Each semester nursing and health science students in the Healthcare Informatics course are taught about the importance of social media, blogging, and your social presence on the web. One important aspect of this is blogging. Students are introduced to blogging through various assignments that require them to create a blog for the first time, post on specific topics, and review and rank peer’s posts. This semester there were three very unique and distinctive posts selected by peers. Please enjoy.
My name is Amber Brown. I am 26 years old and I am a nurse. A Registered Nurse. It feels so good to say that. I have been a nurse for almost three years now and it was the best decision that I have ever made. Today I really want to discuss the reason that I became a nurse and the changes that have occurred in my life because of that choice.
When I was a little girl, from the earliest times that I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher. I would play school for hours. I would make my little sister and her friends be my students. There were desks in my bedroom (storage containers that I used to pretend they were school desks). There was a large dry erase board that my dad had installed on my wall and when I turned 12 he even bought me an overhead projector because I wanted one so incredibly bad. I had all the things that I needed to be a teacher and I was determined. My dad was always supportive of everything that I wanted. He just wanted me to be happy. Although he would always tell me that I was going to be a nurse but I would just roll my eyes and continue teaching my “students”.
At the age of 11, I had a black and white dog that I had named “Oreo”. One day my mother, my little sister, and I decided to take a bike ride down to the lake, which was only about an eighth of a mile from our house. The problem was that Oreo could not come because of traffic. He kept trying to come after us and we had to keep chasing him back home. He eventually caught up with us and about the time that I turned around I watched a large sized truck run him over. He was still. The guy pulled over and put him the back of the truck and took all of us to the local emergency pet clinic. They said that they thought Oreo needed to be put down but I was not going to have that. My dad told me I could take him home but that he was probably going to die. I stayed by that dog every day. He couldn’t walk, eat, drink, and could barely even breathe but I never left his side. I took care of him day in and day out because it was summer time and I didn’t have school. I was bound and determined that Oreo was going to live. I prayed over him multiple times a day, changed his bandages, gave him medicine, fed him, and cleaned him. I believe that miracles do happen and that it was nothing less than a miracle that Oreo survived. I needed him and he needed me. My dad saw that and he told me that he knew I was going to be a nurse and that I was going to make a difference in this world.
On November 17, 2009, my dad died. He was my rock. He was the best father that any girl could ask for. I was 20. My mother was in prison and so I was left alone, my little sister of 19 and me at 20. My dad made me promise that I would move away from Charlotte, NC, where I was raised my entire life. He wanted to me move and travel and see things. He also made me promise that I would become a nurse and help people like I helped Oreo. He told me that I had the compassion and love that needed to be given to a mass. He was amazing. Although the odds were against me, with my father being gone and my mother in prison; the promises that I made to him, I kept. I moved to Missouri on December 14, 2009, less than a month after his death and continued my college career, except this time I was going to be a nurse. I no longer had the desire to be a teacher. I had to become a nurse. I graduated from Southwest Baptist University in 2013 and it was the best decision that I have ever made. Every patient that I have, I treat them as if they were my dad. How would he want to be treated? The day of my graduation was a major day for me. It was the day that I could tell him that I did it. I went back home a month after my graduation to go to his tombstone and tell him that I did it and thank him. Every day that I am caring for people, my ultimate goal at the end of the day is to make sure that they know that I care and that I became a nurse give them the love and compassion that they need while they are sick.
Thanks again, Dad.
Good grades? I got em’. Good study habits? Check. Confidence? Double check. Walking out of the break room to the intensive care unit my very first day on the job quickly depleted my vast stores of knowledge, grade percentages, and confidence in one fail swoop. While sitting for report we had a stroke patient yelling expletive from the bed. I feel like I should have grabbed my white flag of surrender and waved it right then and there. When the yelling became impulsiveness, I was caught up in a flurry of movement. I had never seen so many people running at once until my preceptor pulled a cord from the wall. I literally wondered if we were under attack because of the blaring siren noises. Needless to say, it took seven (yes, seven) of us to tie this gentleman to the bed and give him the medicine he needed to calm down. After the patient was safely restrained, one of the veteran nurses looked right at me and said, “Kendal, welcome to the Neuro Trauma ICU”.
Lunch time rolled around (and by lunch I mean the half of a sandwich I shoved in my face around 3pm) and my preceptor asked me how I was doing and if I planned on returning to the unit ever again. We laughed and she assured me that not every single day was like that day and that I would have the opportunity to work with patients who weren’t trying to escape. That time was sooner than either of us could have predicted.
