Janet here, ready to talk with you about becoming a nurse. I’ll talk about myself this time so you know what my background is and whether or not I know what I’m talking about. I usually do, but some folks might disagree!
First off, I’m originally from Iowa and moved to the south in 2001. I’m 56 years old and have been an RN for 22 years. Most of my experience has been in a hospital setting. I’ve worked in Labor and Delivery (15 years), with the remainder of my experience working with medical/surgical patients as well as OR, ER, and forensic nursing, some of that concurrently.
I tell people I didn’t get into nursing until I was in my mid 30s because I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I had actually always wanted to be a nurse but never thought I was “smart enough.” That’s bunk because I have 6 degrees, the last 2 Magna Cum Laude. I graduated in 1978 from Iowa State University with a Bachelors in Sociology with accreditation in Social Work and worked in Social work for about 4 years with juvenile delinquents. Because Social work paid so well (NOT) I also worked in a medical supply warehouse. I’m a farm girl so driving a fork lift was kinda fun but after 8 years of packing medical supplies I got kinda bored
In 1988 I finally listened to what God was telling me to do and went to school for nursing. I’m a Christian and know for a fact that God told me to become a nurse.In 1990 I graduated with my Associates degree in Nursing from Des Moines Area Community College and got a job at Iowa Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa on a Med/Surg/Gyn/Renal Unit. Iowa Lutheran is a 200+ bed hospital). I worked rotating 7 am -3 pm/ 3 pm-11 pm shifts. I took care of patients prior to and after their surgeries (gall bladder removal, appendectomy, new or revised access for renal dialysis, mastectomy, bowel resection etc) renal patients (who were often diabetic as well), elderly patients with pneumonia, pressure ulcers (breakdown in their skin and tissue, usually over bony prominences, or related to diabetes), and multiple sclerosis patients. Occasionally we took care of elderly patients who had been dumped in ER by their family or caretaker because they wanted a break….sad but true. I always wanted to be a Labor and Delivery Nurse, but again, didn’t think I was “smart enough.” In some hospitals you must have been a nurse for several years before you can get into specialty units like Labor and Delivery, ICU, ER, OR, Recovery, etc. This isn’t always true, but I wanted to get a good working knowledge as a nurse before I went into Labor and Delivery.
In 1993 my first husband died of a brain tumor after diagnosis in 1991. He had about 6 different surgical procedures and full rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. We also lost a baby during that time when I had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. I re-married in 1995, moved out of Des Moines and went to Donnellson Iowa and started working in Van Buren County Hospital in Keosauqua. There I worked 3 pm -11 pm. There were a whopping 40 beds in that hospital; 6-8 patients were Long Term Care (nursing home level), the rest of the beds were for skilled and acute care patients. We had a 4 bed “ICU” a 3 bed ER, 1 Labor room and 2 postpartum rooms (women who have delivered and are recuperating). That’s where I started by Labor and Delivery experience. Considering we only delivered 30-50 babies a year and any high-risk women were transferred to University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City you can imagine how much experience I got…..not much. Patients having heart attacks, strokes or other emergent condition were taken to University of Iowa by ground or helicopter ambulance.
Around 1997 I switched to Keokuk Area Hospital in Keokuk, Iowa and worked full-time on the OB/GYN unit. I worked 3 pm -11 pm there. It was a 63 bed hospital and we had 3-4 labor rooms (depending on how many patients we had). The other 4-5 rooms doubled as postpartum or post-op hysterectomy rooms. We also had a nursery and usually at most we had 3 babies. I remember seeing a picture of the L & D nursing staff in the nursery with about 6 babies, the nurses looked shell-shocked and VERY tired. I was an OB/Float nurse, meaning if we didn’t have enough patients on the OB unit, I floated throughout the hospital helping in the other units, i.e., Medical Surgical, pediatrics, skilled care, ER, Recovery, and ICU. We delivered a about 300 babies there so I got more experience.
I got divorced in 1998 and re-married in 2001, moving to South Carolina. I worked in Self Regional Hospital (420 beds) in Greenwood, SC, working on the OB/GYN unit there. Self delivers around 1500 babies a year (or they did when I was there). I worked 7 pm -7 am and loved working nights. I am not a day person. If you wake me before I’m ready to get up you’d better do it with a 10 foot pole from the doorway and have a cup of coffee in your hand…I bite!
In 2003 my husband and I moved to Bat Cave, NC and no Batman does not live there! I got a job in OB at Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC. I worked 7 pm – 7 am there as well. Mission is licensed for 800 patient beds and bassinets. Labor and Delivery delivers between 3800-4100 babies a year and is the high risk pregnancy center for 17+ counties. I got a lot more delivery experience there as well as experience working with pregnant patients admitted for problems with high blood pressure, diabetes, premature rupture of membranes (the bag of waters broke early), pre-eclampsia and other issues. I also worked with patients who had lost or were going to lose their babies due to abnormalities, infections or other reasons. While I enjoyed working with many laboring women, I counted it as a privilege to work with these women who were not going to have babies to take home with them. It is a difficult situation and emotionally draining on the patients and their families as well as medical staff taking care of them. Many of us would cry right along with these families.
In late 2006 I became trained as a Forensic Nurse Examiner or SANE, which means Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, taking 72 hours of call a month, later cutting down to 36-48 hours of call a month. Forensic Nurses gather evidence to be used in court against the assailants. We later took on Domestic Violence cases as well. I stopped doing forensic nursing around 2008 due to emotional and physical stress. In 2007 I had divorced again and settled in Asheville. In 2010 I got remarried (yes, again) and inherited a step son.
In the fall of 2011 I quit Mission and started working for CarePartners Health Services as a Private Duty RN, which is my current position. At this time I take care of pediatric patients in their homes, with feeding tubes, trachs and on ventilators. That was a definite change in practice, but I love it. I had injured by back so many times over the years that I just couldn’t take the physical or emotional stress of working in a hospital. I still work night but now do 8 -9 hour shifts 5 night a week. Definitely a different dynamic in patient care but, as I said, I love it. I believe one-on-one patient care is what nursing is about . Unfortunately, over the years medicine in general has become so bogged down with paperwork that we don’t have as much time with our patients. If we do give our patients the time and attention they need in the office or hospital setting we’re there for 1 or more hours after our shift is done to catch up on charting. That’s another reason I left hospital nursing. I felt I wasn’t able to give good nursing care and keep up with paperwork too.
I just finished my Bachelors in Nursing from Western Carolina University (on-line classes) and may finally proved to myself that I am smart enough! I was procrastinator when it comes to homework so I was in a constant state of panic trying to get it done in time. Statistics was the bane of my existence along with APA papers, both give me hives. I told my family and friends that if I ever said I was going to go back to school for my Masters in Nursing Education (my original goal) to shoot me. They’d probably want to do that anyway due to my constant state of panic My best friend gave me a huge coffee cup one Christmas that said “What Deadline?”
That’s enough for this time, I’ve probably put you into “Janet information overload” anyway. If you have questions for me about nursing then please comment on this blog and I’ll address those questions. Until next time, keep looking up