. I'd go broke on pimp-slaps."

"Send administration an email, Shannon," the charge nurse responded after her giggling ended with her giving serious thought to my proposal.

I am a pre-recession nurse, but the economy has brought unprecedented interest in health-care careers. Nursing used to be the career almost no one wanted, ESPECIALLY after actually being hired and seeing what working as a nurse really means. In fact, when the job of "nursing" was first a thing, it was considered so menial and so degrading that it was done by prostitutes. Taking care of sick people was the punishment for the crime of selling sex, that's really what I just said. When I became a nurse, I received a sign-on bonus, and first year of completion bonus, and now the job-market for the same profession is saturated. It has somehow gone from the job most people never wanted to do, to a coveted career choice. I came home from work one day last week and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked exactly like one of the pirates of the Caribbean, minus the facial hair. I asked myself, "why the heck do I do this job?" Are you in between careers, or thumbing through college catalogues asking yourself, "should I become a nurse?"

My own experience: When someone asks me, "why did you become a nurse?" I almost always start stuttering. I usually want to say that an angel visited me at twilight and annointed me with 'the calling.' But in actuality, I was annointed by poverty. I liked the romantic idea of being a starving artist, but I have an extreme aversion to starvation. I had many dreams as a 19-year-old and still do. But even I, the reigning queen of denial, couldn't help but notice that I'd never seen any "Liberal Arts Enthusiast" or "English Literature Professor" jobs on Monster. I was a waitress in college, and completely happy to be one when I got the calling. Left to my own devices waitress/student/artist seemed like a perfectly sound plan for the rest of my life. My dad did not agree with this plan. He let's call it encouraged me to find a more reliable source of income. Though I'd argued that HE was my reliable source of income, he wanted me to able to fend for myself. A sign-on bonus I'd read in the paper, coupled with a bubble-headed girl I was acquainted with chatting about signing up for microbiology piqued my interest. I dug around. Science and logic contradicted everything I held dear--fantasy, unrealistic goals, impossible dreams--it was a very difficult time for me. But--sigh--I did know a lot of sick people, I've always been strong, and even though I didn't believe I was smart enough at the time, if a bubble-head could sign up for microbiology, I could probably do the same. With these facts I had the A-train momentum of--why not? Nursing could be my meantime job until "unrealistic dreamer" jobs posted online. I was all set.

I found the didactic of nursing to be demanding, but manageable. Nursing school is fast-paced, which is almost essential to those who learn the way I do. I hadn't expected to like what I was learning, especially since it was such a different direction than my previous studies. Having always been a groupie of truth in any form, I liked getting the facts about the body as best we understood them. I liked figuring out the problem.

Clinically, nursing was an entirely different animal. I was never much of a GPA tracker. I didn't mind not getting a 100 percent on a test, an unusual quality in a nursing student. I did, however, want to get 100 percent in taking care of patients--a vague distinction with no actual grade. An A+ clinically for me, at the time, and until this day, meant listening to the patients, careful work, detecting subtle changes, and assuring the person I would help them get better if there was anything I could do to make that happen. It did not mean having all the answers, especially as a student, but it did mean knowing where to find the best available answers. I still practice nursing exactly this way, eight years later.

What is Nursing? Nursing is real life on methamphetamine. I used to believe that I was already getting a hefty dose of real-life when I was working as a waitress--with all the single moms, the recovering drug addicts, the not-so-recovering addicts, the ex-convicts on the dish-line, the propositions to increase my pay working as an exotic dancer, as well as the fact that it took me so long to say 'no' to said propositions. Becoming a nurse made that look like going to church. I started nursing as a slightly naive small-town girl. One of my first patients in the ER was an older woman who asked me, "shouldn't you be skipping rope?" Today, I'd likely to tell her that if I brought a rope to work, I surely wouldn't use it to skip.

I am a nurse. I have no good boundaries. I believe your body belongs to me, that's just how I roll. If you're in my company for more than 2 minutes I WILL assess your veins. Nothing personal, I just need to know that I can get a line in you at a moment's notice, and then I can relax. You'll tell me at some point in our relationship that "you're not feeling well," and then you will confuse me for an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigations due to the line of questions I've got coming for you next. You'll say you have a headache, and I will start my assessment at brain anuerysm and work my way down from there. Again, nothing personal. You'll tell me that you haven't seen a doctor for a significant symptom you've had for a while....and I WILL judge you. You will tell me that think you might have an STD, and I won't.


