Nursing was never a dream of mine. While I loved people and always knew that I wanted to work with people somehow, I thought that I would never be smart enough to do something in the medical field. Science just wasn’t my thing. For my first degree, I stayed as far away from science and math as I could and majored in Religious Studies with a minor in Philosophy. Needless to say, I couldn’t find a job post graduation. While bar tending and waiting tables brought in a steady income, I was still looking for something more. Fortunately, my mother was looking for a teaching assistant to help teach piano to 4 to 7 year olds. I love children, so I jumped at the opportunity thinking this might just be what I was looking for. I quickly learned that there is a big difference between teaching and playing with kids. About this time, a close friend of mine had begun an accelerated nursing program at our local university and introduced the idea of nursing as a career to me. My beloved grandmother had been a nurse, and I had several cousins who loved being nurses. I decided I would give it a shot. I knew within the first week that nursing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
It was everything I knew and even what I didn’t know I was looking for. I could work with people, constantly learn and expand my knowledge, push myself and strengthen my weaknesses, but most importantly, make a real and positive difference in the lives of people in my community. My fear of math and science disappeared in the face of this newly found passion to change the world through nursing. And while nursing school was challenging and exhausting, I had never been more stimulated in my life. When I graduated, I entered the professional field with a genuine drive to make a difference in my community and a confidence that this was a possibility.
After working a little over a year in the urgent care setting, I decided that I wanted to care for patients in a hospital setting. I was hired to work night shift on a medical surgical floor at one of the local hospitals. At first, I was overwhelmed by all of my new responsibilities. Caring for multiple patients with an extensive array of critical medical conditions, performing clinical skills I’d only studied in nursing school years prior, and trying to manage all of this in a controlled time frame. With the support of my night shift team and my nurse manager, I adjusted to my new hospital setting well.
However, after a couple of years, I began experiencing a change. I felt a negativity that I hadn’t known before. I soon realized that I wasn’t the only one experiencing this negativity. I began speaking to my team about what was stressing us. Nursing stressors ranged in a variety of areas from patient acuity and lack of staffing pressures to staff relations and even scheduling. I told my team that I was going to try to make a change, and the responses from our veterans were that nothing would ever change. I believed that surely this couldn’t be true, and my nurse manager and I took some of our concerns to the administration. Like I had been warned, we were met with resistance and our voice was rejected. After this experience, I hit an all time low. I began experiencing a nursing burn out that I had never felt before then. I never wanted to come to work, I did the least I could to complete my job, I was reluctant to help out with any staffing needs, I stopped looking for ways to make our floor better, in short, I stopped caring. I was miserable, even in my personal life.
It was at this time that I learned about a Vanderbilt recruiting opportunity coming to my hometown, and I decided it was now or never. When I met with one of the recruiters, who also happened to be one of the medical surgical nurse managers at Vanderbilt, I told her about my recent experience and that I was looking for something different. She told me about the Vanderbilt Credo, about the opportunities available for nurses, and how Vanderbilt truly values the nursing voice. I was sold. But in the back of my head, I wondered…Could this really be true?
Taking a chance, I packed up my life and moved seven hours away with the hope of finding my passion again. I wasn’t even through orientation before I knew with everything in me that I had made the right decision and that Vanderbilt was the place for me. The Vanderbilt Credo, a promise of progress and excellence, is not just a statement but actually in action at Vanderbilt. Never ending opportunities to become actively involved in policy making, to engage and interact with evidence based practices and research, to practice progressive and innovative nursing met me at every corner. My voice was no longer silenced, but instead, called upon to reach a larger audience. I found myself surrounded by positive and enlightened nurses all striving to fulfill a promise of excellence. It is this positive and progressive culture nurtured by the Vanderbilt community that has reignited my passion for nursing. In many ways, Vanderbilt has given me life again. I am truly honored and privileged to be a part of this community and look forward to becoming one of its many nursing heroes.