If you ask any nurse out there they will tell you that each of them have had “those patients”. The patient who touches our hearts and lives forever. The person you walk away from taking with you a pearl of wisdom and a skip in your step. I was 30 days into my career and I even had my newly acquired license to prove it when I encountered one of those life-changers.
This patient was in the unit a very long time and became very friendly with most of the staff. The patient’s family knew most of us and brought snacks and food sometimes to thank us for the care of their loved one. Unfortunately, the patient’s condition continued to decline to the point that the family had decided on comfort care. Keep in mind, this patient had been in the unit for more than 3 months and while I did not take of this patient each shift, there were several shifts that I did have the privilege to care for him. The care of this patient was tedious, difficult, and left a lot of the nurses’ upset and grouchy. I looked forward to my time with this patient and felt I could get a lot accomplished for him to help on the road to recovery (getting out of bed to the chair, sitting up in bed, etc.)
This past weekend the family decided to move the patient to comfort care (end of life care) and it was difficult. My heart hurt for the patient, the family, and for those of us losing a little piece of hope within ourselves. When I arrived at work to report for my shift, I noticed the patient was still listed on the board and the family was at the bedside. We all talked for a long time and they spoke of the wonderful faith of their beloved family member and how it was not good-bye, but instead see you soon. As I watched the monitor, I witnessed my peaceful patient slip into a rhythm not associated with any living being in this world. I said a prayer of thanks.
I thanked the Lord for the time I was given to spend with him and his family. I thanked the Lord for the growth as a brand new nurse that I was able to achieve while caring for him. A bit later, I was walking to the front of our unit (it is huge) and I made some copies and gathered paperwork for the Chaplin. When I was finished, I happened to look up and see the patient was still listed on our unit board. I leaned over the charge desk and clicked the information in each excel spreadsheet cell. As I deleted the last cell, I felt a tingle go up my spine and I knew that right in that moment, in that instant, that no matter where we are in life (hospital bed, airport, grocery store) that we have the ability to change lives.
Nursing has always been a big part of my life, yet it was never what I imagined I would become as I grew up. Growing up I knew I wanted a job in the health care industry but I had real problems trying to figure out what I truly wanted to do. My mother was a nurse and after I was born she switched positions to the in house laboratory of the hospital she worked at and then to the centralized scheduling department. She always supported my dreams for becoming a health care industry worker and for many years she would drive me to the hospital in the morning so that I could volunteer in the radiology department. Throughout the years there I made great friendships that I still hold on to today. At the time of my volunteering, Capital Region Medical Center was still storing all of their radiograms on film. I helped to manage their two file rooms with well over tens of thousands of copies of films. My later years at CRMC, I helped them transfer all their films over to a digital format. This was a painstaking task that took the department well over one full year. During the afternoons in my later years of volunteering, I would help in the mammography department, verifying films on DVDs. This was a fun job because I got to sit in the same room as the radiologists and listen to them dictate. Radiology was beginning to become my main focus, and even though my mother had doubts that I could finish medical school, she still supported me.
In the beginning of 2006 when I was 14, I told my mother that I was experiencing more migraines. I have had chronic migraines since 1999. She decided to try and make an appointment with the nurse practitioner that I have always gone to see. What I didn’t know was that my mother was having abdominal pains and bloating and wanted to make an appointment that we could both go to on the same day. This resulted in our appointments being delayed until around April. I never knew what symptoms my mother was having until around June when she brought my sister and myself into the living room to tell us that the doctors have found a mass on one of her ovaries. I still remember that night very vividly. The first thing to run through my mind was that she was going to die. I didn’t know much about ovarian cancer and had no idea of how hard it is to detect and how fatal it is. On July 4, 2006, the entire family drove to St. Louis. Our first stop was to our hotel in Forest Park. We then went to Barnes Jewish Hospital for some pre-procedure interventions for my mother. We went from there to the science center and to the zoo. I never truly realized that this would be the last vacation I would have with my mother. On July 5, my mother went into surgery to debulk her tumor. She was on the operating table for many hours. When we talked to the doctor afterward, he said he could not be certain that he got all of the cancer. She stayed at Barnes Jewish for a few more days before she was transferred to Boone Hospital in Columbia for the remainder of her recovery. While she recovered from the surgery, she never fully recovered from the cancer and a few weeks after she came home we found out that the cancer was spreading, and quickly. She then decided to try both chemotherapy and