I almost can’t believe that I became a nurse 10 years ago. I can still remember how scared I was and how unsure I was of what the road ahead of me was really going to be about. Would I love it? Would I hate it? Did I make the right decision in life? I was hoping that I didn’t just waste my entire high school year striving for good grades to get into the competitive program at UIC. I was hoping that I didn’t just waste FOUR years of my life in college only to find out that I would need to go back to school for something else later on in life because I might absolutely hate what nursing was. I was 22 years old and just graduated from UIC in December. I passed my boards in January and accepted a position at this hospital in February 2003. Yes. I move pretty quick and stick to a plan. TEN years later, I am still in the same hospital. Heck- I am still on the very same floor where I started doing the very same thing I have done since day 1. People have come and gone. Some have moved on to other professions. Some have moved to other units, hospitals or a different state. Some have gone back to school to pursue a master’s degree or become educators. Some have become Nurse Anesthetists. Some have become managers or case managers. Some have gone into the world of computer nursing or whatever vast opportunities nursing has offered. I am one of only a handful who has stuck around exactly where I began- and still perfectly happy in every aspect of my profession.
I work 3 days out of 7 and if I plan my schedule correctly, I can be off for a week without requesting a vacation. The schedule is as flexible as it can ever get. I get every other weekend off. Finding someone to cover my shift is never, ever a problem. I don’t have to bring my work home and once I clock out, my shift is done. I can be off for a month and someone is out there still covering my job. There are no deadlines to present projects like they do in the corporate world. It is definitely (and thankfully for me) nothing like the corporate world. No one can sue me. All I have to write in my notes is “MD aware and notified. Awaiting further orders” and I am covered. I’ve got GREAT benefits- financially, mentally and spiritually. Don’t get me wrong. A nurses job is not at all a bed of roses. Bathroom breaks are rare and few. The lunch hour is sometimes barely 30 minutes. Those 30 minutes are always interrupted minutes too because someone out there somewhere will always be looking for you for something about one of your patients. There is a whole lot of responsibility, skill, careful planning, observation and time management that goes into our day. One wrong move can make a big difference to our patient outcomes. Doctors depend on our eyes, ears and assessments, as they are not at the bedside at all times. Not only that, but we must be good communicators working with multiple professions to arrange for everything a patient needs. I always say that no one truly knows what a nurse does unless you are a nurse. Whether you are a doctor, a nurses assistant, a physical therapist or even a patient. Just by merely seeing us in our routine, you have no idea of what we have to do, things are we looking out for, phone calls we have to answer, family members we have to deal with and so on and so forth. I think a lot of people can sometimes get confused because we “sit so much” charting, checking the continuos flow of doctors orders that we have to carry out and follow through in correlation with everything else planned for a patient. We are correlating lab values and vital signs to their medications, checking what medications are due and mainly taking care of our patients and their families needs. It is easy to miss that we actually have to be up on our feet a good amount of the 12 hours making sure everything is carried out and done in a timely and safe manner. The one thing that I have learned through the years is that no matter what your job is, it is important and meaningful. Whether you are in the kitchen cooking or the one sanitizing the room so that it is ready for the next patient or the respiratory therapist or the transporter or the volunteer- everyone has their own role. The only stressor I have is when other parts of the same community don’t respect the other because they may feel superior or they feel they are much busier than the other without realizing that it truly is a team effort. One person’s job is never easier than your own. That goes for any job out there. I used to be a bagger at a grocery store. That was my first job. I had to go out there and gather carts for the customers. They deserve as much respect as anyone else out there in this world. A job is a job.
There has been so many changes through those 10 years. I don’t think I can get into everything that I have experienced, but the one thing I know for sure is that this is what I was meant to do. I am truly happy being a bedside nurse and there is nothing else I would rather be. It is very rewarding knowing you have made a difference in someone’s life doing the little simple things, or even sometimes the bigger things. Not all patients are appreciative, but there are more than a handful of them out there. I knew I wanted to be a nurse since I could remember. I think I knew as young as 2nd grade when people asked that inevitable “what do you want to be when you grow up” question. It’s funny how I never said doctor or teacher or something else I was exposed to. There were no nurses in my family and I had never been hospitalized. I always wondered how I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I am so thankful and blessed that I am happy where I am. I don’t dread coming to work at all and I will rarely have a pout on my face despite how busy the day gets. I think part of that happiness also stems from the organization where I work. I have worked a 2nd job at other hospitals in my “younger” days and I must say that if I worked in those particular hospitals, I may have had to find myself a new place to work. There are things where I work that can be viewed as a negative, but my feeling is that it is just the same (or sometimes even worse) at another hospital. It’s all just part of the job and going to another job would just pose other issues. There is no such thing as a perfect job in which there are no problems or issues to be dealt with. Life is about being happy with what you’ve got, because in every aspect of life, there is ALWAYS something better. The cycle would never end and I have been lucky enough to work somewhere where I am content and I really couldn’t ask for anything more. Cheers to my TEN YEARS!