Right now, there is a baby nurse who is searching online and deep inside for an answer. There is a brand new member of the profession who is questioning her calling. There is a newly-minted graduate who wonders how school seemed to teach her everything and nothing all at the same time. There is a greener-than-grass new hire who is praying that she doesn’t kill somebody at work tomorrow, and wonders if she already did yesterday.
Dearest baby nurse, don’t let this scary new world drag you down. You’re going to have moments when you are sitting on a toilet seat for far too long, probably for the first time in your entire shift, and question why you even decided to become a nurse in the first place. That’s okay.
You’re going to have days — many of them — when you plop down in your car after leaving work two hours later than anticipated; and you’re going to turn off the radio; and you’re going to roll down the windows; and you’re going to cry the most painful and ugly cry. That’s okay.
You’re going to have shifts where your head is spinning and your hands are shaking and your brain is thinking faster than your fingers can type. That’s okay.
You’re going to have moments when you clean more bodily fluids in one 12-hour day than an average person might in a lifetime. You’re going to feel that — sometimes — you’re the only person on the entire unit, because everyone around you is just as busy as you are. That’s okay.
You’re going to have times when patients yell at you for something you didn’t know (that perhaps you should have). They will complain about you to anyone that might listen. They may even become so frustrated with their care that they threaten to leave. And this is going to bother the hell out of you. That’s okay.
You’re gonna listen for 20 minutes and still not hear a damn murmur. That’s okay.
You’re going to have moments when you feel like something “just isn’t right” with the patient in your care. You won’t have enough experience as a frame of reference for what may be happening, or why. You’re probably going to feel helpless in these moments — it’s a “tip of the tongue” phenomenon to the highest degree. That’s okay.
You’re going to feel devastated the first time a veteran nurse yells at you — even more so when their reaction is for something nit-picky and non-essential. You’re going to mumble something unsavory about them under your breath. That’s okay.
You’re going to call a doctor to clarify an order, and she’s going to complain. She’s going to want answers, details, vital signs, and a picture of what is happening with your patient, and you’re going to word-vomit something that probably makes very little sense to an angry cardiologist at 3 a.m. That’s okay.
You’re going to walk into a room expecting to pass your morning medications and come to find your patient unresponsive. Maybe she’s stopped breathing. Perhaps she’s lost a pulse. Either way, you’re going to bring forward everything you learned in every class, clinical, and scenario — and forget how to do any of it. You’re going to scream for help. You’re going to look like a deer in headlights. And you’re going to wonder, “When the hell am I ever going to be able to be as good as they are?” That’s okay.
You’re going to lose that patient, on an unexpected shift, and in an unexpected way. You’re going to think it was your fault. You’re going to be riddled with guilt and feel ashamed of how you reacted. You’re going to replay that scenario in your head over and over again, and every time wonder why you didn’t see it coming. You can’t always see it coming. You can’t always be the hero. And that’s okay.
Because someday you will be.
Someday you’ll understand the subtleties and nuances that no one can teach you except for time Herself.
Someday you’ll be able to balance the full-fledged mountain emergencies with the miniature mole-hill ones.
Someday you’re going to address a patient or family member who is frustrated with a sense of firm yet compassionate care, and will know how to redirect their emotions.
Someday you will call a doctor, and she will thank you for keeping such a close eye on whatever concern you’ve already handled.
Someday you’re going to finally take a lunch break, and it will actually be during lunchtime.
Someday you’re going to do chest compressions or inject medications or ventilate a patient, and your paralyzing fear will be replaced by sheer adrenaline.
Someday, somebody is going to die on your watch — but whether it’s through blood, sweat, and heroics or a quiet and accepted end — you will have made a difference in the journey of that patient and his or her loved ones.
And while some days you may still feel like a hamster on a wheel, going through the motions just to stay afloat — someday you will realize that you are not the one sinking and needing to be saved. Rather, you’ve grown into a life raft for another baby nurse, insecure and unaware of all of her untapped potential.
Someday you will understand that the nursing profession is perhaps the hardest of them all, but in so many different ways, the most rewarding.
And someday you will stand up for yourself; stand up for your patients; and stand up to the barriers that impact your highest capacity to care — this day will remind you why you trudged through every tear, scream, and exasperated sigh.
So do not give up, baby nurse: new to the world in which nurses beget nurses; still questioning why nothing ever ends up like the texts books might have said. No matter how bad it feels — no matter how hard it seems — always turn to the nurses who can teach you that one can have a brilliant mind and a beautiful soul; one can be funny when things feel too serious; one can be tough as nails and still be softened by the circumstances; one can make mistakes and still maintain integrity. Stand your ground, baby nurse; ask questions; study hard; prioritize what matters; own up when you don’t know; and don’t let anyone beat you down — especially that little voice in your own head. If you allow yourself to do it, you’ll be amazed by how quickly a baby nurse can grow.
