why nursing?

 A little about me: I have been an RN for 25 years  and a nurse practitioner for only 6 years..  I have a bachelors degree in comparative religion, and a bachelors  and masters degree in nursing. I have a husband, two children, a history of greyhound ownership and now have a humane society (handsome) mutt,  a pionus parrot, and two cats. I have volunteered at the Wisconsin humane society since 1998 and fostered too many cats and a few dogs and bunnies. I am addicted to flower gardening and a master gardener. I have a web page on garden guides: 

 http://my.gardenguides.com/members/2greyhounds   for anyone else obsessed with gardening.

My first impression of nursing was from my mother.  She worked nights in nursing homes for most of her career.  I however, was not immediately drawn to the profession.  When I first went away to school I did not have a career path in mind.  My mother as a teenager had felt a calling to nursing after taking care of her dying father.  I had a fascination with religion and how it impacts people in their everyday lives.  Throughout all societies, and history, religion often plays a central role.  Religion and faith plays an important part in many people’s lives.  It may be viewed as a catalyst for change, both good and evil, an explanation for our existence, a reason to live or die or a refuge from sorrow and suffering.  This is what I wanted to study and learn more about Eventually, I graduated with a comparative religion degree.  Since my mother spent her entire career working in long term care I began working in a nursing home full time and an assisted living facility part time to pay off my student loans.  I truly enjoyed the time I spent with the residents.  I was assisting the group home residents with medications and cares in a similar way I observed the nurses in the nursing home.  The nurses I observed became a second positive role model for me.  I could see how valuable the nurses and nursing assistants care was to the residents.

    There was one patient in particular named Katie who was in her nineties.  She was an adorable, tiny woman with a pageboy hairstyle.  “Dearie” was the term of endearment she used for everyone.  When I could engage her in conversation she would tell me stories of her youth when she would go for horse and buggy rides with her father.  She would often become distressed.  She would moan aloud requesting God take her.  She would call out she had lived her life; she was tired and now her only request was to die.  Just as religion helps some look for meaning in life, my experiences working with Kate and the other elderly residents caused me to reflect upon my purpose in life.  For my mother, and later for me, helping others became an active way to help give meaning to my life.  This is when I decided I would go back to school to become a nurse.  I feel that nursing is accepting a calling to serve others.

    Medicine and religion both have a connection to our mortality and the unknown. Religion gives people coping mechanisms for mortality, and illness.  Nursing and medicine combine scientific rationale, empathy and compassion with a means of action, hope and the knowledge and skills to try and fight illness and death.  Learning more about how to act and react to illness is a very compelling goal.  In my life and nursing practice I have never stopped learning and discovering new things and new ways of looking at the world. Something new I have recently learned is that to continue to fight may not always be the answer. Maybe that is where the connection to ones family, loved ones and faith comes in. I highly recommed Atul Gwandes article "letting go" for further thoughts on the subject: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/02/100802fa_fact_gawande

The only thing I can say for sure I do know is that time appears to go by faster and faster as I get older, and I can only know or understand such a minute, tiny fraction of what life is all about. But I keep trying.


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