Sunday, September 23, 2007

Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief

When you were a kid, did you want to be a nurse when you grew up?

Me neither.

I've noticed that most people think that a person is born to be a nurse. I suppose there are some people who have an innate need to nurture and care for others. These people are co-dependent, not nurses.

When I talk to people and they find out I'm a nursing student, several things happen.

A. They want to talk about their last hospital experience - in vivid detail.
B. They ask for medical advice - then promptly argue about it.
C. If they're nurses they tell me I'm crazy.
D. If they want to go to nursing school, they first tell me they're in nursing school, then later confess they're working on pre-regs. Trying to go to nursing school and actually going to nursing school are two completely different things.
E. They tell me I'm an angel.

The last one really amuses me. In my entire life no one has ever said I'm an angel. Oh, I've been called many descriptive and off-color things, but never an angel. I'm not a person who is all-giving, all-loving and concerned about the welfare of others. I'm not known for committing random acts of kindness. Not that I don't care about people at all; just not that much.

I would like to put the idea out there that nursing is a career choice; that people can make an intellectual decision to go into nursing. If you didn't want to be a nurse ever since you were a little girl (or boy) that doesn't mean you can't change your mind later.

There are lots of careers out there that people don't even know about until they get into college, or get into a job and find out there are other things to do in their field. No one thinks it odd that a computer programmer or a widget welder didn't dream about that profession from the time they were little kids. Why not nursing?

My view is that if a person goes into nursing because they want to take care of people, they are trying to get their own caregiving needs met and the focus isn't on the patient. They're looking for a pat on the back or other emotional reward. Another downside to this view is that the person who has a need to take care of others is going to get their hearts broken. Patient's are a very ungrateful lot, and it's getting worse as hospitals are trying to market themselves as hotels. In the short time I've dealt with patients, they couldn't care less that they've been yanked from the brink of death. All they want is their meals hot and on time, fuzz-free cable and someone to make them a fresh pot of coffee. Do you want me to pull the car around for you too?

Even though I didn't go into nursing looking to fullfill a need, I was still shocked by this attitude. Fortunately I was able to keep going and stay focused on my reason for going into nursing - because I love medicine. It doesn't mean that only one kind of person can be a nurse. It doesn't mean that only people who can suffer inwardly and silentely can do the job - although it helps.

For the people who don't get past the shock, I'm disappointed and sad. Nursing is such an all-encompassing field that anyone can find a good fit somewhere. Depending on your personality, there is a nursing job that will be a good fit. Some of my classmates got disillusioned during clinicals and quit. I wish they could have held on long enough to see that nursing isn't just what we do in clinicals. If they held on they would see that the places we spend time in clinicals got more and more interesting. They would have found out that what you thought you'd like to do, you really actually hate, and thing you thought you'd never do end up being the thing that you love.

There are lots of places a person can work. There are different specialities, patient populations, age groups, working environments, and so on. The job can vary a great deal from one hospital to another, and even one unit to another. There are nursing jobs where you don't have to work with people at all if you don't want to. Don't like kids? Work in orthopedics. Can't stand the sight of blood? Work in hospice. Hate wearing scrubs and prefer heels and hose? Become a drug rep.

I'm sizing up jobs based on the working conditions. For example, I always thought I'd like working in the OR best because I'm fascinated by it, but even more than that I don't have to deal with providing concierge service all day because the patients are asleep. Then I went to NICU and fell in love with that too because of the practicality of the job. No running back and forth down the hall. My patients are no more than a few feet away, and I won't be acting as concierge because they can't talk. I can't imagine quitting after all the time and effort I put into my education. If I don't like what I'm doing, I can easily go someplace else.

I wouldn't have all those choices available to me if I had chosen to become an Indian chief.

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