Lovingly cheering you on,
A Former Baby Nurse
Yesterday I moaned and complained about having to go to my Community Service Learning class (albeit it’s once a month) because I felt it was completely redundant and useless. No other nursing school starts placement in the community until second year, so why did we have to sit through this? Shouldn’t this just be inherent knowledge? I mean it’s pretty obvious we’re all caring, intuitive, and kind individuals going into a profession that is often taken for granted.
The truth is, no one in nursing school, healthcare aide programs, or even medical school teaches you the skills of compassion or empathy. How can they? I spent the whole class wondering why we were talking about this or the need to embrace diversity in the healthcare setting, seem’s like common sense, no? The answer to that is a big solid no, and I spent a long drive reflecting on some of the things i’ve come across whether on social media, in class, working with older adults, and even in a book i’m reading called ‘A Nurse’s Story’ by Tilda Shalof (I suggest this book to all!!! I have never laughed, cried, felt so overwhelmed by the job, and appreciated nurse’s as much as a should have prior to reading this).
There’s no memorization from a textbook on what to say to a patient who is dying, a script to cover how to hold the hand of a patient going through a violating and painful procedure on their own, or even a manual on how to console a family who just lost their loved one. There’s no instruction book on what to say to a patient who can’t bathe them self or when you’re cleaning them up after they defecated or threw up all over the place because they can’t control their bowel movements. How do you deal with a patient who is going through dementia and becomes aggressive with you or starts shouting or trying to place an IV into the restless, frightened and tired child who was kept up all night from being ill? Putting in the IV is textbook, anyone could do it with skill and practice but there’s no textbook on how to interact or console the young child. I don’t find learning the skills to be hard, I mean all we have to do is practice. Anatomy all I need to do is memorize and review. I find the hardest part of nursing to be learning to interact and converse with a patient. How during my own OSCE sitting with a standardized patient going through the early stages of dementia, all I could think about was “what the heck do I talk to you about, I don’t know anything about you and how to comfort you????”, rather than how do I conduct a Mental Status Exam or collect the patient’s blood pressure, O2 saturation, and TPR (temperature, pulse, and respirations).
On another aspect, I came across a picture on Facebook a few days ago of a scantily clad young woman passed out at a party that had defecated herself, while her fellow partygoers mocked her and uploaded pictures to social media. It was incredibly in-dignifying, sad, and messy seeing the young woman in such a vulnerable state. What was even more sickening were the comments of people judging her and making fun of her, it made me angry to see people be so inconsiderate, soulless and cruel. We’re humans, we all make mistakes and this woman while likely made a poor judgement call should never have had her mistake uploaded for the world to see. One thing that did strike me were the comments of fellow healthcare aide’s and professionals because like them my first reaction would have been to find materials to help clean her up, whether it be finding something to dispose of her “waste”, some wipes to helps clean her up, and a fresh set of clothes, as well as checking in on her vitals to make sure she was okay. Regardless of how “disgusting” it is to see human waste coming out of her body, she’s a young woman who deserves the right to her dignity and protection of her privacy. But again, it wasn’t until today that I really appreciated having a lecture on diversity and empathy because I realize those are things that cannot be taught whether it be in a classroom or textbook.
To be honest, it’s scary working in such close quarters with a patients and learning to interact with them, but it’s also incredibly rewarding at the same time when you finally find that grounding. I’m starting to feel more confident in my abilities and willingness to learn to skills and continue to become an empathetic, kind, and compassionate healthcare professional but I also know it’s going to be a work in progress. It’s not easy though to not judge someone or feel like you don’t owe someone something, after all we are all human at the end of the day. As our society becomes more diverse, it’s going to be interesting learning to interact with patients of all ages, sizes, occupations, creeds, and ethnicities. Regardless of whether I agree or not with someone who does not share the same values as me (ex. “White Supremacy”), they are still entitled to a duty of care and respect even if it means putting aside my own thoughts and feelings.
Looking back at my own “practical experiences”, my first shift working at a Senior Care agency with an older gentleman going through the terrible and irreversible condition of dementia was my first eye opening experience. I was told the individual would be pleasant although a bit stubborn, little did I understand how in an instant dementia could change a person’s demeanour in the blink of an eye. I walked in, introduced myself, and sat down to eat lunch with the man, and the first thing the man did was shout at me telling me how much he hated it being in assisted care and wanted to go back to bed. Trying to convince the man to stay in a calm manner, he began to use his wheelchair to return to his room where much to my dismay went to sleep calling me “mean” because I was trying to encourage him to take a few bits of his pudding to get some food into his body. To some this seems like it’s not a big deal, but to any healthcare provider, it’s hard to stay compassionate or kind in situations like this but we do it because we care regardless of whether or not the individual takes a liking to us.
