Andrea asks: I want to know why you decided on nursing as a career.
How timely of you to ask because it was twenty years ago when I walked into a level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for the first time as a RN…a brand-new RN. I walked into that unit with my cute little pink scrubs ready to start my new career as a nurse. I walked right into the admission of a baby born 13 weeks early who was merely minutes old. The nurse manager who interviewed and hired me earlier that month was sooo happy to see me because she wanted me to watch the team admit this baby. I confidently walk into the unit and approach the baby’s bedside to see a bunch of people surrounding a warming bed. As the manager introduces me, the staff opens the circle around the bed and I see what truly took my breath away…and scared the hell out of me. It was this itty-bitty baby who looked more like a frail, just hatched baby bird than a newborn baby. I gasped and took a step back from the bed just as the team closed rank around the bedside and continued to rescue and stabilize the baby. I wanted to be a nurse more than anything in the world and I really wanted to work in the NICU but what the hell had I got myself into I wondered?
Why did I choose this as my career?
First it goes back into the dark ages when I was a kid. I knew I wanted to be a nurse. Sciences, especially life sciences were what I did best and nursing as a career appealed because I would always have my hand in life sciences….who knew there was math in the picture too. LOL I seriously told one of my high school math teachers that I saw no reason why I had to learn this material because I had no intention of using it in my adult life…..I know he is somewhere laughing at me every time I mix and titrate a mcg/kg/min drip.
During that time the other motivation for me to choose nursing was I was in LOVE!!! You know, the kind of love where you practice writing your name and his together and yours with his last name. Yes, that kind. This love of mine was going to be a doctor and we both knew we were going to be married so it seemed only natural that I would go into nursing that way we could work together. :::::::::sigh::::::::: Well, Jeffrey Cox and I did not get married and the last time I checked, he is not a doctor.
Despite putting college on hold for a few years to “find myself” I still was determined that I would be a nurse. I finally got going on that in 1987 right after Holly was born. Like a lot of the fresh faced nursing students I encounter these days, I wanted to be a nurse in labor and delivery. I did try to keep an open mind as one professor advised me that nursing is a very broad field with many areas of specialty and sub-specialty and I might find something else I was drawn to. But as I worked through med-surg, ortho, gerontology, sub-acute, CCU, MSICU, Peds, PICU, OR, Psych, labor and post partum, I knew I wanted to keep my focus on maternal child. I enjoyed every portion of my nursing education and clinical rotations but in each one I realized that none of them really fit me except maternal child. I felt in order to be an EXCELLENT nurse which, IMHO, all patients should have, I should stick to the area I felt most passionate about. I was still determined that Labor was where I wanted to go, but after attending a delivery during that rotation with a completely unplanned negative outcome, I decided I should have a solid background in newborns, especially at risk newborns since I would be responsible for essentially two (or more) patients during that first and second stage of labor.
During school I worked part time as a tech and floated between post-partum, nursery, pedi and short term surgery where I worked only with the infertility specialists assisting them with egg retrievals and embryo transfers. The staff and the docs got to know me and when it came time to look for an RN position I was offered a NICU position. The staff knew me well, encouraged me all through nursing school and it seemed wanted me to stay on board with them as an RN.
Some places will not even consider hiring a new grad directly into a level III NICU. I got lucky I guess. I was especially fortunate that where I was hired they had in place a solid new grad program in the NICU with intensive one on one teaching for ten weeks followed by buddy support for several months. The NICU is a highly specialized area and such training I believe is essential.
Despite my first day fright of walking on the floor to watch an admission taking place of a 700 gram baby that would have easily fit into an adult’s hand, I thrived. It wasn’t two weeks later that I was caring for that same baby and following my preceptor’s instructions as I flipped her over with her ventilator tubing, multiple lines and monitoring devices attached to her tiny body. I still remember my preceptor leaning over and whispering in my ear to breathe…..I was so scared that first time that I was holding my breath for fear I would break that tiny, fragile body that weighed less than two pounds. My preceptor was afraid I would pass out from lack of oxygen.
As time went on, I loved the NICU and all the micropreemies more and more. I fit in perfectly with the tight community formed by the staff of RNs, RTs and neonatologists.I was thrilled with working with the families. Nursing is all about promoting health and one key aspect is patient teaching. Patient teaching in an adult nursing setting frustrated me because the majority of adult patients just were not receptive to the idea that their lifestyle brought them to the hospital and now they must change certain aspects of their lifestyle. But in the NICU setting I learned that new parents are virtually empty vessels so eager to be filled with the knowledge of how to care for their babies, so eager to touch them, hold them, feed them and understand preemie behavior and ultimately what to do when the long awaited discharge day arrived. This was the kind of patient teaching I loved. I found my passion!
Four years after I started in the NICU, I was offered a position in Labor but after much thought I declined. The NICU was my niche.
Over the years in my nursing practice I have encountered nurses from other specialties who confess that they could never work in the NICU because those tiny 1-2 lb babies were just too scary. I usually would grin and reply that I could never see myself where they worked at because those big people scared me too. Oh, there is one final reason for my choosing neonatology. At the risk of being too gross, it is the poop factor. It happens. Everyone does it and guess who cleans it up in a hospital setting? I figured if I have to I would rather do it on a patient a lot smaller than me.