I have been a nurse for 32 years. For all 32 years I have worked at the bedside in the acute care areas of hospitals. I chose to become an RN because it would give me so many different options for practicing nursing. I wanted choice so I could change where I worked if I got bored. I could work in the ICU, be a home health nurse, work in the operating room as a scrub or circulating nurse, be a school nurse, work in a large corporation’s employee health department, or be a public health nurse. Having those options was so important to me when I chose to go into nursing, yet for 32 years I have been a bedside RN in an acute care setting by choice.
I started as most new graduates do on the night shift. It was at UC Davis Medical Center on a busy medical surgical (now called acute care) unit with complex Urology, GYN, Ophthalmology, and soon after I started, ENT patients. I loved my job!! There was so much to learn and I loved my patients!! It was special working at night as it is during the night that many patients feel most vulnerable. There are no distractions by visitors, minds are busy, emotions high, and some are scared about their future having just learned that the tumor was cancer. I felt lucky to be there to help control their pain, both physical and emotional, wipe their tears, sit, and listen, and be present. I felt like the luckiest woman in the world to be able to share such intimate moments with those at a most vulnerable time, How many people can say they make a difference in someone’s life every single day they work?
Thirty two years later I still love bedside nursing. I love the caring connections I made with my patients and their families. I would explain to my patient what the doctor had just said when he looked confused after the team left on their morning rounds. I answered questions, explained things, and sometimes just sat there, listened, and held a hand. I was a strong patient advocate, speaking up and fighting for my patient when necessary. For the patient who took narcotics for chronic back pain who’s pain medications were inadequate post operatively. I would remind the young doctor in training that this patient required higher doses of medications than the narcotic naive patient in the room next room. I would remind him we couldn’t forget that the patient still required pain medicine to cover the chronic pain. Whatever the reason, I was there to make sure my patient was comfortable and getting the best care possible. My patients were first and foremost each and every shift. I was often late finishing charting, but my patient’s knew I cared about them,A n and did my best for them.
After 32 years I am leaving my familiar and comfortable place at the bedside, and am pursuing a new position in Infection Prevention. It’s a huge leap for me and will be a challenge, and a wonderful learning opportunity. I will no longer be the expert, I will be the novice, just as I was 32 years ago. My day to day job as a nurse epidemiologist will be very different, though the one thing that remains the same is – the focus will be what is best for the patient.
I will be in an office away from the daily buzz of the acute care unit I know so well. A chapter closes and another begins. Monday June 6, 2016 I will embark on a new journey and open up that new chapter in my life as a nurse. I look forward to this next phase with butterflies in my stomach, a pounding heart, and a dry mouth, and I CHOOSE excitement!!