We received many articles for the NurseTogether article contest and it was a difficult process to pick just three, as there were so many inspirational, entertaining, touching and informative articles submitted. The team would like to thank everyone who participated for sharing your experiences with us, and thank you for being a part of this amazing profession! Tune in tomorrow to find out who the 3rd winner is!
I grew up in a small community and the hospital in town had a Candy Striper program. When I was thirteen years old, I had the great experience to work with the nurses assisting them in their very busy day. I was able to help with ADL’s, provide massage and be there to listen to their stories. This experience solidified my decision to go into nursing for my career.
During high school, I obtained my certified nursing assistant certification and went to work at a local nursing home. The work was hard but I was able to learn much about patient care, how to be a collaborative member of a healthcare team, how to work with families and how important listening to the patient was. After I graduated from high school, I moved to the big city and worked at a local hospital as a CNA in various departments. It was then that I decided it was time to enroll in nursing school.
I was not the traditional nursing student in that I was married and had a two year old and a 4-month old at home when the semester started. Not only was I juggling home, children and school, but I also continued to work part time at the hospital.
I had been in school for about three months when my 6-month old daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had to have surgery just before finals. I explained my situation to my school and they committed to work with me to help me finish up that semester.
I was left to believe the tumor would remain stable and no more care would be required, so I made the decision to continue with school. It was during the second semester that I realized something was not right so I took my daughter to a specialist and learned that the tumor was growing and we would need to go to UCSF in San Francisco. The trip was made and a treatment plan given and we were able to return to Portland and receive care there by a pediatric oncologist.
I decided to continue with school but did give up working part-time as a CNA. During the remaining school years I was very fortunate to receive the support of my nursing instructors and professors. During one of my rotations I met a fantastic nurse practitioner who built a practice to serve children in her community that were underserved. Her stories as a nurse were priceless. She became a mentor to me as she too had undergone struggles to get to where she was. She provided me with so much encouragement during the many tough times. When I was unsure I had the strength to make it through, she was there to tell me I could. Despite having to return to San Francisco for another surgery, going through 6 weeks of twice daily radiation and on-going chemotherapy, I finally made it to graduation day. I looked out proudly seeing her there at the ceremony celebrating my achievement.
After losing my daughter, I went to work for the home care company that provided such wonderful support to me during the week my daughter was at home dying. I spent many years devoted to pediatric home care. I was able to help several families work through the dying process with their children with the hope of it being a positive and supported experience, where their children could die at home with their family and friends around. Many people ask me how I handled losing a child and I truly say that, while it is hard, I feel so lucky that I could take my tragedy and turn it into something positive. I am certain I am a better nurse and know my role in helping other parents through the process truly made a difference.
I have had many great opportunities in my career path including: adult oncology nurse, childbirth coach, pediatric office nurse, pediatric oncology nurse, pediatric home care nurse, pediatric shift care manager, disease management supervisor, supervisor at a clinic serving the uninsured and am now currently working back in the world of oncology, creating an unprecedented cancer care product that will change the direction of cancer care for patients.
Looking back, I have no regrets. I have always looked forward to going to work and nothing makes going to work more rewarding than knowing I make a difference every day.
As I end this chapter of my nurse story and open a new one, I can proudly say my second daughter is now in her third year of nursing school and will soon be following in my footsteps.