It took me almost 30 years to figure out what I want to be. When I was little I wanted to be a fireman or a dinosaur. Neither one of those worked out. Now that I am grown up, I can say that I am proud to be a nurse. Nursing school was a very demanding and emotional rollercoaster, so much so that the mere thought of going back for my NP anytime soon makes me really want to look into a career as a dinosaur. Trying to juggle personal life responsibilities, financial well-being, self-care, social connections, clinicals, and late-night studying is physically and emotionally draining. But I would do it again in a heartbeat to get to where I am today.

In nursing school, you often hear that you learn 1% of the job in school and the other 99% when you start working. I’m not sure why school costs so much…. There are days when I feel like I know nothing at all, but then there are little moments, whether it’s with a patient or another team member, that show me I am exactly where I am meant to be. The transition from student to professional nurse is a reality shock. Once you put your scrubs on and step onto the unit, you are expected to be a professional. Your patients expect to be able to rely on and trust you. It doesn't matter if it’s day one or year 10, you are expected to have the capacity and knowledge to treat the patient with the utmost respect, dignity, care, and empathy. 

I understood what it meant to be a nurse when I was working at a Boston hospital on a med-surg floor. One of my patients had been there for months and was clearly depressed. She was neglecting her mental and physical health and it was obvious she had given up. She refused showers or bed baths, wouldn’t get up to use the bathroom, never brushed her hair, and barely ate any food. Her hair particularly was a stressor for her. She had been laying in this bed with the back of her head pressed against the pillow for months, so she was losing a lot of it. On top of that, it was the most tangled head of hair I had ever seen in my entire life. She told me she just wanted to shave it off and was very adamant about it, but she was clearly upset that it had come to that.

I spent three hours sitting in her room detangling her hair. When I was done, I french braided it and you should have seen the glowing smile on her face. I hadn’t seen her smile in months, which was one of the best moments in my nursing career so far. It may seem silly and hair detangling is definitely not something I am required to do, but my job as a nurse is to make sure my patients feel seen, heard, cared for, and comfortable. I learned that being a nurse isn’t just taking vital signs, performing head-to-toe assessments, administering medications, etc. It is my duty to nurture each and every one of my patients, helping them find new ways to grow, heal and lead a happier life.

One of my biggest takeaways from this experience is how amazing and rewarding it is to be a part of this respected profession. I have quickly realized that while yes, this is a job, it also becomes a part of your identity. Nursing will never simply be a job for me, it is a passion. It is a constant process of learning and growing in my personal and professional life.

Author: Sam Dorman