How long have you been a nurse?
I’ve been a nurse for three years now, but I started working full-time last June. Between then and now I was in grad school working on my masters.
Describe what you do.
I just transferred to a new floor so I’m working in the intensive care unit now. Which is a major step for me. I was doing cardiovascular surgery, which I really enjoyed. In ICU I care for critically ill patients like people who are, for lack of a better word, are dying without medical attention. We see all kinds of things. We see traumatic injuries from motorcycle wrecks, car wrecks, strokes, massive heart attacks, people that have major infections, people with respiratory issues. We see all kinds of things. With that, my main goal is to keep you alive. There are lots of different kinds of nurses and each floor in the hospital has its own goal. On my old floor, my goal was to get you back to the best place of health. It was a lot of rehab and strengthening, cardiac workouts, minor heart surgery – things like that, but I wasn’t really looking at people dying. But now, where I am at, my one goal is to keep patients from dying. It sounds really gruesome but I actually love it. I love what I do.
I’m challenged each and every day because I’m new and there’s a lot I don’t know. I’ll be honest and say that It’s very much a growing process and I’m learning a lot and it makes me work harder knowing there is someone’s life on the line. I don’t have a choice. There isn’t a part when I get to say “I don’t know” or I where I get to make a mistake. That’s somebody’s mom. That’s somebody’s dad. That’s somebody’s kid. I can’t just not do my best. It’s a lot of responsibility at 23 years old to say I’m sorry but your dad died. With all the responsibility though, there comes great satisfaction with what I do cause I know that I’m making a difference.
Describe how you do what you do?
When we get there in the morning we get a report on our patient. I’ll go in and assess the patient and look them over for things that are wrong or things that look off and make a plan for the day. Part of critical care is that you have a lot of monitors and information to work with to decide what your treatment plan is for your patient. For instance, if I had a patient who’s blood pressure was really low and I needed to fix it I would have him on certain medications through his IV to fix that. So throughout the course of the day, I would constantly be adjusting his medication to get his blood pressure where I needed it to be. Having good critical thinking, working on your own, and being confident in what you’re doing is a big part of being a nurse. For ICU you can’t be someone who lacks a strong personality and personal drive. You have to also be able to stand up for yourself cause there are times when others will question your decisions and someone will see something differently, so you have to stick up for yourself for sure. I’m learning that currently. It’s been one of the harder aspects or working in ICU. You have to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and be able to defend it. I think to be a nurse, within the deepest element of your core, you have to love other people. The best part of my job is caring for strangers – somebody I’ve never met on the worst day of their life and I get to be a part of that. It comes back to God’s mission for us – caring for and loving other people.
Why are you a nurse?
Being a nurse is one of those things where I can’t imagine doing anything else. I can’t imagine waking up and going to an office or sending emails or filing papers all day. It’s definitely a passion. It has to be. You see a lot of awful things. As far as motivation, seeing people get better is amazing. You know that you’re making a difference and doing something good. It gives a lot of self-worth. Maybe It’s a pride thing, but I like making things better, helping people. I want to be smarter. I want to be the best I can because I know studying all the things I did in school, it doesn’t just prepare you to pass a test. It prepares you for the day when you are the only thing that stands between a person and the grave. And your decisions, what you decide, whether its right or wrong, will keep that person alive or they will die. So I can’t hesitate. I can’t say well I haven’t learned this or seen this before. I have to be my best 100% of the time. I have to constantly get better. I think the pressures and the responsibility motivate me the best.
How did you develop an interest in nursing?
My dad’s a doctor. I would see him caring for his patients and got to meet all the nurses and his nurses and watch him do surgery and all kinds of really cool things. I knew I wanted to go into medicine. The body just really intrigued me. I thought it was so beautiful. And I knew it was something I always would want to do whether it was being a nurse or a doctor or something else. Throughout high school, I worked at a camp where I was a lifeguard. I did first aid. I was probably 15 and I was caring for cuts, bruises, strains, and sprains. It deepened my love for caring for people who were hurt.
I think of people who have made bad choices…I see a guy who’s smoked for 50 years and has advanced liver cancer or someone who drinks themselves to death or someone who has HIV now or was in a bad motorcycle accident because they were being reckless – someone asked me, “Is it hard to treat the people who have diseases or things could have been prevented?” I never really think about it like that. Truthfully I don’t see the choices. I don’t see the 50 years of smoking. I don’t see all the drinking or sexual choices that you make. I see a person. I see someone who has a family. It doesn’t matter anymore. Caring matters and that’s it. This has been one of the biggest things that has changed me recently.