When Angela emailed me about writing for Nurses’ Week this year I was quick to jump at the offer! You see, I’ve been a nurse for nearly 35 years (I graduated in 1978-I know, I’m old!) I and I love writing!
So here I am, sitting in Starbucks with my writing group just an hour after her invitation. The first thing I did was take my pen and paper to create my list of ten. I don’t always outline but with non-fiction, I find it works best.
So what are my 10 Reasons for loving my career? The short list goes like this:
1. Job Security
2. I get to Save Lives!
3. It helped me Find My Talent
4. Leverage and Job Variety
5. Longevity – the ability to remake my career
6. Strengthens Self Esteem
7. Add Value to society and the world in general
8. People Skills & Social Interactions
9. Knowledge of Human Response Patterns
10. Spirituality/Holism and cutting edge thinking
Now I’ll be honest, the intention of this article is not to convince you to be a nurse or that nursing is a great career. My only intention here it to share with you the skinny on what has made nursing a great career for me. So, let me explain.
From the time I graduated nursing school and was licensed as a registered nurse until today, I have never gone longer than a few days without landing a good job. In these economic times it is easy to see why I’ve listed this one first. In fact, I took this for granted for a long time until I became more aware of how different this is for lots of other people. Granted, I interview fairly well, but a lot of that came with the experience and the undertanding that I had a lot to contribute.
Early in my career I had the fortuitous opportunity to accept a job in a rural, community intensive care unit (ICU) as charge nurse on the night shift. Now that’s a mouthful, but the reality is rural hospitals have, at best, one contracted doc who man’s the emergency room (ER) if and when someone visits. There are no regular docs around. There is a skeleton crew of nurses and little to no ancillary staff. In fact, the charge nurse in the ICU is often assumed to be the most skilled nurse in the hospital and, at a minimum, the emergency backup for other units and situations throughout the hospital. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t sure I could do the job, but what I have learned could never have come without this experience. Over my 33 years in nursing I’ve been involved in saving dozens and dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of lives. Even so, I never even gave it a second thought until one evening while networking among other young professionals, mostly oil and gas managers and ‘up and comers’. Inevitably the conversation always got down to “So what do you do for a living?” That night for some reason, and without a second thought, I said “I save lives.” Now I can tell you the young man I was talking to got this smirky grin on his face and said “No, really, what do you do?” It was in that moment I knew what I did was really incredible and powerful!
FINDING MY TALENT
Graduating from nursing school is a lot like graduation from any college. You have to get out in the ‘real’ world and find out how to put your degree to work. It was no different for me. My nursing school instructors had taught us about ‘reality shock’ in the world beyond school but understanding it intellectually is nothing like experiencing it first hand. It was a rough and rocky start. In fact, one of my first supervisor’s told me I would never make a good nurse and would be lucky to be an LVN/LPN. Well, young as I was, I was sure she was right, but luckily I was never raised to be a quitter. So, I went down the road and applied for work at another hospital. This was where the unexpected offer to work as the charge nurse in the ICU came in. Needless to say, I didn’t mince words with the Director of Nurses and told her I didn’t think that was the job for me because I wasn’t a good nurse. I can remember her smile and the conversation that followed is laughable today. The bottom line? She promised they’d train me and not leave me alone until I felt I was ready. This awesome and incredible nurse believed in me and not only helped launch my career she helped me find my talent, because, I was never cut out to handle 30+ patients on a med-surg floor with barely enough time to talk to every patient. The ICU grants access to (and responsibility for) every single detail of one or two people’s well-being and care. It couldn’t have been better and was perfect for me. I can handle the intensity of any crisis with sustained focus and attention to subtle nuances, and the grueling hours it takes to handle a high stress environment for 12 to 16 hours at a time. Plus, I learned that in an emergency, when no one else steps forward to take charge, I can and do.
Landing in the ICU early in my career surely helped because it honed my skills. Since then, nursing has offered me an incredible variety of job opportunities. With a willingness to learn and accept opportunity when it presented itself, nursing has been a long run of interesting and exciting jobs. Aside from my work in ICU’s and ER’s, I have worked with spinal cord and head injuries in a rehab hospital, as a home health nurse and in hospice. In a more wellness-oriented vein I was the coordinator for health promotion programs in four major corporations, have had my own case management business, been a clinical manager, taught full day workshops to other nurses on holistic nursing, coordinated performance improvement and staff education for a large home health company, been an auditor in a revenue management department for a county hospital system, handled financial and service contracts for incoming research protocols from medical schools, contracted with attorneys for medical record reviews. Currently I work as a regulatory consultant, and will be teaching in an LVN school this fall. You gotta love the variety.
