I was about three years old when I first announced, “When I grow up, I want to be a nurse.” I never really wavered from this choice. My dilemma about this career path came later, “Do I still want to be a nurse?”
My mother was a nurse. My early interest in nursing probably developed from my desire to be just like her. This idolization quickly became replaced by intrigue. I couldn’t hear enough of her stories about nursing school and her hospital experiences. I loved it when she showed me how to take a pulse and clean a wound. In my early adolescence I daydreamed of coming to the rescue of injured and ill people in need. I spent hours sifting through my mom’s old nursing notes and textbooks, enamored by the knowledge they contained.
In college, I considered becoming a physician, but I was sure I would be a better doctor if I first acquired the skills and knowledge of a nurse. After graduating with a double major in nursing and biology though, I wasn’t ready to leave nursing behind. I decided to work for a year as a nurse before applying to medical schools. It took me less than a few months to realize that doctors interact with patients very differently, and spend much less time with them than nurses do. I finally realized I didn’t want to do what doctors did – I wanted to be a nurse.
I understand now why my mother never really encouraged me to be a nurse. The hard work, long hours, shifts and holidays worked were exhausting, but never a real deterrent for me. Nursing took its toll in other ways though. I had a wonderfully fulfilling and varied nursing career, but the huge responsibility of caring for sick patients, and the potentially dire consequence of even a small mistake were a constant worry. The frustration of sometimes being too busy to provide the high quality of care I believed my patients deserved caused me to lose a lot of sleep over the years.
I would encourage anyone thinking about becoming a nurse to first gain a true understanding of what it is a nurse really does, and consider whether they have the right personality to deal with the stresses, frustrations, and responsibilities of the job.
I eventually left nursing to become a stay-at-home mom. I miss patient care, and I will always be glad I became a nurse, but I no longer have a desire to return to clinical nursing. I have recently found satisfaction in helping people by writing health-related articles. Apparently, I still do want to be a nurse – just in a different way.