Today while taking it easy ~ no holiday shift for me ~ I have spent time thinking about where I am and how I got here. Who I am and what I want to be. I'd like to spend some time reflecting on how I became a nurse, first an LPN and then an RN and all that has led to where I am now. I know that it will take way more than one post so I hope you will perservere while I offer my spin on life and nursing.
I always wanted to be a nurse. There was something about it that spoke to my need to nurture and help people. I continued to want to be a nurse even while women burned their bra's and said "you don't have to be JUST a nurse or JUST a schoolteacher." Wow is THAT ever dating me! I never ever felt like JUST a nurse.
I remember always wanting to be like Mother Teresa, wanting to do something so big that it would save the world. It took years and years to be okay with just making a difference each day in someone's life. I'm good at that. I love nursing. That is what I do.
I was devastated when I thought last year that I would never do that again. I let stress and an inability to see my own needs get in my way...I had COPD and could just not go on in my position as a director of nursing in a LTC facility, no matter how much I loved it.
I went to nursing school straight out of high school. I went to an LPN program that ran 15 months straight, which is not being done today. I was totally unprepared. The hospital school of nursing that I went to began as a TB sanitarium. They still had a ward for patients with TB who had no place to go.
TB had been conquered and the hospital had moved on to cancer. Radical surgery and radical cases. My first patient was an elderly man and he was both OLD and CRANKY. When I found out that I had to wash his privates, I said this is not for me and quit. I had been thinking about it for a while because I had heard whispers that there was another man there with no arms and no legs and I finally SAW him. Oh no, not for me at all! That ended my parents hope for the first generation to advance in school; I just left.
The next couple of years were spent working as a receptionist, a donut maker and short order cook. Nothing made me feel like it could be my life work. I went back to the nursing school and made it this time. I found that I loved the challenge of making people feel and smell better. I say smell because cancer has a particular smell. In my early days of nursing we used to place oil of wintergreen in the rooms. That only made it worse. I can still "picture" the smell in my mind!
For the better part of 10 years I lived in a dormatory and worked in the "old san". It was a big "campus" with lots of outbuildings. We even had a seamstress who made us turn- of- the- century nursing uniforms for a celebration of Nurses Day.
The dorm life always invokes a smile when I think of it. My friends and I who worked the night shift would take off in the morning after work to go to the beach for the day; my evening shift friends and I would go to an all-night diner after they got out of work at 11pm. The laughs, the meals, the boys, the dates, the philosophical conversations! It was a memorable time for me.
I learned so many skills there. We autoclaved everything and I learned how to do treatments using a package of sterile products wrapped in a sterile (cloth) field. The instruments were not disposable and were returned each time to Central Supply for sterilizing. I learned how to talk with patients, be at ease with them, and make them at ease with me. The basics of what I would use in my future career were learned as an LPN.
In the middle of my years at the "sanitarium" as it was called in the community, I took 2 years and went to Phoenix to work and live. I worked at Good Samaritan Hospital and my future of working with patients who were dying was sealed. I will share that in my next post.