Like most, I entered nursing school wide-eyed and ready to take on the responsibility of caring for those who needed me most. I was in awe of all the knowledge I was expected to absorb and the experienced nurses who made each move look like second nature. I knew within my heart I had found my calling, my place in this world, and after graduation I was ready to dive face first into my new job. I chose nursing because I wanted to make a difference; I wanted to come home knowing I did something right or brought a smile to a patient's face. I was unable to accept a nine-to-five job for fear I would become complacent and lose the need for action, for that human connection to others in order to be satisfied with my career.
So my dreams and I applied and got accepted to an accelerated BSN program for my second degree. For those who have chosen a similar path as mine, you will understand when I say I don't recall much of those 13 months. One minute I was I orientation, the next I was on stage getting pinned, and then there I was in my scrubs that didn't quite fit right, enough pens for a year worth of work, a brand new stethoscope and a feeling of excitement I could never put into words.
Fast forward three and a half years: I am a RN in the Emergency Department of a level two trauma center in an inner city.
There are orders, there is screaming, there is pain, there is chaos. For every second of my 12-hour shift, there is something. Having shifts like these, day in and day out, can slowly fog over the rose-colored glasses I wore of the beginning of my nursing career, when I knew I was going to make a difference. After being cursed out, kicked at, spit on and told, "you're just a nurse," I sometimes begin to forget why I decided this was my calling. But then, as if the universe knows you're on your last leg, there is the patient who looks you in the eye and simply says thank you and you know they mean it. That's when I remember all that I know.
I know that because I chose to be a nurse there will be moments in my career that I will never be able to forget no matter how hard I tried. The wailing of a parent who lost their child, the defeat in the trauma team when we came so close to saving a life, the look of loss that swims in someone's eye when they realize someone they love is gone, the shock and confusion when someone is handed a diagnosis that will forever change the person they were before walking in to the ED with a simple headache.
I also know that because I chose nursing there will be moments I will always remember. Moments I will cherish and cling to when I feel my faith in this career wavering. The moment someone finds out they are going to be a mother, the comfort of our familiar "ED favorites" who manage to bring a smile to our faces despite being short staffed and exhausted, the smile on both a pediatric patient and their parent when you tell them everything is going to be okay, the immeasurable, mind blowing teamwork that makes me damn proud of the people I get to work alongside with.
It's because of these moments that I have been able to hold someone's hand while they let their loved ones pass into peace, cried with family members because in that moment, I wasn't just a nurse -- I was a person who felt and shared their pain, pulled up a chair to hear a story from an elderly person who just wants someone to listen, stood with a wife trying to explain how we were doing every possible thing in our power to bring back her husband. How many people can say this? How many people can say they are with people in their most vulnerable and devastating moments? How many of us can leave this world knowing we did at least one thing right? That we were there, that we always will be there, despite the chaos, despite the bone tiredness, or how much we wish we could be home with our own families, we show up for our patients, for our team, for ourselves.
In closing, because of this wild, irreplaceable career that has found me just as much as I have found it, I will always choose life, I will always choose love and I will always, every time, choose nursing.