I am a native New Yorker and until 2000 lived in Brooklyn, New York for most of my life, aside from a few years in the 1980s when we lived in Florida. While growing up I loved to sing and write. I had a voice, or so I was often told, but I was encouraged to go to school.
My first attempt at college failed abysmally; I went to college for journalism but found the classes boring. So I went to work, married my teen sweetheart, enrolled in business management classes at the local community college (and found those even more boring), had two children, and then decided that to preserve my sanity, I had to go back to school. It was then that I thought maybe a career in nursing would work for me.
My mother was a nurse and it was evident that she enjoyed her work. So off to a community college associate degree program I went, but I got pregnant during my second year. Still, I was determined and this time I stayed in school, did my psychiatric and medical surgical rotations, had an emergency C section at 32 weeks, and returned to school the following week so I could complete the last week of clinical practicum, just barely able to walk and running a fever. The baby was discharged a week later and all was well. The following term, I graduated on time (in 1982). And I kept going to school for my BSN while working as a staff nurse on a medical surgical unit.
From the beginning, I loved nursing. What I didn’t love and still do not, were all the seemingly broken things that made my job harder than it should be and less fulfilling than it could be. What kinds of broken things you might wonder (but you will not wonder if you are a nurse!). Things like not having the right medication on hand for a patient, or not having enough linen, or having to escort a patient to radiology for an x-ray, or having to bring blood down to the lab. Or, having to deal with the occasional pompous ass physician about an inappropriately written prescription, needing to continuously question activity “orders,” having to advocate for REAL informed consent… All those kinds of things and then some. I learned early on that unless I was willing to use my voice (and not in a singing capacity!), I would not be able to remain in nursing. I couldn’t stand by and see things that shouldn’t be happening, and I couldn’t just take “doctor’s orders.” I was an advocate and a healer and I didn’t want to work in a system that wouldn’t let me be either one of those things. I wanted to provide competent and compassionate quality caring and I could not understand why it had to be so difficult to do it.
By the time I had worked as a staff nurse for a year, I was already thinking about leaving the profession of nursing. Two things deterred me. First, I had a great nurse educator for a leadership class in the baccalaureate program who said that the profession of nursing needed folks like me to be in it. Second, my husband said he absolutely, positively, would not help me with the kids if I changed careers one more time. Consequently, I stuck it out and found a niche in critical care nursing, where, for the most part, nurses were treated with respect and had much more autonomy over our practice. It was there that I began to learn about the sacrosanct nature of living-dying. It was there, while facing death just about every day, that I realized the enormous opportunity and yes, equally significant responsibility, that nurses have when caring for the dying and their loved ones. Later, I moved on to nursing supervisor and clinical specialty roles, and eventually, I migrated into nursing education, where I found I could combine all that I love about nursing with who I am as a person. No, I do not use my singing skill, but I do get to use my voice, by speaking, lecturing and writing.
As a nurse educator I am blessed many times over because I get to help students become nurses and I get to assist nurses to meet their career goals as advanced practice nurses, clinical leaders and scholars. Most importantly, I am able to keep a finger on the pulse of what helps me to continually renew and reaffirm my purpose as a nurse engaged in nursing. By teaching nurses about quality caring, I am making a difference in their ways of being in the world and I am contributing to quality caring in health care. Who could ask for more?
So, here I am, over thirty years later, with four degrees, all in nursing, and I am still LOVIN’ what I do (most of the time, anyway!).
A few personal tidbits: I am still married to my teen sweetheart, and I still sing, but only in the shower and garden…I have three grown children, and four grandchildren. We always have at least one cat and one dog but at this time we have two dogs and a cat and my house is full of animal fur. It keeps us warm in the winter and aggravated all summer.
I am a nature lover, an amateur lepidopterist and avid butterfly gardener. I follow the monarch migration each year and can be found in Cape May every fall tracking through the area at dusk to find their roosts and getting up at dawn to watch the monarchs awaken. I never tire of it. I love it so much we bought a cottage down there, and people laugh when I say we bought a house so I could chase butterflies. I made the gardens a Monarch Way Station like those at my home in Jackson (see The Healing Garden Room for more on the topic). I probably should also mention here, that I had a close encounter with cancer in 2003. It wasn’t fun but it was definitely meaningful. It has, without question, transformed my way of being in the world, personally and professionally.