It’s funny because I remember my first day at Western back in 2011 and being asked who wanted to be a doctor that over 300 out of the 340 kids raised their hands and out of this 200 wanted to work with kids. I realize to obtain my goal i’m going to have to work incredibly hard to compete with some of the best and brightest and I realize even when I get there my work will be incredibly hard, depressing, but also rewarding. Like I said in the beginning of my nursing school journey, I would be interested to see where four years will take me in terms of where my interests lie, and it’s already been one term and i’ve started to find my niche. I thought I would never make it to this point going through the personal struggles and self-doubt I encountered late last year, but 2017 has brought a new found confidence and stride in me and I am ready to face the challenges that sit in front of me. I’m doing all of this for me in the hopes that someday I can make a difference in the life’s of people going through what is often a vulnerable, frightening, and tumultuous period in their life.
I’m not sure i’m cut out to work with an older population. I really struggle to find the ability to connect with patients and find common ground. Along with being a labour and delivery nurse, I always thought for some reason geriatrics would be an area that would interest me, after all that is where most of the patient demographic will sit when I finally enter the world as an RN. But after spending weeks working with young kids whether it be in a community hockey program, helping out with a hockey tournament, or even interacting with the children of fellow friends, I have found a new interest in paediatrics and it makes me so excited at the possibility of getting placements in this area in future years. After years of convincing myself I didn’t like kids, I have a new found interest, curiosity, and passion with working with them. I remember growing up being fascinated at working at SickKids Hospital and entering those doors everyday as a doctor saving lives and eventually telling myself I wasn’t good enough to work in healthcare. But now, I found a renewed passion in it and I must say I can’t wait to see what the future holds, but I hope to work my way to getting into a NICU or PICU and helping the sickest of the sick hopefully be able to go home and grow up to be amazing individuals with all the potential in the world.
But in all honesty i’m incredibly proud to be part of a cohort of people looking to take care of others and for the most part striving to make a difference even though many people often take us for granted. Without these individuals putting aside their judgements and personal problems we would never have a healthcare system like the one we have now and for that I am incredibly proud of the people who put in many hours to take care of us and our loved ones as well as the hours of study and practice to become competent professionals.
For someone that came out of one of the toughest years of her life, I must say I am pretty proud of myself for pushing through. The struggle of feeling left down, unconfident in my abilities, and personal struggle led me to believe I wasn’t worthy of good things. That because of all my struggle I would be a failure and wouldn’t even make it through the first semester of nursing school. But I did it and I did damn fine. The nights I spent crying and very much struggling to stay focused and motivated paid off. I mean anatomy and physiology is a completely different story (ask anyone I swear!), I must say I have a renewed energy this year and I want the best for myself and my future.
Talking with one of my roommates this morning, I realize I need to set some resolutions for 2017. I’m tired of putting myself last. This year I vow to put myself first and I vow to become the best person I can possibly be. I want to do something for myself, so academically I want to maintain a 3.7 GPA or higher. Personally, I want to make decisions for myself and not be worried about what other people think using my own morals, values, feelings, and experiences. For fun, I want to learn French. It’s been three days of self-teaching myself, but I must say I am having a blast picking it up and hopefully my goal in the long-run is to become working proficient in allowing me to expand my horizons in either travel or even one day branching out into governance and policy making. Health wise, I want to eat more at home and luckily with the help of my other roommate pick up a healthy habit, which we’ve decided will be weekly yoga sessions.
Nursing school is hard. There is so much expectation and work placed on you, for someone that did degrees in health science and a master’s in ethics, nursing is a whole new level. It’s everything combined, ethics, science, arts, and skills building. But i’m taking it one day at a time, it’s all you can do really. I’m excited to be one step closer to writing the NCLEX-RN examination in 3.5 years and excited to become Megan Simpson, RN, BHSc, BScN, MA. As many tears I may cry, as much bile, excrement, sweat, or any other bodily fluid I may find myself covered in, and as much doubt that I may inevitably find myself having at points in time, I know one thing is certain- I am going to make a positive impact on the world around me. Because no matter how hard my day is, i’m never going to forget the reason why I want to become a nurse.
When times get tough, the tough get going. While I still have my struggles and anxieties, I will conquer nursing school and I will kick ass. Time and time again I put myself in a position to believe I wasn’t capable or that I was on the wrong path, and you know what? I am on the right path.
