During my first year of nursing school, my grandfather underwent quadruple bypass surgery. My father and grandmother were very proud to introduce me to the nurses caring for him as “his granddaughter, a future nurse.” I have to admit that I felt quite a sense of pride with that introduction as well. Then we walked into his room in the surgical ICU…

My clinical experience had been minimal thus far, really just “communicating” with actual patients a handful of times.  Did practicing reflection, active listening, and restating prepare me for what I was about to see? I’m guessing not, since after I took one look at my sweet grandfather with all his post-op CABG attachments, I promptly hit the floor. That’s right, I fainted.

Uh-oh….was I really cut out to be a nurse? I wasn’t so sure anymore. My grandfather recovered without incident and fortunately, once he was out of ICU, I was able to visit him without any further incidents myself. I didn’t let this alter my career path and I continued on with my nursing education.

The following year, my father had surgery for skin cancer. The procedure involved attaching a flap of skin from his forehead (which remained attached there) to his nose, where the cancer had been removed. This flap would remain for several weeks until it began healing in its new location. I was a sophomore in school now and had a little more clinical experience under my belt, albeit not much. My parents planned his surgery during my winter break so I could be home and help out with his wound care. Big mistake - yet again, I was not very helpful. I could barely look at my father, even with his dressings in place, without getting light-headed.

Well, believe it or not, I did finish nursing school and found my niche in critical care nursing. When I think back to the types of patients I cared for in the medical intensive care unit, I’m amazed that I never once lost consciousness! How could I have doubted my decision to become a nurse? I thrived on caring for the sickest patients, using highly-technological interventions, and even dealing with the ugliest of wounds. Even post-mortem care was not an issue for me - I had a respect for that privilege that is indescribable.

So what is the message here? Expect to have doubts, but don’t let those doubts throw you off track. Talk to someone about your concerns. Remember why you wanted to become a nurse and what drove that decision initially. Look to your peers, clinical faculty, and other nurses for support and guidance. Chances are that you will meet at least one person who has had similar feelings and experiences. Be open to advice and encouragement, and be confident that in the end, you will follow the path that is right for you.