When I first went to college, like every kid I was faced with the premature decision of what to do with my life. I was never someone who always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I changed my mind a thousand times: from photographer, to singer, to physical therapist, to philosopher, to athletic trainer, to minister. In the end I got a degree that trained me to be a youth pastor, which I didn’t want to be, and another one that trained me how to think but didn’t leave me a lot of (read: ANY) job opportunities. I guess I followed through with it because I enjoyed the classes and the professors, and like most adolescents the future wasn’t something I seriously considered.
It wasn’t until getting a random job through a friend working in medical records at a cancer clinic that I was faced with the nursing profession. After two months, it hit me that hey! I might like to be a nurse, and you know what? I’d probably be good at it. It would be a place where my analytical mind could safely collide with my ministry background and compassionate nature. This “temporary” job turned into two years of full-time work while attending more classes at night, followed by two years of nursing school, and my parents weren’t paying for it this time. When I graduated last May and passed boards, I felt like I could conquer the world, as long as I could stay out of school for more than a few months.
Nursing has been everything and nothing like I expected it to be. It’s tough, it’s exhilarating, it’s incredibly draining, it’s incredibly fulfilling. I’m slowly mastering all the skills like I knew I would, but still haven’t quite mastered the feeling of when a patient I’ve grown attached to slips away. I expected the stress and to some extent the politics of the workplace, but I wasn’t prepared to face coworkers who clearly don’t like their jobs and are decidedly lacking in compassion for difficult patients. I just don’t see how anyone can do this for a single day without love, and a feeling of compulsion. As in, I MUST do this, it is what I’m meant for.
I have a mentor at work, which, by the way, is something I’ve always wanted. She is a 64-year-old woman named Pat who has been a nurse for 41 years. As far as nursing goes, she’s everything I want to be. Not only is she wise, she sees each patient as a person and within a day knows his/her life story. She adopted me and is slowly teaching me everything she knows. I like having her around because she boosts my ego by saying things like, “You are the best new nurse I’ve ever worked with in all my years,” and says it to the doctors and patients, too.
Over the weekend Pat told me that I need to become a nurse practitioner. I immediately protested: “That’s too much responsibility!”
“No, not for your level of intelligence. You could be a doctor if you wanted to.”
“I already have too many student loans!”
“NP’s make three times the amount you make now, you could take classes online, and Methodist does tuition reimbursement. You can’t stop here, you’re too smart.”
“But I’m sick of school…”
My replies became more feeble as the conversation went on. I told her I would think about it, which is more than I would have done for anyone else. She caught me at an opportune time, because in May we do annual employee evaluations. To prepare for that, there are SO many things we have to do (no, really, you have NO idea all of the things we have to do), but one of them is to prepare a list of our goals. So far I had thought of two: become oncology certified, and be a preceptor for new nurses. The preceptor thing was thrust upon me already, so I’m down to one tangible goal. Statements like “be the best nurse I can be” won’t cut it.
Should I do it? I don’t know. I haven’t really looked into it yet. Eventually I’ll get around to doing the research, followed by the inevitable pro/con list, and then I’ll ignore the list and go whichever way my instinct carries me. I’ve heard a lot of Christians struggle with answering the question “what is God’s will for my life?” But I know what God’s will is. He told us: love God and love others. I can do that no matter what profession I’m in.
Maybe I’ll work my way up the ranks and become a manager. Maybe I’ll have babies and transfer to a clinic where I don’t have to work weekends. Maybe I’ll get certified in pain management and work at a hospice. Maybe I’ll grit my teeth and stay here, literally getting my hands dirty, and become a mentor to someone else down the line like Pat is to me. Maybe I’ll go back to school and become a nurse practitioner. Whatever I end up doing, I know it’ll be right. And hopefully, I’ll learn to better do God’s will along the way.