Actually, my professional trajectory is typical of the course many nurses follow to their chosen fields. The details will be different for everyone, but the gut feelings and the sense of destiny (what if I hadn’t seen that bookmark?) resonate.
Julianna Paradisi, who works in Oregon, initially chose pediatrics not just becauseshe likes kids; she thought children would be more physically manageable than adults. In her words, the idea of “working with big hairy adult bodies” was not appealing. Paradisi ended up leaving pediatrics after her own bout with breast cancer. She felt pulled to adult oncology because she wanted to share her hard-earned lessons about cancer.
Having studied theology and philosophy at the graduate level, Steven Barrett might logically have gravitated toward an academic nursing career. But the Texan cares for nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease. His patients are declining cognitively, but their spirit is endlessly uplifting for him: “The secret of the Alzheimer’s Unit: There’s a lot more soul/mind left than we realize! I can’t understand a word Mrs. B. mumbles, but I hear every word that her deep alto soul sings of â€˜Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.’”
Many nurses describe their choices as initially accidental, but ultimately fated. June Elizabeth Connolly, a nurse now living in Pennsylvania, says she “fell into critical care” when she began her career in Boston. Her original plan had been to complete a course on tropical diseases. When that course didn’t work out, she took a position in the ICU because it was the only job available. More than 40 years later, she is still an ICU nurse. She says the intensity of the job appeals to her because it requires her to really focus while she’s there. She sums up her feelings about her long career by crediting her specialty: “Intensive care chose me.”