LONGEVITY/REMAKING OF A CAREER
And with variety comes a nice long run in a career that offers longevity. Most people face the challenge of transitioning to new careers at lest two to three times in their life time. As you can see from the variety of jobs listed in the last paragraph, nursing has afforded me ample opportunity to remake my career without having to start from scratch. In fact, longevity in nursing has been possible for the exact reason that it has offered me such diversity.
With the discovery of my unique talents, being involved in saving numerous lives, and having the opportunity for continuous growth and ongoing self improvement, I can say without a doubt that my nursing career has directly impacted my own self esteem in a very positive way.
As I continue to enumerate the reasons why I love my nursing career it becomes easier to see the contributions I have made to the individual lives of my patients, their families as well as the nurses I have been blessed to work with. Nursing has given me a tremendous sense of self worth from adding value to people’s lives but it doesn’t only go one way. The mutual relationship between a nurse and others benefits both the giver and the receiver.
PEOPLE SKILLS/SOCIAL INTERACTION
This is perhaps one of the most often mentioned reasons people go into nursing. Only after many years in the field did I begin to reflect on the number of people-skills I had learned. As I looked back, I began to see how often I was sent in to work with the ‘difficult’ patient or family member and realize how much joy I got from interacting with the diversity of people who entered the health care arena. Such diversity was directly related to the opportunity to improve my people skills and use my unique talents to make a contribution.
HUMAN RESPONSE PATTERNS
One of the greatest gifts of my career came while pursuing certification in holistic nursing and the paradigm shift that accompanied it. I had been using NANDA nursing diagnoses for care plan development throughout most of my career so imagine my surprise at realizing they were built on 9 human response patterns that informed everything I had intuitively grasped as a nurse caring for people health challenges. I began to understand that all patient behavior, symptoms, lifestyles, choices, etc. coalesced into recognizable human response patterns that I had intuitively picked up over the years. ‘Pattern recognition’ became the buzz word for making the bridge between the science of nursing and the art of nursing. How wonderful to learn and use a deeper, broader base of nursing knowledge and wisdom.
SPIRITUALITY/HOLISM/CUTTING EDGE NEW THOUGHT
It was this path into holistic nursing that truly transformed my career and launched me unexpectedly into the second half of my career. I was at a critical juncture in my personal life, seriously considering changing careers altogether. I had take a position in a rehab hospital, and was visiting the medical bookstore for a care planning book. As I was walking down an aisle in the nursing section, a large, pink volume literally fell off the shelf as I approached…The Handbook of Holistic Nursing Practice. Now I had been witness to many amazing feats in emergency rooms and intensive care units, things that defied explanation. But in the outside world? In hindsight I can see it was the advent of a spiritual awakening and picking up that book changed my life. The journey that has followed to this day are beyond any explanation that ‘science’ can offer. I began to see and feel a realm that operates behind the day to day world we live in. The health challenges people presented began to show me how consciousness was emerging, expanding and transforming. I learned to help my patients navigate these challenges as transformations and to ‘see’ with a new set of eyes that health is expanding consciousness. I began to realize that evolution doesn’t just happen over thousands and thousands of years. It happens moment by moment with every choice, every interaction with another, and every thing we do and think.
Nursing, as a career, did NOT live into the expectations I had when I first stepped out of my initial career choice of journalism. How could it? My expectations are too small. Nursing had its own plans for me. Bigger plans. Better plans. Plans I could have never dreamed. It has taught and shown me the depth and breadth of emotion as well as the heights of transcendent moments. It has made me a bigger and definitely better person. It has been a career that has changed me and allowed me to learn to love, to live with the unseen and to believe in the unknown that always lies before us.
About the Writer: Paula Frate began her nursing career in 1978 with an Associate Degree of Applied Science in Nursing from a small college in northern Ohio. She relocated to Houston, Texas in 1981 and has a broad background in both business and healthcare.
She currently works as a nurse consultant with Compliance Review Services, Inc. serving the needs of small business start-ups and the regulatory demands of growing companies. She is also an instructor for Vocational Nursing Institute, Inc.