radiation as the cancer has spread to both her brain and her spine. At this point I saw very little of my mother. If she was home, which wasn’t very often, she was asleep on the couch. But most of the time she was at the hospital for one reason or another. On September 26, I remember getting off of the bus at my house and seeing an unfamiliar car in the driveway. It was my Aunt Billie, who lives just down the road but I don’t see her often. She explains to me that my mother is at the hospital once again and that I need to go with her. I didn’t even have a chance to go inside the house. On the way there, I noticed my aunt was driving upwards of 90mph. This is when it started to dawn on me that something bad was happening. When arriving at the hospital, I was ushered directly to the Intensive Care Unit where my mother was already transferred to. Literally, all of my faily was there already. The waiting room was packed with just my family. At this point in time, ICUs were not commonly open to visitors except at 15 minute intervals a few times during the day. So I waited. And waited. And waited. I finally go to go back and see my mother with my family around 5pm. She didn’t look too well, but was able to look at us and talk to us and give us hugs. We only got to be with her for a few minutes. All I can remember was her telling me to be strong and that she would see me soon. I left the ICU with that in the back of mind, that I would see her again soon. An hour or two passed by. I had already scaled the entire hospital a couple of times, talked with the girls back in the radiology department who were working, and bought a bunch of candy from the gift shop. That’s when I heard a Code Blue to my mother’s ICU room. I didn’t know what to do. I instantly started sobbing and then I ran. I ran to the radiology break room to see if anyone was there. There wasn’t. So I ran to what they call the ‘Radiology Core’ where all the machines are and that’s where I found Kari. Kari was a mammography tech during the day and an Xray tech at night and was a good friend of mine while I volunteered there. She held me and tried to explain to me that my mother just needs help breathing but that she will be okay. A few minutes later, a nurse came out from the ICU to tell us that they had intubated my mother and that she was stable as for now with the machine breathing for her. We then waited again for a few hours again. The Code Blue rang again to her room. This time only a minute or so after the code, the nurse came out and explained to my dad that it was time to make a decision and rounded my sister and me up and took up to her room. In her room were four or five nurses. One was physically on top of her, giving her CPR. Her chest was exposed with electrodes all over. Before we had gotten there they had defibrillated her two times with no effects. Some of the other nurses were rapidly pushing fluids, others were starting new lines, and others were injecting her with medications. The nurse who ushered us in asked my father if they should precede. He was speechless and turned to my sister who was in a LPN program at the time. She told him it was time to stop and the nurse ordered the nurses in the room to stop interventions and the death was called. The thought in the back of my head that I would see my mother again soon ceased. We left the ICU to grieve with the family as the nurses prepared the body for viewing. I ended up staying in the room with my father the entire time after we were allowed back in as the family came to view her. I remember that her wedding rings had to be cut off because her fingers had swollen. Her entire body was relatively swollen and her face was the only thing that was viewable. That was probably for our own well beings. Her passing was different for me, to say the least. As I hadn’t seen her for weeks before because of her being in the hospital, I wasn’t overly emotional at first. The day after I went to school to get homework for the next week and all my teachers were astonished that I was even there. All my fellow students looked sad for me, but I felt little emotion at all. It wasn’t for a few weeks that it really hit me that my mother was dead and that I would never see her again. It’s a struggle for me still to this day.
Like I said, nursing was never my focus growing up, but as I thought about it, I knew it was what I wanted to try. And it turns out I’m relatively okay at it. I value my education and my career and do it to honor my mother. I know what if she were here she would be congratulating me on my work and supporting me with all my endeavors.
As a first semester nursing student, I knew nothing, but I knew I knew nothing. I had never been in a hospital (other than my birth) until my first day as a student nurse. The beeping monitors, the moans of patients, the clicks of nurses charting as they run down the hall toward their next patient’s room, the ringing of phone; I was overwhelmed. Even when it came to the simple task of introducing myself to my first patient, I was lost. Thankfully, my instructor patiently guided me through the steps of walking into the room and introducing myself. The other students thought my apprehension was humorous, but I was legitimately terrified.
I still remember my first patient. Two other nursing students and I were placed with a small elderly woman who didn’t appreciate the fact she was stuck with three greenhorns. Though she was patient with our inexperience in the beginning, by midmorning, she was done. In the end, she fired us.
To say that I was upset is an understatement. I was heartbroken. Devastated. It left me questioning my career decision, wondering if I had just made the biggest mistake of my life. My instructor assured me that it happened to everyone.
