I love nursing….psychiatric nurse

I’ve been a nurse for 30 years. I got to the profession at age 29 after waiting years to go back to college. My family felt that nursing was not proper for a lady, and refused to help me pay for nursing school. Later, with two small children in tow, I went anyway. I was written out of the family will for a few years, but knew I could not leave what I loved just because fmaily members were manipulative and controlling. I heard from them just before I was graduated, and they all declared they were sooooo proud of me….I learned that it’s really important to “follow your bliss’ as Joseph Campbell says. Don’t sell out dreams, ever.

3 years later when I diagnosed a Digitalis toxicity that the doctor missed, I got written back into the will. Stick to your guns, and people will follow. If they don’t they’re not worth having in your life.

When I got out of the community college program, there was an overabundance of nurses on Long Island. Our dean asked those who were not tied to the island by family obligations to leave because there was not work enough for all of us. Many of my friends moved out of state at that time. I did private duty wherever I could come by it until a full-time position opened up 8 mos. later in a state psychiatric hospital. It was a old one, and we had none of the modern antidepressants or new anti-psychotics to use. There was always someone walking around in a straight-jacket, always fights would break out, glass and furniture flew… I stayed because I believed that I could make a difference, and in small but important ways I did. It was one hell of an introduction to professional nursing. There were evenings when I was the only RN in a building of 250 patients. Sure, I had experienced therapy aids, but the responsibility was mine.

Sometimes, I was the only RN for two or three buildings. After about 6 mos. I was having coffee with my faviurite professor, and ended up crying at her kitchen table. She helped me to see that i had two choices. Stay and manage it all, or leave. I chose to stay, and am glad to this day that I did. I learned from that first grueling experience where my limits were , and how to push them back. I learned that I had real leadership potential. And I learned that I needed to go back to school again. I went from psychiatric nursing into Intensive Care in New York City. The unit liked to hire nurses with different backgrounds because we could all consult one another about a variety of patients. There was always someone who was an expert in whatever you needed to know.

After a long orientation, I felt at home in ICU, got 12 hour shifts, and returned to school for my bacheloreate degree in nursing. I was concerned that I would be almost 40 by the time I was graduated. My mentor asked me very simply “And how old will you be if you don’t get your degree?”. I went back to school and never have given age another thought. I will be almost 63 before I get my PhD. So what?!

After graduation, I returned to psych. I ran one of the first 3 medical=psychiatric units in the country. It was exciting because I worked in a famous tertiary care center, and we got patients referred to us from all over the world for the specialized care we gave. I loved combining the essence of ICU with psychiatry. While I was NCC of that unit, I began graduate school in psychiatric/mental health nursing. I knew if I stayed at the university affiliated with the medical center that i could take a master’s degree in Intensive Care Nursing, but I wanted more freedom, so I chose psych, knowing I would then be able to open my own practice as a Clinical Nurse Specialist if I chose. Toward the end of grad school I took a position in a city ER to get the 12 hour shifts which permitted 4 days of school and study. It was in the ER that i had two serious accidients, first a patient falling on me, and then a car accident – I fell asleep at the wheel going home after almost 24 hours on duty. I had been called in to work early due to an impending ice storm, and had had to work late until my relief arrived. The back injuries from those accidents took me out of hospital nursing forever, since I could no longer engage in the physically demanding work on a regular basis. My master’s allowed me to work as a therapist at a clinic for 8 years. I left, began my own practice, and went to Nurse Practitioner school for a post-master’s certificate. I chose to study adult medicine, and was graduated 2 years later.

I still pracice privately in psych, I have a collaborative practice with a physician I’ve known and loved for 25 years, i diagnose, treat and prescribe under my own license in NY state. I have the freedom I want and the work that I love. I have the best of both specialties, also. Just when it seemed things couldn’t get better, I was offered a part-time position teaching in the undergraduate department of a University school of nursing here on Long Island. I decided on a PhD topic, and wil be doing it through an Australian university on-line. I’ll hae to be in Sydney 3 weeks evry year for the next 5 or 6 years, which suits me just fine! There have been a few times hated my practice,but understood it was up to me to make things better. I always got sick and tired of listing to colleagues bitch and whine about how awful nursing was. I tell my own students that it is as good as you decide to make it, no matter what the circumstances in which you work. And if they are truly grim, get out and go elsewhere where the staff is given proper support. I believe some people need to martyr themselves by staying in positions they hate. It’s amazing how many excuse they can find to stay miserable. I chose to associate with people who are positive about the profession we practice, and I advise my students to do the same. I have been a broke single mama, wondering how to make ends meet, and I have seen how tought life can be. If I ever stopped to wonder how I would pay for the next degree, I might not even have an RN after my name right now, much less all the other “alphabet soup” I have acquired as the years (and degrees) have gone by. Nursing is a vital, changing profession. It is not for the weak, the lazy, those who don’t like challenge, and those who don’t feel comfortable with problem solving, thinking on their feet, or dealing intimately with everthing that life has.

It is intellecturally demanding, it can burn you out unless you know how to take good care of yourslef and make the time to do so. It allows us to touch other peoples’ lives as few really can, and becuase of that we make profound differences in the lives of our patients every day. As I back out of my driveway each morning my prayer has been (for years) and will continue to be “Thank you for calling me to nursing. I am so very grateful that I’m a nurse”.

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