I have been MIA the last month for a few reasons (sick baby, sick me, way too many tests to study for, really didn’t want to hear anything more political, etc.), but glad to be able to get back to doing things that make me feel more human again. I come from a family of nurses and I’m happy to have one of my sisters here today to talk about her career in nursing!
What is your job title? Registered Nurse
What is your general job description? Assess, plan, implement, evaluate and document nursing care of patients.
What did you study in college? 2 year Associates in general studies, Bachelors of Science in Community/Public health, 2 Year Associates in Nursing, in that order.
Why did you decide to pursue that degree? I had originally intended to do nursing school but once I began at the University they required organic chemistry for their 4 year degree and since I got a 19% on the first exam I decided to not pursue that route. So I chose public health as the runner up degree! I loved that major. I loved learning about how people come to make changes in their health. I loved evaluating what needs the community had and coming up with plans to achieve goals addressing those needs. I loved teaching people how to make small changes to bring about big results in their health. However, after graduation I realized that this field would likely require a Master’s degree to earn a decent income and require me to work full time. At the time I was ready to start a family and have my husband begin his education.
After my husband began school, we learned that we would require expensive specialist intervention to get pregnant so we re-evaluated our educational/career/family goals. We decided to both apply to an Associate’s degree nursing program and were accepted and did that program together…no organic chemistry required! Immediately after graduation we were both hired by a large hospital in Phoenix and began in vitro shortly thereafter, which was partly paid for by insurance and because of our large incomes we could afford it! We were blessed with our first daughter about 10 months later.
Was there anything about your education that surprised you? I can’t say there were any surprises about my education other than maybe ending back in nursing after 10 years
How does your education relate to what you do at work? Both of my degrees do relate to my current employment. Obviously my nursing skills as I work with medical/surgical patients, but also as I occasionally have the opportunity to talk about making lifestyle changes to bring more positive results.
What specific aspects of your education prepared you for your career? Nursing requires you to think about an entire picture of a patient, not just a specific problem, in order to bring about healing. In nursing school you learn to take facts from many areas of the person (i.e. their labs, their physical presentation, their history, their lifestyle, etc.) to guide their care, to catch possible causes of their state of “reduced health”, and to reduce disability/emergent situations. Many times, catching possible emergencies has come from learning to talk to the patient and know that they just don’t seem right. This is a process and comes from experience, but is founded in understanding what “normal” is for the general population and what it means for each individual. I guess I feel like a detective most of the time!
Was your degree the only path to get this job? Many RNs now have Bachelor’s degrees in nursing, and that is becoming the preferred degree. Though good, it’s not mandatory…yet. We chose the shorter route because we wanted to start making good money more quickly to be able to start our family sooner. And many hospitals will pay tuition reimbursement to obtain that BSN. We are very happy with our choice to do the 2 year degree first. It saved us thousands of dollars.
What are your plans for continuing in your profession/goals for advancement/where do you ultimately want to see yourself? This is a tough question of where do I ultimately want to see myself/goals for advancement. Honestly, I see myself returning to public health. I feel like our society is a “quick fix” kind of society; that we just want to do what’s necessary now to feel good and we’ll worry about tomorrow when it gets here. With public health it’s all about making changes now so that I’ll have that tomorrow and that when it comes I will be healthy enough to enjoy it. I think in the next 10 years I will go back to school for a Masters in Nursing with a public health emphasis.
What are some of the challenges of your job? There are tons of challenges with nursing, regardless of which division you find yourself working in. I think one of the major challenges is our current healthcare system/insurance/reimbursement environment. I feel like so many of our problems stem from this. The powers that be that determine what they will and won’t reimburse drive the system. Our hospital talks a lot about what Medicaid/Medicare will and won’t pay for and so when our hospital loses money because of decreased reimbursement there is less money to pay for adequate staff. This means that fewer staff has to care for just as many patients. Many nights I will have 6 patients and not enough time to spend with each of them. Sometimes they barely see me other than to pass them their medications. I feel like this is such a disservice to patients and to me as a nurse. I feel like I am not able to provide the quality of care that I would want if I were a patient. This short staffing leads to another big challenge of safety. Safety for me as a licensed professional and patient safety. When an RN’s load is too much mistakes are more likely to happen and that can harm patients and cause a nurse to lose their license.