After my clinical was over, I did what every sensible person would do in their most desperate moment. I called my mama. Defeated, I told her I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision going into nursing. She wasn’t convinced though. She went on to remind me why I started nursing school, and the call that God had placed on my life to help people in need. In the end, I decided to push through my doubt and continue with nursing.
With each passing semester, my knowledge and confidence grew, and though there were hiccups, doubts and frustrations that came with it, by the end of my fourth semester, I felt prepared to enter the professional nursing world as a competent nurse.
During my last clinical days, I was a student nurse in NTICU, and under the supervision of my team leader, I took care of two ICU patients. My team leader told me he was impressed with my work and that I had everything I needed to be an excellent ICU nurse. He continued on and said any unit would be lucky to have me on board. At this point, I was excited about starting my career, and I felt fully prepared. My confidence had reached its peak.
Unfortunately, that high was short lived. I was thrust into the real world of nursing, realizing that this profession is either sink or swim.
Nursing school was black and white. Everything fell into a box; all the rules applied. There was a safety net, and a sense of security that came with being a student. It was okay if you messed up because it was considered a learning experience.
Real nursing is grey. There are no boxes, and rules don’t always apply. The safety net is gone, as well as the sense of security. There is no longer someone there to hold your hand and walk you through. A mistake is no longer just a learning experience, but something that could cost someone their life.
It felt like I was living a nightmare. Gone was the confidence that had been built up over the course of four semesters, replaced by the apprehension I felt the first day of clinicals. I found myself standing outside the patient’s door, scared to walk inside, but this time, not because I didn’t know how to, but because the weight of the responsibility that laid in front of me was nearly suffocating. I cried myself to sleep night after night as I questioned my choice to become a nurse. Doctors and nurses made me question my competence and ability; I felt that I was swimming in a tank full of sharks.
While I was working one day, my charge nurse came to me and said I would be admitting a transfer from another facility. The patient was being life flighted, and I was told it would be a mess. I was petrified, doubting their trust and choice in me; I just knew I wasn’t prepared and wouldn’t be able to keep the patient alive. When the patient arrived, I found out quickly that “a mess” was an understatement. He was quickly crashing, and I didn’t even know where to begin. My charge nurse and preceptor had the utmost confidence in me, saying “Start with his biggest problem, and fix him.” After that, they turned around and walked out, leaving me praying for guidance, with the patient that led to the experience that changed my life laying in front of me. The rest of the day was a blur of doctor’s orders, vasopressors, sedatives and every drip known to mankind. I felt that every problem that I fixed was replaced by two more problems. After nine hours of nonstop care to this specific patient, I gave report and began gathering my things to leave. The weight of the day and the feeling of defeat weighed on me like a ton of bricks. On my way to clock out, my preceptor stopped me, asking how I felt my day went. Though I figured she knew what my answer would be and was only asking to critique me, I humored her, expressing my utter despair. Her confused look surprised me. Grabbing my arm, she drug me back the patient room. “Look at him. The only reason he’s still breathing right now is because of you. Stop doubting yourself. Your biggest problem is the lack of confidence you have in yourself.” I stood there and listened to the beeping monitor and looked at the face of the man I had watched over for those nine long hours. My outlook on myself as a nurse changed that day, because I realized she was right.
I knew that the people in the hospital beds that would be in front of me wouldn’t be just a disease, illness or injury. They would be mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, wives or husbands, and each of them trusted me to keep them alive. I realized that nursing school had left me unprepared for the real world of nursing by allowing me to believe that there was always an answer to every question and a solution to every problem.
There are no rules when a patient is crashing. There are no answers for the devastated family who lost their 18 year old son. There is no amount of words that can comfort a lonely dying patient.
Nursing is so much more than reading a chart and administering medications. As a nurse, you are the patient’s lifeline, their grip on reality, the listening ear and comforting words. The answers to their never ending questions cannot be found in any text book I read.
Though there are still times that I have lingering doubts and fears, I now know that my own worst enemy is myself. Not the condescending words of the doctors or nurses, but my own lack of confidence. Through the past six months as a new nurse, God has walked, sometimes carried, me through the trials that I faced. I lived the promise He made when He said He would never place anything upon us that would be more than we could bear. I believe that promise isn’t solely for spiritual trials, but any obstacles that I face. I pray as my career continues I remain humble, never forgetting the journey that brought me here.