Being a person that's honest to a disadvantage, I have been stunned by the amount of lying I've witnessed. Some of it has been very amusing once the dust settled. In one hospital I worked in, a patient had a friend who'd read a doctor's name tag and subsequently used that name to call revised doctors' orders to a new nurse on our unit for her friend, our patient. Our patient was morbidly obese, and despite the original order for her not to be fed for exploratory surgery for her own safety, she wanted a cheeseburger and morphine. She pulled it off, and those orders stood for a full shift before this FELONY had been uncovered. Liars annoy me, but even I had to slightly admire the evil ingenuity of what she'd done for a cheeseburger.

WE being us, took this in a stride. The nurses on my team at the time got shirts that said, "Trust Me I'm A Doctor" with Dr. Seuss on them, and the name of the doctor whose name was fraudulently used for patient care orders embroidered where a name tag would be. If you become a nurse, and you have no sense of humor, you will grow one, or change careers. Management might be a better fit, for instance.

I am a nurse. I have held hands, I have held legs, I have held my tongue. I have stood up for patients, I have stood up for other nurses, and I have stood up for myself. I have sat down and cried. I have zipped body bags--big and small. I have secrets. My coffin, or one of those creepy jars my mom has picked out for my entire family (don't ask), will not close easily for the amount of secrets that will go with me there. My day ends, and my neck hurts, or my feet hurt, or my brain hurts.

Why the Heck Do I do this job?:

"It's just plain tacky. Seriously," one of the nurses said this without disguising her disgust with the very idea.

The talk was heated, and the issue on the table was not a small one. We were all planning to attend the funeral of one of our own, one of of our best, Kathy, who'd lost her long and brutal battle with lymphoma. The topic dividing us as a team at this moment was whether or not to wear scrubs to the service to honor Kathy, or to wear normal attire. We had to do this as a team or not at all. We were divided pretty evenly on this one, with half of us believing this to be a tribute, and the other half believing it to be tacky and self-indulgent.

"We're calling attention to ourselves if we do that. I'm NOT going in to a church in scrubs. Won't happen," another nurse weighed in.

"I think it's Joe's call," was my contribution. Joe was Kathy's husband. He is also a nurse, and he would know what she would want.

"I'm gonna call her Dad," Ana offered, she being Kathy's best friend had already voted that we wear scrubs.

Ana returned later with the report that Kathy's choked up father had said that he would consider it a personal favor if we did. And with that we were all on the same page. For once.

And wear scrubs we did. We filled up the first few rows of the guest side of her church wearing our scrubs, and not fighting the tears. We watched her life and legacy on a big screen. The pictures we watched told the story of a caring, hard-working nurse, wife, and mother. We laughed at her bedazzled oxygen mask, and the picture of her twirling in her bone-marrow transplant gown. It was orange. I looked over in admiration and pride as nurses who took care of her in a few different hospitals stood up to make comments about how wonderful she was. Those nurses commuted as far as 90 minutes for her funeral. It was truly amazing. I laughed as Ana told all the attendees about how worried Kathy was that we might not come to her funeral for how annoying she was being while she was doing our chart audits when she could no longer do direct patient care. Patients she'd had showed up to pay their respects. We all cried a lot.

I do this job for the woman who comes in every month on the day her child was born to drop off a thank you gift for helping her have a baby after 10 years of fertility treatments. I do this job for the patient that looked up from her travel magazines right before she died and told me that I would go on to do something great. I explained to her that I was already doing something great. I do this job for the unforgettable three-year-old boy I met who made Leukemia look easy. I do this job because no matter how tired I am at the end of the day, I've done something meaningful before I go to sleep. So, should you become a nurse? In short, I'd say yes. But I'm biased.


Career Options in Nursing

LVN or LPN: Licensed Vocational Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse Diploma or Associates Degree

RN: Registered Nursing Diploma, ADN (Associates Degree Nurse) BSN Bachelor's of Science in Nursing

RNC: A registered nurse with certification of expertise in a specific medical specialty I.E. Obstetrics, Neonatal, Maternal Newborn

Advanced Practice in Nursing:

NP: Nurse Practitioner. Scope of practices ranges in different states. NP's choose a specialty, i.e. community health, women's health, pediatric etc. Master's Degree and certification

CNM: Certified Nurse Midwife. May do low-risk deliveries, home deliveries, and routine women's health screenings in most states. Master's Degree and certification.

