Monday, 14 March 2011

Blog Series: Steph

I am so excited to introduce my first guest poster on my Career series. Steph and I have "known" each other for a couple of years now and I quite simply adore her. I swear she is my twin, we think and feel the same thing on so many levels. Take it away friend...

When Becca asked me to be a guest poster, I was ecstatic!  When she told me I would be blogging about my profession, I was even more thrilled.  You see, I'm a registered nurse, and I am 100% in love with my job.  I was more than happy to write a blog post about my journey to becoming an RN...I love sharing my passion for nursing with others!

I knew from the time I was a little girl that I wanted to be a nurse when I "grew up."  My mom was a nurse, so not only did I grow up hearing stories of her adventures but I also saw her incredible passion for her profession.  I knew in my heart that I was meant to be a nurse; nothing made me happier than caring for people during their most difficult moments.

The road to RN, however, wasn't so easy.  Nursing school in America can be difficult to get in to, so it is important to be a strong student, both in high school and your first year of college/university.  Luckily for me, I was both and gained advanced acceptance into a bachelor's of science nursing program.  Nurses in America have two common routes to take to become a registered nurse: an associates (2 year) degree or a bachelors (4 year) degree.  Both degrees make you eligible to become an RN, but I chose the four year track because I wanted to leave my options open for furthering my education down the road.

To be completely honest, nursing school was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life!  The pre-requisites, like anatomy & physiology, chemistry, and microbiology, were difficult enough; however, when I was actually into my nursing classes, I realized what hard really was.  Juggling classwork with homework was bad enough, but when my clinical rotations started, I was running on empty.  I would be in the hospital for eight hours, learning hands-on skills, then go back to the university for another 2-3 hours of homework and group projects.  So many times, I wanted to throw in the towel and say "That's it...I don't have what it takes to be a nurse!!"  Thankfully, I had a great group of nursing friends who encouraged me and a supportive family who kept me going.

With a lot of hard work (and many, many tears along the way), I graduated in August of 2010 with my BSN (bachelor's of science in nursing) degree!  The feeling of accomplishment was something words cannot even describe; walking across the stage to accept my degree was my proudest moment to date.  Once graduation was over, however, the real work started...studying for the NCLEX. 

NCLEX is the board exam all nursing school graduates must take before receiving the title of RN.  It's a computerized test that decides if you earn the title of Registered Nurse or not.  I studied hard, reviewing material from all four years of school for hours each day.  When my test day finally arrived, I was incredibly nervous, but I kept a level head and left the testing center feeling fairly confident, but still nervous.  The two day wait for my results was killer, but when I checked the licensing website and saw my name (with an RN license number next to it), I screamed and immediately called my boss to share the good news.

I was lucky enough to have a job as a student nurse extern during school; I worked at a cardiac hospital on the open heart recovery unit (SICU, or surgical intensive care).  Thankfully, there was an RN position open for me when I graduated, so the transition from SNE to RN wasn't as difficult as it could have been.  I was familiar with the type of patients we cared for, as well as the surgeons and physicians, so it was easier to make the leap to RN.  My orientation was 10 weeks long, during which time I worked with an experienced nurse to help me learn the ropes.  Once ten weeks was over, I was officially working night shift on my own and taking two critically ill patients by myself.

A typical night for me looks something like this, depending on the types of patients we have and how unstable they are: I arrive at 6:30pm to get report from the day shift nurse and look up information on my patient(s).  Since I work ICU, we only take 2 patients because they're so ill and need closer monitoring.  My shift officially starts at 7pm, so I immediately head in to my patient's rooms and introduce myself, giving them a quick "look over" to make sure they're stable at the moment.  During the course of my 12 hour shift, I do 3 assessments, which means I listen to lungs, heart, check IVs and other monitoring lines, etc.  Once my first assessment is done on both of my patients (usually by 9pm or so), I sit down to chart and look over my orders from the doctors to make sure I am completing everything required to keep my patient stable overnight.  The rest of the night involves paging physicians for issues that may arise, answering call lights, keeping caught up on charting, drawing labs, adjusting IV drips to keep blood pressures where they need to be, and many other tasks.  My shift is over at 7am when day shift arrives, so I give report to the oncoming nurse, make sure I've completed all my tasks for the night, and then hit the road!

