Modified from the original version of this post that I wrote before I was a nurse. On becoming a nurse, I was given the assignment of writing an exemplar of why I became a nurse. Although this post is the first of the posts on this blog, in which I was just starting my journey towards becoming a nurse, I have recently modified it to the current time (2015), in which I’m practicing as a nurse. It’s a better version, because after 6 years I’m a better writer. So, here you go:
It was a typical hot and humid Florida summer, back in 1992. I was 13 years old and had just finished reading the story of Helen Keller. I remember feeling so inspired by Helen’s story as I tried to imagine how any person could learn to live and excel in a silent AND deaf world. I was so impacted by her story and especially impressed with Helen’s teacher Annie Sullivan and her enduring patience. That’s when I decided I wanted to be Annie Sullivan when I grew up. Since I didn’t have a computer, I wrote a letter to the American Foundation for the Blind asking them to send me a packet of information on their services and a braille card. I was determined to learn braille and sign language, and dreamed of someday teaching the blind and deaf. I had not a minute to waste on getting started on my new dream. It was a short phase I went through before I decided I was interested in nursing.
Later that same summer, I remember sitting in my mom’s mauve colored mini van as it was being rapidly washed by the mechanical arms of the car wash. The rainbow colored soap that spit out at our van smelled like bubble gum. I sat in the middle row, in a captain’s chair (because I was oldest and chose that over the back bench), indian style with an encyclopedia in my lap and my head in a paralyzed downward position. Only my eyes were moving from left to right as I read intently. It was a typical Friday afternoon. After our ritual visit to the car wash we would stop by Pappa John’s for pizza located right next door, and finally before heading home we would meander through Blockbuster fighting over which movie to get for “family movie night”. While my sisters and brother ewwwwwed and awwwwwwed over the multi-colored soap show and talked about which movie to rent, I sat reading about how to tie a tourniquet from one of the books of our brand new encyclopedia set. I was determined to read and learn all that I could about nursing, different diseases and first aid.That excited me more than the car wash, pizza or family movie night.
Sometimes I’m asked the question of why I wanted to pursue a degree in nursing, but I’m never really sure of a single defining or “aha” moment. It could be that summer I read Helen Keller’s story or the countless stories I could share with you about how I was raised in a home that fostered care and compassion for others and the less fortunate.
In the late 70’s my thin, tall, and curly brown haired Father who was fresh out of the Navy worked at his father’s automotive shop, R&J Automotive. He was newly married to my petite framed, long brown haired mother who wore bell bottoms, platforms and her hair split down the middle. They were young, in love and loved helping others. Right across the street from my Dad’s workplace stood Rosedale Nursing Home. While my Dad busily worked on fixing cars he would often look across the way from his open garage and see an elderly man sitting all alone in front of the nursing home. One day he was compelled to go over and strike up a conversation with this man. From that moment on he began a friendship with this elderly man named Howard. About once a month and on almost every holiday, my parents packed me and my siblings into the van for a visit with Howard. He had become apart of our family, our “adopted family”. My siblings and I were never thrilled to visit Howard if I’m going to be 100% transparent here. He lived in an old urine scented nursing home with other wheel chair bound elderly people. The ceilings were low, and when you weren’t smelling urine, the scent of school cafeteria food filled the air. It was a depressing and scary place to be, at the tender age of eight. Howard was a little scary too. He had a mostly bald head with a few stray hairs in the back and on the top. His eyes were wide with bushy unkept gray eyebrow hairs above them. His mouth was always stuck wide open with drool running out the sides. His head was slightly tilted to one side, his elbows bent and placed at his stomach and his wrists in a broken position angled downward. He smelled like he hadn’t been given a shower in a while. “Hi Howard? How are you today?” my dad would ask. He had a hard time speaking, but a discernible “good” would come from his vocal cords out of his open mouth. Then my dad would take the handkerchief from Howard’s shirt pocket and wipe the drool away. On Thanksgiving and Christmas my dad would feed him the usual turkey with gel-like gravy, a roll (the only good looking thing on the plate) and mashed potatoes. He would sip apple juice or milk through a straw, but most of it didn’t go in because he couldn’t close his mouth all the way. I still remember the smell of those meals. My brother, sisters and I would stand our distance but we were always polite and what my parents were teaching us during those times was invaluable. It meant the world to Howard to see us. Even though he had little control over his mouth and could never really close it, he still seemed to smile when we walked into his room.