CRNA: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. Provides surgical anesthesia, central lines, maintains airway, or provides airway when needed in CPR. Different scope of practice state-to-state, may function with minimal or direct supervision from an anesthesiologist. Usually independent or minimal supervision. Master's Degree and certification. Very intense post-baccalaureate program

*Options in Nursing also include teaching, administration, business management, and Information technology. Entrepreneurial opportunities abound in nursing. I have friends who own schools, laser hair removal facilities, lactation consultation centers, and nurses in my area have started and own hospitals.

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    • ahostagesituation profile imageAUTHOR

      SJ 

      6 years ago

      Alrighty, I all over this today. Sorry for the delay, life got a little bit lifey. I'm sending it!

      SJ

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 

      6 years ago from Summerland

      SJ - I would love to see what you've got about male nurses. I have about 10 guys in my class right now that might love to see that! Let me know if you don't mind sending it. colie_1385@yahoo.com. Thanks so much and hope all is well!

    • ahostagesituation profile imageAUTHOR

      SJ 

      6 years ago

      Sure! I can send it when I get home tomorrow. It's more for fun than info, but I'll see if I've got something useful as well.

    • profile image

      conrad 

      6 years ago

      conradthe3rd@hotmail.com any info is much appriciated sorry i cnt talk much now but send me that if you dont mind and thanks again you rock

    • ahostagesituation profile imageAUTHOR

      SJ 

      6 years ago

      Conrad, thanks for all you're about to do! Not to mention all you've already done in the trenches with no code button or team of trauma hands that can help you in the middle of emergency call. You'll do so great on nursing. I've got an awesome thing on male nurses, if you want to send me your email I can send it your way. Have a wonderful day, and thanks for reading!!

    • profile image

      conrad weiler 

      6 years ago

      i came across this while looking up things about nursing. i was an emt for eight years the past 4 years i have been one of your patients maby not direcctly but you know what i mean i decided to give up getting back at the EMT thing and now i want to be a male nurse thank all of you for what you do, you help people more than physically. thanks

    • ahostagesituation profile imageAUTHOR

      SJ 

      6 years ago

      Nell, so happy you stopped by!! Thanks so much. I'm responding to this from Guatemala, and after visiting some of the facilities here on my work assignment, I'm pretty sure I'll never utter another work complaint again. In the US we are on vacation compared to the work environment in some places here. I've talked to a few nurses here, and there's some universal language we speak. Thank you. Good nurses have helped turn things around for my family before, and I'm happy to try to pay that kind of effort forward at work now. etcha that nurse loved that you thought of her and brought in chocolates! How nice of you. I've tried to express how much it means when patients do that. It's the best. LOVE your comments, and thanks for stopping by! Much obliged. Cheers!

      --SJ

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi, I think anybody who goes into nursing are super heroes! lol! seriously! I think nurses are the most hard working people, with little thanks at the end of the day because when people are sick they never have a chance to say thank you. I remember when I went into hospital for my kidney there was a nurse there that I got really attached too in my dosed up state, she stayed with me through my op, after care and even brought me cups of tea, she was lovely, I will never forget that, and I think thats what makes us love nurses, you feel safe, and that I think is one of the most important things of the lot when you are in hospital, I even went back and bought her a box of chocolates! lol! great hub, nell

    • ahostagesituation profile imageAUTHOR

      SJ 

      6 years ago

      Oh Kitty, I KNOW you can keep up! You're a whiz, i can tell. Sorry for the delay in response, but my inspiring job's trying to get the best of me before I leave the country. How wonderful to learn from such a great nursing program, I think it makes a huge difference. You want to be a good nurse. Go straight in to labor and delivery, don't dilly dally in med-surg if that's not what you want. A lot of the nurses I knew who didn't go right into the specialty they wanted are still stuck in their original units! Hospitals tend to want to hire you in the specialty you're already in, and your "home" hospital tends to be reluctant to want to train you in a different specialty. It often backfires on them. A nurse will decide they want to try their hand at peds or OR or what have you; the hospital spends the money on the preceptorship, the nurse finds it isn't a good fit, and wants back on his or her original unit. It's tough to move around, especially these days. On your senior year see about working on (or even volunteering on) an L/D unit you like in your area. And journal when you can. You can't write enough. Thanks for stopping by and reading! Very happy for you, and I'm glad you're headed where you want to be!

