Did I always want to be a nurse? No. First I wanted to be a Rockette. Many years of dancing school and several trips to New York City planted the seed of being a dancer at a young age. But as that childhood dream faded, I realized that my passion for science, especially biology, would turn my dreams in another direction.
As soon as I turned 14, I started volunteering at a local hospital, and when college application time came around, nursing school was high on my list. A visit from a recruiter sealed that decision. One meeting and I was convinced that nursing was the only profession for me. I was lucky to go to my dream school and be taught and mentored by excellent professors and nurses. The plan was to finish my degree and specialize in pediatrics or labor and delivery.
Much to my surprise, it was my critical care clinical rotation, not maternal-child, that called to me. During my junior year, I got a job as a nursing assistant in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) at the university hospital. After completing my BSN program, I began working as an RN in that same unit. As a new grad in the ICU, I had a lot to learn. The nurses, many who knew and guided me as a student, taught me so much about caring for the critically ill, collaborating with others, and advocating for patients. As I expanded my role to charge nurse, preceptor, and clinical leader, I thought that the MICU would be my home for the duration of my career.
However, after a few years, I decided to return to school and further my education. I considered a critical care nurse practitioner (NP) program, but ultimately decided to study women’s health. It took me about 4 years to get my master’s degree – working weekends while attending classes and clinicals during the week. Caring for women, mostly healthy and many pregnant, in an outpatient setting was a very different experience than caring for critically ill patients in the hospital.
As I was searching for a job as an NP, I happened to see an ad for a position in a local nursing magazine, and although I wasn’t entirely sure what a clinical editor
was, I decided to apply for the job and find out. What a change I was in for! I was in an office setting and wearing real clothes. I spent my first 6 months in a film studio helping to produce nursing videos. If anyone had ever said that as a nurse, I could someday be writing scripts on ECGs and I.V. insertion, recruiting talent, and spending time in an edit suite, I would not have believed them! I went on to work on book and web products, learning so much while still using my clinical knowledge and experience.
Around this time, I was starting my family. Pregnant with twins, I was working full time as a clinical editor and continuing part-time as an RN in the MICU. I had taken advantage of the hospital’s tuition benefit for graduate school and I was committed to working there to pay off my education. When my twin sons were born 11 weeks early, everything came to a halt. I was fortunate to be able to stop working to focus on being a mom. However, switching gears to be a mom to critically ill babies was not easy. Ventilators, vasoactive medications, and all that I was used to as an adult critical care nurse, were very different in the neonatal ICU as a mom.
Fortunately, my boys overcame many obstacles and as they grew and developed, I was able to get back to work, albeit from home and very part time. Again, I was so fortunate that a degree in nursing offers so many flexible opportunities. I began to freelance as a clinical editor for Lippincott NursingCenter, and as my boys, and their younger sister, have grown, so has my role as a clinical editor, which I continue in still today.
The story doesn’t end there, however. Itching to get back to a clinical setting, my eyes were open for new opportunities in nursing. At one “Hospitality Sunday” at our church, a nurse was at a table with flyers for the “Nurses Center.” I learned about this nurse- and NP-run clinic which serves our community and decided to get involved. Again, this new opportunity taught me so much about being a nurse and making a difference, this time in my own community where I didn’t know how great of a need there was for care and education to the uninsured and underinsured. At this time, the clinic is closed, but the directors are keeping in touch with patients via telehealth as needed. I look forward to the day when we are back up and running!
I’m not sure what is next for me…but I do believe I will be back in the hospital at some point. The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired me and triggered my inner critical care nurse. I’ll have to keep you posted!
That’s my story. What’s yours?