Hi everyone! I had the inspiration today to write an update about my nursing journey. Last July I wrote a post (linked here) talking about how and why I decided to pursue nursing. That was nearly a year ago, so I thought this might be a good time to write an update.
At the time of my last post, I had just begun volunteering in the ER at a local hospital. The months I spent there became a very defining experience for me.
I had never before worked in any kind of health care environment in any capacity, and when I took those first steps out of my comfort zone and into the ER, I was totally overwhelmed by what seemed to be a blurred whirlwind of scrubs and moaning patients. As time went on though, I began to connect faces with names and sort out the nurses, techs and physicians and how the department was organized.
The ER environment is obviously not for everyone – the aromas alone are quite an experience. It’s a place filled with suffering and crisis. I could write stories here that would rival any medical show on TV, but it doesn’t seem quite right to blog about them. I’ll just say that I saw my fair share of agony, and the worst moments of people’s lives.
However, those memories are not what first come to mind when I think back. What stands out most vividly are the many little connections and conversations I had with patients. As a volunteer, there was little that I could actually do for patients. But hearing someone’s sigh of relief as you cover them with a fresh warm blanket, or even seeing a worried family member’s face melt into gratefulness as you bring them a cup of coffee…it was the most meaningful work I’ve ever done.
As a volunteer, I had some leisure to stop and talk with patients. One night towards the end of my time there, I checked in on an elderly man and asked him how he was doing. He looked at me with a bewildered expression, and mumbled something. I could only make out “home”. Later, as he was discharged, I went in to chat some more with him. I was told that he didn’t speak much English. It was clear he understood a little, but his words were so mumbled and confused that I wasn’t sure if he was aware what was happening. Despite this, I told him we would keep him company while the paramedics prepared to take him home. He looked at me, and mumbled “Whatʼs your name?” I told him and he quietly said, “Thank you for keeping me company.” It was a small moment, but I saw that the little things can make a big difference in someone’s experience.
Another time I noticed a middle-aged woman sitting in bed. I stopped to ask her if she needed anything. She seemed a bit disgruntled so I decided to stay and talk with her. She mentioned in passing that her husband had recently died. I asked her more about it and tears pooled up and spilled out of her eyes as she told me they had been married for nearly 50 years and he had just recently died. I asked her how they met, and her face lit up while she told me their love story. Despite her grief, at one point she grabbed my hand, smiled through her tears, and told me I will make a great nurse. I’ll never forget our talk, and I think about her often.
There were other moments so big I couldn’t even comprehend them…one day towards the end of my time there an elderly woman was slowly passing away. It was the middle of the night and they couldn’t reach her family. I felt a strong urge to go and sit with her, but it didn’t seem appropriate to ask if I could. I prayed, asking that God would put me in with her if He wanted to. A short while later a tech approached me and said “there’s this woman…can you go check in on her every now and then?” I took the opportunity to sit with her for a while. While she was past the point of talking I’ll never forget all she communicated with her eyes…there was something that felt holy and sacred about sitting with someone in their last moments. While it’s an inherently sad memory, it’s a memory I will always treasure (and by the way her family did come in the end!).
In addition to my interactions with patients, I really enjoyed getting to know the nurses and techs in the ER. I was inspired by several people there who have contagious energy, enjoy people, dedicate themselves to their work, and bring just the right amount of humor to the unpredictable situations that arise. I watched the nurses closely, and got to know a few of them in particular that I hope to be like when I become a nurse someday.
I’ve also spent the last five quarters taking prerequisites at a local community college. Learning all this science has certainly been an uphill journey, and I’ve had my share of meltdowns and moments of crying into my dinner after a difficult test. But overall I’d have to say the last year has been the best academic experience I’ve ever had. I enjoy my school, have had excellent teachers (thank you RateMyProfessor.com!!) and met class buddies who’ve made everything so much more fun in every class I’ve taken. The content I’ve studied has also been fascinating…I’ve enjoyed learning about cells, viruses, the workings of the human heart, and overall the beauty and the mystery that pervades the complexity of our human bodies.
I have friends from class who are atheists, and have had many interesting conversations about evolution and the origin of human life with friends and with teachers. I have to say that my studies have brought me closer to God…my faith in Him has increased more and more as I’ve gotten to know Him as Creator and studied the human body. While we study how the body works using science, to me in the end it’s a magnificent, mysterious work of art.
This length of this post is starting to careen out of control, so I’ll wrap things up by saying that I got into nursing school at the University of Washington! They have an accelerated program that I was drawn to from the very beginning. However, I knew it was a long shot, as it was a competitive program and at the time of application I had the minimum amount of prerequisites and volunteer hours. I’ll never forget the day I flew into the house knowing my letter had arrived, and found out that I had the #1 spot on the waitlist! The fact I was on the waitlist at all was a miracle, and having the #1 spot felt like a confirmation from God that I was on the right track with my life.
Eventually I was officially accepted, and I’ll be starting classes in June! This is a very intense 15-month program, and I feel a little terrified, acutely aware of my weaknesses, and also completely excited to start this new adventure.
It hasn’t been easy so far, and I know nursing school will probably be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life – but I’m so excited. I have a strong feeling that I’m walking in God’s will for my life, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
If you read all of this – thank you!! It’s been fun for me to journal it out and document this unexpected season in my life and everything God has done for me. Onward!