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How I decided to become a nurse

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Vicki Rose shared the following story with Scrubs:

During my childhood and teenage years, I remember my English teachers asking every year: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As a child, a simple sentence or two would do; as a teen, a full-blown essay was expected. My answers varied every year—teacher, marine biologist and chef are a few that I can recall. But never in my school years do I remember wanting to become a nurse.

My mother worked as a CNA all of her life in long-term care. Some of the “horror stories” (or so I believed they were at the time) turned me off to the thought of doing anything in healthcare—the total dependence some adults required, the incontinence, the dementia, the dodging a full urinal being thrown at you or the right hook from a delusional patient. No way would I ever set foot in healthcare’s door.

Fast forward to a college stint of culinary arts study (where I figured out that I very much disliked cooking), a trip to Texas to check out a college for marine biology studies (did I mention I won’t swim in any body of water where I can’t see the bottom?) and explorations of other various career choices that didn’t pan out. I ended up doing office work for several years—answering phones, filing papers, typing documents—and I was BORED. I really needed to figure out what I wanted to do career-wise with my life. I was not a cubicle-isolated person. I needed and craved that human interaction, not just on the phone or through email.

My father got sick in 2003. My mother chose to bring him home to care for him in his final days. What we thought would be a few weeks turned into a few months. My family and I moved in with my mother during that time to help relieve her load. I remember the nights we’d take turns going downstairs to fix the beeping g-tube pump…the cath changes…the physical and emotional turmoil that not only I went through, but that I saw my mother go through.

And I remember his hospice nurse. Her name was Barb, and I will never forget her. I watched her during her thrice weekly visits—the care and support she gave to my father and to us. She shed tears with us, and she would crack up laughing with us. She inspired me. Watching her, I thought, “I could do this. I WANT to do this.”

My father passed, and Barb was the greatest support ever—and I did follow through with my “want.” I’ve been a nurse since 2006, and even though there are trying times when I say to myself, “I’m not coming back…I can’t do this anymore,” a smile or the occasional grateful tear or thank you hits me in the heart, and I realize I love what I do.

After I received my nursing degree, my mother decided she wanted to sell the house she and Dad lived in. I went to help her pack, and ran across some old school papers that she had saved. There, among the artwork and report cards, were some of the “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” essays. I rifled through them and ran across some small child print on a paper from when I was in kindergarten. My answer to that question then? A nurse.


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