One question I commonly get from co-workers in my undergraduate position, my peers, and patients is "Why did you become a nurse?" Well, my answer isn't quite as simple as some people's might be. Sure, I have an innate desire to help people, but my passion for my career stems from something much deeper.
Having been hospitalized for tests, procedures and appointments, means I've had plenty of exposure to the health care system. I've had some amazing care over the years, but I've also had some that was extremely sub-par. I learned a lot about caring, compassion and empathy long before I immersed myself in nursing school and learned about these qualities.
There's one nurse that sticks out in my mind from the last 8 years of medical care I've received, and I attribute much of my passion for nursing to her, and her zest for life.
I remember sitting in one of my neurosurgeons offices after one of my many exhausting visits trying to figure out the root cause of my headaches, feeling completely defeated. Another appointment, and still no answers as to what was causing them. My doctors were stuck, they didn't know what else to try as at this point, I had done almost everything to try and get rid of these headaches. I was really struggling with chronic pain, anorexia, and depression at this point in time, and all I wanted were some answers.
I was starting to pick some of my things up and put my jacket back on when the nurse practitioner who worked with my neurosurgeon walked into the office and sat down next to me. I thought she was there to tell me something miraculous... they found the root cause of my headaches! They know what to do with me to get rid of this horrible pain! HORRAY! My mind was racing thinking of all the wonderful things she was going to tell me. Instead, Wendy grabbed my hand and looked me directly in the eyes as she said "Courtney, you have anorexia."
Those words hit me like a load of bricks. I felt breathless. It took me a minute to process what she was saying. I knew I had an eating disorder, so that wasn't a surprise to me when she "broke the news". What surprised me was, Wendy said the words that nobody had the courage to say before. She made my problems real. She recognized my silent cry for help. She realized that I needed validation, that I needed someone to bring me back to reality. All I remember at this point in time is my eyes filling up with tears, I started to cry. I felt relieved. Wendy sat there in complete silence as she stroked my back. She let me sit there until I could gather myself enough to say:
Wendy didn't do anything life saving, she didn't perform CPR, or give me a medication that would save my life. She didn't find anything abnormal in my neurological assessment. but she recognized the emotional pain I was experiencing, and that takes a special person. Wendy didn't medicalize me like so many people had in the past. I've seen my chart, with words like "anorexic", and "depressed" scrawled across the page. I didn't choose to have depression, I didn't choose to have anorexia. These illness are not me, they were part of me, but they did not define who I was. I was (and still am not) a diagnosis. I am a person with a diagnosis, and that's how Wendy saw me. She saw me as a young teenager who was terrified, and recognized that all I needed was someone to talk to. To her, I was a holistic being, I was so much more than a file number or a condition. I was a person. Who had feelings, who felt pain, and who just needed a little bit of validation.
It was after this encounter that I really realized that I wanted to be a nurse. I wanted to be someone that my patients could trust, I wanted to be someone that made a difference in the outcomes of an ill individual. I wanted to be a voice for those who couldn't speak up for themselves. Wendy saved my life, and I felt such a strong desire to reciprocate and give back to my community.
Now, I don't expect to have the same kind of experience in my future nursing career. All I expect of myself is that I put my scrubs on everyday and remember that my patients are people. I've seen it all too often... nurses are busy. They have heavy schedules, are caring for a number of very ill patients at one time. There are medications to give, dressings to be changed, patients to be re-positioned, new orders to be processed, admissions, discharges, deaths... the list of tasks that a nurse has on any given day is endless. There are days that I work that I don't even get to use the washroom in the 8 hours I'm there because I am so busy, but I will NEVER neglect my duty as a nurse to see my patients as holistic beings. I will never forget that they too, may just be looking for a little validation.
P.S. For any of my nursing friends reading this.... 199 days till graduation! Woo hoo!