Grandma Miller was another member of our “adopted family ”. She wasn’t our real/blood grandma, but rather someone my parents met and adopted into our family. She lived in a very small, neatly organized and poorly lit mobile home with low piled green carpet. I always enjoyed our visits with her during the week and special holidays. She made us laugh often. Her hearing aids would go off all the time and ring piercingly loud which always sent me and my siblings into wild laughter. She was always dressed nicely, hunched slightly, petite, and wore her wig almost perfectly. On occasion when her wig wasn’t perfectly in place, that would send us laughing and usually she had no clue that we were laughing at her because of her significant loss of hearing. I remember sitting on her couch one Easter Sunday when I was about 15, posing for a picture that she wanted to take of our family. She couldn’t figure out how to work her camera and ended up taking about 10 shots of her green carpeted floor. We laughed so hard we cried, because at that moment her hearing aid started ringing loudly again. She made us laugh. We made her laugh.
Then there was Keith Kay, the bag boy at the Albertson’s near our house. We always checked out in the line he was bagging. He would greet us with a “Hey kids. Hey Dona” and walk us out to our car to help my mom unload groceries. He never took the tip we offered (even though I don’t think we were supposed to offer). He was in his late 20’s, although he appeared to be much younger. He was a little shorter in stature with a short wide neck, stocky arms and legs, small low-set ears and a slightly pushed in nose. He wore oversized plastic glasses and a big watch. My mom explained that he had a disorder called downs syndrome, but that didn’t seem to bother him because he was the happiest person we knew. After several months of building a relationship with him through our short encounters, my mom invited him over for dinner. From that point on he became apart of our adopted family. He came over on Saturday’s to help my dad in the yard. We went off route on Sunday’s to pick him up for church. He spent Christmases and Easter’s with us and became like a second brother to me.
So, whenever I’m asked the question of why I want to be a nurse, I could trace it back to that summer in 1992 when I was inspired by the story of Helen Keller, or when I initiated my own nursing degree through the encyclopedia books I read. I could say that a big contributor to my decision was the family I was raised in and the lessons of love and giving my parents taught us. I could also say that I was born with nurse blood. I think all three factors play a huge role in where I am today.
Just like some are born musicians, athletes, artists or politicians, I was born nurse, with the blood type N+. I love and “get” the science of nursing. The human body and how it work….the physiology…intrigues me, and is something I continually desire to learn about.
In addition, I’m fascinated with pathophysiology and how medicine has evolved so much over time, in curing and treating different disease processes. It’s so complex and sort of like a puzzle with endless pieces that’s never finished.
I love the art of nursing, when I’m carefully and meticulously cleaning and then dressing a wound, with all the materials I need organized in front of me. Being able to gracefully care for those who are sick, and care for their family members is part of the art and science of nursing.
The psychology of nursing is something I love too. I understand the 60 year old demanding man, the one who’s is paralyzed from the neck down and is extremely meticulous, asking for the pillow to be moved this way and that, and never seems to be satisfied even after 30 minutes of re-situating. He’s not even nice about it either. He forgets to ask please and say thank you, and he carries a bitter tone in his voice and a sharp look on his face. I get him. At one point he was a busy entrepreneur who experienced much success. He bounced out of bed everyday without a thought about brushing his teeth, showering or combing his hair. He managed people. He ran his life, and now he doesn’t get a say in much of anything about his life, except how to organize the sheets under his body. His voice and words are his only source of control from this point on. He’s forced to rely on the hands and services of those around him. Even though at one point in the beginning of his new paralyzed life he may have felt bad for always asking for help, that has now faded with growing frustration and has switched to a rude and demanding demeanor. It’s not fair he has to rely on someone else for everything, when at one point in his life people relied on him.
Lastly, I love the collaborative aspect of nursing. I get to work with brilliant people. I work with nurses, doctors, PT, OT, ST, RT, social workers, nursing students, tech’s, housekeeping, patients and family members. I particularly love working with the hospitalists that take special time out of their day to explain pathophysiology to me, or let me listen in on their conversations with patients and family members. I learn so much, and I’m surrounded by many great and brilliant people. I never take that for granted!
The summer of 92’ was an inspirational summer for me no doubt, as I completed the book Helen Keller. That inspiration along with the wonderful model of love and compassion my parents demonstrated and taught me and my siblings, and the fact that I was born with N+ blood, was the perfect combination for my decision to become a nurse. There is not a day I regret my decision to choose this path because it’s what I’m passionate about, and it fulfills my long time dream. I’m honored to be in the position I’m in today, and honored to carry the title R.N.