Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Women, clean, white, scrubs, night shift, caps, bedpan, bed bath, shots, blood, vomitus, mucus, illness, death are a few of the mental pictures I have painted on my mind when I was deciding about starting nursing school. It is most certainly not for me. Nursing is not cool. It is not cool to a young guy out of high school. It is absolutely not cool to a young guy in the 70’s. It is not cool for a guy period. Guys did not talk about nursing as a career. It was a secret. It was like a communicable disease, like cancer, maybe even like death.
Like any ordinary guy, I had dreams of making it big without really knowing how. Once high school was over, I went off to the big city. After four years, I had my diploma in nursing. What happened?
Nursing school was challenging. To keep my sanity and survive, nursing made me reach out to every physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional resource I didn’t even know I had. And the few times when I found myself about to hang it up, something happens that gives me a bit of ego boost, not much but enough to keep me going.
The challenges were stressed to the nth power. It was difficult to learn every minute detail about the human body in Anatomy and Physiology but was interesting to actually see the body layer by layer courtesy of a cadaver. It was torture to memorize the long names of disease causing organisms in Microbiology but was fun to start calling my teachers names as Flagella, Shigella etc. It was gratifying to practice giving shots to each other but very embarrassing to uncontrollable shake when doing it on a real patient for the first few times.
Oh, but there’s more. It was difficult to admit feeling warm and faint upon the sight of a scalpel making the incision on the abdomen during surgery rotation. It was humiliating to get screamed at by physicians. It was a miracle not to lose my breakfast when I watched my patient gag her insides. But it was a relief that it was my classmate and not I who fainted at Labor and Delivery. It was really freaky to do CPR for the first time but I couldn’t wait to brag about it to my friends. It was puzzling to observe my classmates, who I believed are in nursing for the wrong reasons but are making better grades than I did. I feel sorry and sad for those who couldn’t continue but at the same time very glad that I wasn’t one of those who were cut from the program.
Through the years, nursing remained challenging. It didn’t get any better after nursing school. Passing the nursing board came next. Then getting a job as a real nurse followed.
Nursing has afforded me experiences and opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Let me recall a few. The genuine “thank you” I received from an embarrassed colostomy patient, for doing a dirty job for her was priceless. The special times when my patient’s families cried on my shoulder made me feel important. The numerous times I was introduced by my previous patients as the “best nurse ever” will remain with me as long as I live. The day I traveled with a President on the same plane was an ego trip I will not soon forget. The various moments when a student or preceptee came back and told me “I am what I am today because of what I learned from you”, gratifies my entire existence as a nurse. The horrifying flight through a stormy weather to get an AMI patient to the catheterization lab gave me self worth. But I wouldn’t say it did not scare the living daylights out of me. The very emotional moment when a patient whose entire family became my friends, willed his house to me will remain confusing to me. I still can’t understand why but I will always know that my decision not to accept it was right.
I can go on to make this essay a novel. But my point is that nursing was a challenge, is a challenge and will always be a challenge. That has kept me in nursing all these years. Now if I have to start all over again, would I be a nurse once more? You bet. As the saying goes “In order to see a rainbow, you must first endure some rain”, I can honestly say I have seen wonderful rainbows in nursing and hope to see a few more.