Thursday, March 8, 2012

NURSE: A Career To Be Proud Of

               It was the end of June, just three weeks after I had graduated from high school.  Most teenagers my age were out and about enjoying their summer vacations.  It was college time for me, however, and I was on my way to school – nursing school.  I was seventeen years old; scared, naïve, and overwhelmed with the amount of work I was faced with.  Not to mention that following a full day of classes, I made my way to my part-time job as a waitress at a local restaurant.  For me, the start of college was a huge transition time in my life; and a time which demanded a lot of discipline for a seventeen year old.

               Needless to say, this never-ending pace wore very thin by the third week.  When the instructors spoke about what projects lay ahead of us over the semester, I was still worried about learning the beginning aspects of my nursing courses and the overall concept of nursing.  What was being a nurse all about?  Not what I had thought it would be about.  After finishing my first week of nursing school in the clinical setting, I went home and cried.  I had had no idea what was expected of nurses at the hospital or on the job.  Nursing school was very intense, and to call myself overwhelmed was an understatement.

               I sat on the couch at my parent’s house and cried that day, and I announced that I would be quitting nursing school.  After about an hour’s worth of persuasion, my parents had me convinced to stick with it, and to at least “try” to understand as much of what was being thrown at me as possible.  I agreed to “try”, after all, it was Friday and I didn’t have to think about school again until Monday.

               “Try”.  I didn’t realize how much meaning this little word has, but I was still learning.

               It was Saturday night and the restaurant where I worked was packed.  There were no available tables and a lobby full of people waiting to be seated.  I was working as fast as I could when I heard a shrill voice exclaim over the roar of the crowded dining room, “She’s choking! Oh my God! She’s choking!”  I looked across the dining room and saw a woman who looked to be in her late fifties, staggering down the aisle between tables.  The palm of her hand was across her throat.  Her face was red, and her eyes looked horrified as she looked around frantically.  She couldn’t speak, but her bulging eyes seemed to plead for help from those around her.  The people around her froze and I instinctively sprang into action.  I felt like my feet were moving to that woman in a way that was beyond my control – as if a magnetic force was pulling me towards her.  I knew I had to help her.  But what could I do? Just a few weeks earlier I had taken my BLS course for nursing school, but I did not feel prepared for this.  I had performed the Heimlich Maneuver one time in my life – on a dummy, none the less!  I was so young and unsure of myself, yet my mind knew that I had to get over to her.  I had to “try”. 

               When I arrived where the woman was standing, a crowd had gathered.  The people were encircling her – but no one could do anything to help her.  “Please let me through…Please let me to her.  I think I can help…”

               I pressed through the crowd and stood in front of the choking woman, her face was bright red, her lips were blue, and there was absolutely no air exchange.  I came up behind her, put my arms around her to the middle of her upper abdomen and gave a thrust inward and upward.  Nothing happened.  “Oh no,” I thought, “I knew I didn’t know how to do this!” It’s not working...What am I going to do now?”  Try again, a voice spoke inside of my head, and I gave it another good thrust.  Then another, and another - and that one did it!  This lady who a few seconds earlier had been just minutes from choking to death, was breathing freely.  It was truly amazing!  The woman’s husband was hugging her and patting me on the shoulder with continuous “thank you’s” as big tears rolled down his cheeks.  We all felt the joy of this moment and I thanked God for giving me the will and courage, along with the skills and basic knowledge to at least “try” and help.

               It amazed me just then how much I cared for this woman – this stranger. I didn’t even know her name; all I cared about was helping her.  As the evening wore on, I felt as if this all had happened for a reason. That night I answered a calling – and I never looked back. From that day onward, I better understood the concept of nursing, and I never again doubted that I wanted to be a nurse. 

Being a nurse is a “gift” from God.  To be able to help mankind when they need it the most is truly a gift.  By working with our knowledge and trained skills and by delivering a service from the heart, every nurse makes a difference in the world every single day; and that is a career to be proud of. 

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