A Career in Nursing: The Beginning


The cap one wore identified your school of nursing.
Decked out in my cap and graduation uniform, my vacant gaze speaks the truth. At nineteen, I was not ready for the tremendous responsibilities inherent to nursing.

My first real job was as a staff nurse on a Metabolic Medicine and Dialysis unit. I hated it.
Our shift would begin by our "Head Nurse", an angry, unpleasant, narrow-minded narcissist who would literally inspect each nurse from head to toe. Should our shoelaces appear dingy or our skirt length be deemed too short, we were subjected to her wrath. Publicly.

To be responsible for 8 to 10 patients each, it was our responsibility to review all medications to be administered, prepare them, identify any outstanding procedures or tests that needed to be done, manage wounds and change dressings, create a plan of care for each patient, administer medications, change linens, feed, bathe and turn our assigned patients and document all nursing assessments, interventions, vital signs etc. If we were really lucky, a Nurse's Aide would help us out. This was a rarity.

Have I already said I hated this job?  

OK - now I'm on a roll... there was no air conditioning. A hospital with sick people in it and no air conditioning? This would be cause for a militant uprising today but back then you just sucked it up.

A memory from 38 years ago comes flooding back to me...

I was seated at the nurse's station, charting. A doctor entered. Everyone stood up - except for me. Suddenly I heard the familiar bellow of my Head Nurse ..."Miss Young!" Her cackle was akin to the sound of fingernails scraping a chalkboard... "Stand when a physician enters this area!" I didn't get it. Then made the mistake of asking, "Why?" One look and I could tell she was about to implode. "Good Nurses stand to offer their seat to a doctor!" she said.
As much as a really hated that job, I was given an opportunity to learn ...
  • To hold those in positions of authority accountable. 
  • To respect your aides or techs - many times they will have your back when you need it most.
  • That your physical discomfort does not even compare to that of your patient.
  • Belittling someone doesn't make you look good. It does quite the opposite.
So I forced myself to do my best, be my best and stayed in a job that I despised for one year. A character-building experience, for sure - and (thankfully) not indicative of my future in nursing.

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