Due to the nature of the patients I care for, my job can be very stressful.  Fresh open heart surgery patients are very unstable and can "crash and burn" within seconds.  I have to use critical thinking skills to figure out what's wrong with my patient and what I can do to "fix" them again.  Sometimes emergencies happen and that's when I have to use my quick thinking (and the help of my coworkers) to keep my patient alive.  CPR is an unfortunate part of my job; I've spent many a night doing chest compressions on a patient whose heart has stopped and needs resuscitation.  However, the great thing is that most of my patients recover fully and go on to live many more years of high-quality life, which is something I'm very thankful for .

Despite the stress, I am completely and utterly in love with my career.  I am so glad I am an RN; it's my passion and my heart!  Becoming a nurse has changed nearly every aspect of my life for the better; I'm more compassionate and less judgmental of others, simply because I've cared for people from all walks of life and understand that we're all human beings, despite what we look like or where we come from.  I consider myself to be incredibly blessed, because I have a job that allows me to show God's love to people who are on the verge of dying (and also to their families, who are struggle to cope with the stress of critical illness).  My job a ministry, so to speak...I'm just lucky enough that I get paid for it!  Never in a million years did I dream that I would be a cardiac ICU nurse; I always wanted to be a labor & deliver or pediatric nurse.  However, God had other plans and after falling in love with cardiac ICU, I can't imagine being any other kind of nurse.

I wish I could go on all day about my job, but my space is limited.  I hope that this post has helped show a small glimpse of my very specialized part of the nursing profession and why I'm so passionate about what I do.  The great thing about nursing is that there are so many different avenues one can take after obtaining their RN: working in a physician's office, operating room, outpatient clinic, pediatric unit, research, and many many other modalities.  The possibilities are literally limitless!

You can see why I asked Steph to talk about nursing. She rocks at showing just how much of an adventure it really is. You can find Steph's blog 'Plan B' here. Thank you so much lovely lady!


Alex(andra) said...

Steph!! So glad to hear you're doing well. I could never be a nurse... you and Becca are both amazing. Great post!

a life of color said...

What a wonderful post!! I will be graduating with my BSN this May and can't wait to start my career in nursing. My dream job is to work in a cardiac ICU and like you have worked in one as a student nurse. Your post was so encouraging and I can't wait to get out of school and start my journey!!!

Holly said...

Super cool to read the first of this series of posts!

I have to say that nursing was never a career I considered (my mortal terror of blood may have had something to do with that!) but it was still interesting to read about, and awesome to hear how insanely passionate you obviously are. :)

Nice to "meet" you - off to look at your actual blog now. :)

Kristen said...

It's the middle of the night here and my little boy has had me run ragged for four hours. He won't sleep. So I flicked on the computer and read this amazing post.

I am not at nurse. I am a SAHM and tonight I just wanted to pack it all in in favour of extra sleep. But after reading this post and your passion for something you love. It makes me realise how much I love this job too. Thank you Steph for giving me that reminder. I needed it at 03.20 in the morning.

You and Becca do brilliant jobs and you don't get the credit you deserve. You're both awesome!

Ashley said...

I love nurses! They do soooooo much for people. Trav is also a nurse. I remember how hard he studied for the NCLEX. I just started dating him at the time, so I didn't understand anything that was going to be on the test (still don't understand much). I respect your profession so much and am so glad that you are so passionate about your job. It's always nice to have a job you love.

<3 Ash

Donovan said...

You must be very proud of your mom. Your mother has experience as a nurse who is very attractive. And the most difficult part of the job as a nurse is when your mother is caring for every person who was sick and she must take care of her until they heal. And it is truly amazing.

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