2 posts in one day, don’t get to used to this…
I’m currently in the process of applying to summer nurse externships. This is my last summer off, I think I meet the basic qualifications, so why not apply. One of the applications requires some essays and one of the prompts is Why did you pick nursing as a profession? And I figured I might as well share my answer with other people because many people know that I love my field of study, but not many people know why. And more and more people are learning what kind of nurse I want to be, but many people don’t, and most people don’t know why… So here you go…
I picked nursing as my profession because I knew, for as long as I can remember, that I wanted to spend my life taking care of people. When I was a junior in high school, starting the college searching process, my dad wanted me to be an engineer. He would explain to me how all of these different types of engineering were a roundabout way of helping people, which is true, but it wasn’t what hit home for me. I wanted to do something with people. I wanted something I was passionate about. Eventually, one day he suggested nursing. At first, I was apprehensive, but the more we talked about it, the more excited I became. It was the profession that would allow me to do what I always wanted to do. I picked nursing because I wanted to spend my life taking care of people, or at least those were the words I would have given you as a senior in high school. Now, I would say I wanted to care for people at their most vulnerable.
Once I settled on a nursing and a school, the next question I was always asked was “what kind of nurse do you want to be?” And for the longest time I didn’t have an answer, but I thought I knew what I didn’t want to do. I swore that the one type of nurse I would never be was oncology or hospice. My grandpa died from cancer when I was in high school, and I was the emotional support of my mom during that time. I thought that being an oncology nurse would be too close to home. I thought that every patient I cared for I would not see that patient, but see my grandpa. I thought that with every terrified family member I encountered I would think of holding my mom while she wept, mourning the loss of her father.
For my junior year medical-surgical clinical I was placed at OSU James Cancer Center. Needless to say I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect. I anticipated that I would dread getting up for clinical and I would come home crying each week. That wasn’t what happened. I didn’t mind getting up at 5 am. I was excited to go to clinical! I would come home from the hospital exhilarated about my day. I would tell stories about my patients. To this day, a full year later I tell stories about the patients I cared for during spring semester 2015.
Example: The first time I did a blood draw on a real person was an older man who was rather burley, and his build combined with his disease made him what we call a “hard stick”. A hard stick is someone who nurses often have a hard time finding a vein to use to either start an IV or draw blood. But I successfully drew blood on this patient who was a “hard stick” according to other nurses. I remember my clinical instructor’s face – filled with pride (this particular semester was really hard for me, as I was coming off having failed a class and was doubting and questioning my decision of nursing school). My instructor had left the room while I was still situating the patient, and the wife had been in the room, watching the whole thing. She asked me if that was the first time I’d done it on a person (she’d clearly had experience as a nurse or with nursing students…). I answered her honestly, telling her that her husband was my first, and she told me I did a great job! There was something about this population of patient that I was able to be completely comfortable with a patient.
Prior to this experience I was leaning towards Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I had an opportunity to shadow in the NICU at Nationwide Children’s Hospital during my pediatric rotation and I absolutely loved it the experience. I loved the conversations I had with the nurses I encountered on the unit. I loved talking to the families, to the parents of these sick babies and seeing the nurse-patient relationships. There were a lot of things I liked about the NICU.
But I remember the moment I knew I wanted to be an oncology nurse. I was terrified by the thought, and the realization that I want to work with cancer patients for the foreseeable future, and probably the rest of my life. However, at the same time I was excited.
Oncology nursing, caring for people who are arguably one of the most vulnerable patient populations to work with. Most people in this world fear
cancer because to them cancer means death. But there is something beautiful about being with people as they face death. There is something beautiful about facing cancer. You suddenly realize the beauty of life, and the gift that each day is. Chronic pain is suddenly a thing. As a patient, going through chemotherapy, you are literally poisoning your body, getting it to fight against itself. You lose your hair, you’re weak, you’re throwing up, you can’t eat, you’re nauseous… etc. As a nurse, we attempt to do everything in our power to make patients as comfortable as possible in the worst times, but my favorite part of nursing is the opportunity we have to preserve and embrace the dignity of human life.
I had a patient who was a rather old man going home on hospice relatively soon (meaning he had been given less than 6 months to live). One of my tasks for the day with him was doing his bed bath. The previous week I had a patient who was younger and had a routine for her morning that involved her sitting in a shower chair at the sink and doing most of her bathing herself. I decided to do something similar with the old man who was my patient and when I got him in the bathroom he just took off his gown, being stark-butt naked, and he wasn’t phased by it. So I did what I had been taught in school to help preserve his dignity, by putting a towel over him once he sat down. Then I gave him a wash cloth with soap on it and he asked me what to do with it. I told him to start by washing his face. He spent twenty minutes just scrubbing his face. In that moment, I realized that this man has had someone bathing him for a long time, to the point where he didn’t know how to cleanse himself anymore. Yet, I had the opportunity to give him a little bit of his independence back, to show him a little more of his dignity. And that is the most beautiful gift, to be able to give patients as much of their dignity as you can. To care for people in their most vulnerable state is a gift, and not something to be done lightly. It is an opportunity that excites me. It’s largely a part of the reason I chose nursing.