Another challenge is workplace safety. Our society is definitely more violent than previous generations and patient violence is always a concern. Also, the safety of not contracting an illness from our patients.
Another challenge is having patients that just don’t care. It goes back to that culture of “quick fixes.” We often see patients return again and again to the hospital for the same problems because they leave and just don’t care about their health. It’s difficult to care for someone that doesn’t seem to care about themselves and knowing that all of us eventually “pay” for that individual’s lack of self-care.
What is rewarding about your job? Rewards of my job…on some nights that is a “challenge” to see! Many of the rewards are very small. It’s rewarding to see that a patient is finally in less pain and can sleep; it’s rewarding to discover and reverse something that could’ve turned in to a major emergency; it’s rewarding to know in the morning when I go home that I did my best of balancing everything that needed to get done the previous 12 hours. I can remember one of my first experiences in the hospital and it still makes me emotional. I was still in nursing school and was assigned an older gentleman who had had a stroke and had significant difficulty feeding himself. As I sat there feeding him and encouraging him to do as much as he could (which was only getting the fork off the plate) I remember thinking that this was someone’s husband, father, grandfather; that he had a life before this disability hit, that he had worth as a human being. I felt so grateful that I was able to help in such a small way and that the experience impacted me for the better. I’ve been quicker to not take for granted that simple act of being able to feed myself.
Are there any stereotypes in your field that you have to deal with? The stereotype that male nurses aren’t the normal. Glad that this is becoming more normal! I love working with my male counterparts, they bring a different style of thinking to our profession!
How do you balance work with your other life obligations/goals? I only work one night a week for now and this allows me to balance work with my other responsibilities for the most part. I am hoping to start working less (like 2 times a month) as I have begun homeschooling my kids and that is a full time job along with being a wife and mother.
Do you feel like your career is very conducive to balancing those other things? This is the great thing about nursing…I can work one night a week and my income pays for our mortgage. Or rather we use my income to pay for our family vacations and other expenses that come up out of nowhere. If and when I do leave the hospital/nursing I feel like if I had to go back it would still be possible and not a difficult transition
What benefits does your work offer in regards to maternity leave/family needs? I personally don’t have benefits at my employment (because I do through my husband’s employment) but because I don’t I get paid more hourly. If I needed to use FMLA I would have no problems being able to do so. I think that’s pretty standard for the healthcare professions.
What advice do you have for other women who are pursuing this field? If you are pursuing this field there are definitely some things to consider. I currently am struggling with the nursing profession, or at least working as I do in the hospital (I have been in the hospital setting for 8 years now since graduation). I am burned out. I have had a hard time finding joy in my job lately. That may be due more to my focus being more on my family and their needs, but I know it also stems from feeling understaffed and overworked at times. It’s such a challenge to not be able to provide quality care (by giving more undivided time) to my patients, that I wonder if it’s worth it at times to even work. I would caution that if you want to be a nurse in order to fulfill some “Florence Nightengale” like fantasy of being an awesome listener, holding hands with a patient and helping them make a miraculous recovery, that’s not going to happen. Most nights I am running around crazy until about midnight and then have to find time the next 6 hours in between answering call lights to chart everything I did those first hours adequately enough that I don’t get in trouble for not charting properly.
Maybe the key lies in diversifying, which is definitely possible with nursing. When I decided I’m ready for something different it won’t be that difficult for me to make the change, whether that’s a different department in the hospital, or leaving the hospital for something completely different.
Overall, I’m satisfied in the route my education and job have taken me. I don’t feel like I’m done yet with nursing but look forward to what lies ahead!