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 

      6 years ago from Summerland

      To be totally honest, I was inspired to become a nurse when I delivered my baby. Simple as that. The nurse that was by my side the entire time was an amazing person and truly loved her job...and I wanted that...and I knew I could do that. AT the time, I had NO idea that this was the coveted job. I've spent a year and a half trying to get into St. Petersburg College and have finally gotten in to find out that it's one of the best nursing programs in the state of Florida. (Yay!) I've only been through my first week of school and am feeling great about it. While super fast-paced, I'm pretty darn sure that I can keep up...and it's definitely a good sign that everything the teachers say I am eating up with a spoon! Some other people in class fall asleep and I am wide-eyed and ready to hear more. I find you inspiring, SJ. Keep up the honesty and the kindness...voted up and awesome.

    • ahostagesituation profile imageAUTHOR

      SJ 

      6 years ago

      Ruby! So great to hear from you. Okay, thirty years...wow. You have way more stories to tell than me, how come you don't write more about nursing?? Where do you put it all? It's such a surreal experience in so many ways. As soon as I come to Jesus on this Skype-ing thing I have to do some interviews of nurses for a project. You should be one! Thank you for stopping by. Always love your comments.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This was a fun read and familiar..I spent thirty plus years in the field of nursing. For the most part, i loved it, but like you, had my bad day's. You are an excellent writer Shannon..I thoroughly enjoyed..Thank you..

    • ahostagesituation profile imageAUTHOR

      SJ 

      6 years ago

      James, I always appreciate your comments. And I think that's pretty much the crescendo that my life is, very funny, to very moving. I have talked for hours at a time to people who were otherwise strangers to me save the fact that we were both nurses. It's such a unique job--a centerpiece to my very unique life. This hub could have been 50,000 words, but you gotta stop somewhere right?

      That song is so profound to me. Applies to everyone who has ever made it past that gate where the unforgettable people are in my heart. Songs say what I can't, or they say it the way my spirit would say it if it could talk. I know I'm doing so much better with my co-worker's death because I can talk about it and even write about it now. I would just shut down before. She was a wonderful woman, read everything I wrote. She'd find things in what I'd written that I'd never seen. I don't know how she did that.

      Such a great song.

      Thanks for stopping by James.

    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 

      6 years ago from eastern North Dakota

      You do it every time, Ahostagesituation, I go from laughing to losing tears by reading your very funny to very, "very," moving hubs. I have always loved my nurses, and my teachers. I enjoyed the music too, and I really like your new profile picture. Keep up your outstanding work, Shannon (both nursing and hubbing) and I know you will. Thank you!

      James W. Nelson

    • ahostagesituation profile imageAUTHOR

      SJ 

      6 years ago

      Thank you very much for reading this! I absolutely think that all nurses have to take time out of all the chaos and figure out why they do what they do. I became a nurse by accident but it couldn't be a better fit for me. I am passionate, always have been and nursing brings it out more. Thank you for all the thought you put in your comment and for describing your background. Best to you in all you do!

    • thesingernurse profile image

      Tina Siuagan 

      6 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      I took up nursing in line with my parents' wishes. Having been so afraid to be branded as the ungrateful daughter, I gave in to their request (or was it a demand?) For the first two to three years of my study, I felt as if I am headed to nowhere. But when I was able to finish my BSN degree and became a registered nurse, I felt special. Special not because I have this RN bragging rights but because I was able to assimilate the true meaning of becoming a nurse professional. Nursing gives a person a chance to use his knowledge and abilities to comfort and even save someone. It's like a power given from up above. A power to promote wellness and positive change. But only a few are given such rare opportunity.

      Thank you for sharing such contemplative hub. It is also beautifully written. I think nurses should once in a while reflect on the true reasons of their venture to the nursing profession. It would be a great reminder of how much privileged one could be given the the one-of-a-kind opportunity to touch other people's lives, as a NURSE.

      You are a very caring and passionate nurse. You make me proud to be one. :D

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