By E’Louise Ondash, RN
Why did you become a nurse?
I’m a little embarrassed to reveal how I landed in the profession. While some people know from the time they can walk that they want to be a nurse, my decision was quick and, well, a bit frivolous.
I was a senior in high school and didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to do the following year. It was distressing; all of my classmates seemed to have their courses charted. Coming from a large family, I was reluctant to ask my parents to finance a college education when I was directionless.
Then my best friend announced she was going to attend nursing school. This was a complete surprise to me, as she had never mentioned it. The thought of a career in medicine had never appeared on my radar, but I began to think about it. Within a week, I had decided to give it a go – mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
Actually, I had given nursing a very quick glance just a few weeks before.
Another friend, in her last year of nursing school, came home for the weekend and I listened to her describe her life as a student. There were some hilarious stories, some serious ones and some downright scary ones. After she launched into a description of her first urinary catheterization, I couldn’t run away fast enough.
“Never!” I thought. “I will never be a nurse.”
I can’t say how I got from there to announcing that I would be taking the entrance exam for nursing school. My parents were more than surprised, but they supported me. “Besides,” they said, “it’s something that you can always fall back on.”
And so I have – many times.
By the way, my best friend left nursing school after our first year, but we remained close until her death a few years ago.
I thought about my path to and through nursing recently while reading “The Call of Nursing: Stories from the Front Lines of Health Care” by William B. Patrick. It contains the stories of 23 nurses told in the first person. Each nurse explains how he/she arrived at the profession’s door, and tells readers about his/her career, favorite patients, most memorable moments and what each has learned through the years.
One of the stories that stood out to me was by Rebecca Sweet, a hospice nurse in Albuquerque.
She writes that she knew from the time she was 6 years old that she wanted to be a nurse, but didn’t realize this goal until she was almost 60. She started a two-year RN program in her 20s, but dropped out. Sweet earned a master’s degree in English, a second bachelor’s in geography, and taught at a university. Then life came apart; her marriage failed, she drank too much and she fell into depression.
Sweet believes that, at this point, God called her to return to nursing.
She had a plan and stuck to it. Sweet first earned her CNA certificate, worked as a hospice aide, which she loved, then graduated from an LPN program. She worked in a jail, a retirement home and several other places before passing the NCLEX for her RN the day before her 60th birthday.
“That was probably the happiest day of my life,” she writes. Today, she coordinates care for hospice patients.
“When you are with people as they are dying,” Sweet writes, “you develop an honest connection with them that I think is pretty rare in our society… Our society focuses more on wealth, on talent, and on ownership of material possessions than on relationships. But hospice offers opportunity for deeper meaning.”
She adds, “That’s what nursing is all about.”
Why did you become a nurse? Do you think this was the right reason or have you changed your mind?
Tell us about it.
Monday, March 31, 2014
By E’Louise Ondash, RN