So here’s to being 1/8th a registered nurse.
It’s only the beginning of working towards my career as a nurse. Oftentimes, I question whether i’m good enough to take on such a large responsibility. Whether I have the capacity to love and care endlessly for all the patients that will come into and out of my life. But then I think about the adrenaline rush I get from reading about treating illness, the mysteries behind disease, meeting new people with interesting stories, and the feel of wearing a uniform that’s well respected.
The first term of nursing school has been hard for many reasons. Going through a break up, working through change and loss, balancing all my commitments, battling depression again, and trying to figure out school again has been difficult. It’s been hard to stay focused and motivated. Fighting my depression again has been difficult. There’s just so much going on and I can’t sleep, eat, or even think straight. I spend my days a waking zombie just trying to make it to the end of the day when I can fall back into my bed and think maybe tomorrow will be better. It’s like groundhog day. There have been many nights where I question ‘why am I even here?’, I didn’t ask to be here, I didn’t ask to take on all these responsibilities and have to grow up, and I didn’t ask to battle depression for 10 years. I’m tired of it all. I’m so tired of thinking and trying to pretending to be happy. I know I have so much to be grateful for in my life, but sometimes (I know it’s selfish), it doesn’t feel like enough to make me want to continue on this path. There have been nights where I read stories of innocent and helpless people dying and I question, why not me? That I don’t want to continue to grow up anymore and it’d be so much easier just to not have to anymore. I would be free at last. But then there is a part of me that is scared of the after life, of where does our soul go when we die. Would I be punished and stuck permanently being unhappy and in limbo leaving on my own time rather than in divine time?
I try to remain positive and push through but it’s been incredibly overwhelming at times. Somedays are terrible, somedays are okay, and once in a while I have a day where I am so grateful for being here. Lately, I have questioned whether i’m to weak to push through all of this, the immense pressure I feel to get maintain a 3.7 GPA, balance work and volunteering, trying to keep up with classes and falling behind, balancing a social life, all while trying to learn to adult at the same time. To try to build the “perfect” life it seems everyone around me strives to achieve. I question if I can’t even handle these simple stressors, how can I handle a job that will oftentimes be stressful, frustrating, exhausting, and overwhelming. What if I get to the end of all of this and it turns out it isn’t even something I want anymore? What if I realize i’m not good enough to take on this job or that it’s not what I thought it would be like? I get scared thinking maybe the job I think I want is all an idea in my head. I try to think back to what made me want to get here. I was the kid growing up taking all the pamphlets from the pharmacy trying to understand “how to treat asthma”, “diabetes prevention”, and “what to do when you have severe migraines”. The kid that would go to the library every weekend and take out all the books on health because it made me excited to learn about the human body. The teen that left her program in her first term because I so badly wanted to be in a health program in hopes it would get me into nursing or even medical school when I was done. But that person that every time I passed a hospital my heart would light up because I knew it’s where I wanted to be one day. I try to focus on this and remember I am where I am because I chose to be here.
I know I should be proud of how far i’ve come and how hard i’ve worked to get here. I know there are so many others who would kill to be in my place in getting into a strong nursing school. That even getting into nursing school is a feat in itself. I recently found out over 1000 people applied to be where I am right now, and only 140 of us were selected because it was felt we possessed the skills, intelligence, and maturity to take on this challenge. I know I should be thankful, and I know over the past year the universe has given me many signs of what is to expect when I ask for signs, but I sometimes find it hard to trust my own intuition even though it’s never led me astray. I chose this path for a reason, because I want to be passionate about what I do and to pursue a dream i’ve longed to achieve since high school but never had the courage to do so. Largely because I thought I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to compete with the best and so I thought giving up my goal would help me find my happiness, instead it just made me more unhappy to know I was moving towards something I wasn’t passionate about, the typical 9-5 desk job.
Slowly, i’m finding my footing again. It’s been fun actually learning hands on knowledge. It makes me excited for next term when we actually get to begin learning and practicing nursing skills. What keeps me going is trying to make it to second year, to find the strength to finally get out into placement. I want to make a difference in the life of another person. I’ve been reminding myself that I knew that nursing school would be full of blood (hopefully my own), sweat, tears and failure, but that when I finish this tough program I would be so proud of my self for succeeding and pushing through. That after many years of hard work, I was always known to persevere in whatever I do just to know I stuck it to the man and proved people wrong.
Sometimes you just need to step back and take a moment for yourself.
There’s only two options to dealing with the stresses in your life, you either take them in head on and push through or you walk away. But the struggles you face today can be a stepping stone to building your strength for tomorrow, so keep fighting.
Live for the moment.
Show compassion to yourself and others.
Keep your chin up.