I have wanted to be a nurse my entire life. My mom used to tell me stories of how I would line up my stuffed animals and dolls when I was very young I would stick pencils in their mouths to check their temperatures and place bandages all over them and then I would hold them and comfort them.
Back in high school, at the age of 15, I took a nursing course as an elective and went to a local hospital one day a week and performed basic care to patients but more importantly began to realize that nursing wasn't as glamorous as I though yet I still desired to become a nurse so badly.
I became a certified nurses aide at the age of 16 during a time when you didn't need to be certified with the state just trained on the unit with another nurses aide.
Well the truth of the matter is I loved my job, I loved the residents in the nursing home, and I cared for them as if they were my family. I did all of the extras shaved the men, polished the women's nails and dressed them in their Sunday best every week. I even bought them presents on holidays and birthdays, I adored them and they made a lasting impression in my heart.
I looked up to the nurses and was so proud to be a part of this wonderful life and become a registered nurse. My co-workers would remind me to study hard and start applying to schools of nursing. I couldn't wait to become a nurse my dreams were about to become true: I was accepted in a four year college and starting my first year.
I would daydream about nursing; I loved it that much. My first year of school was challenging and i saw a lot of students drop out of the program but not me I was going to make it. Nursing instructors back then were more than difficult they wanted to weed out the weak links but not me. I was strong, knowledgeable and determined. I worked every weekend at the nursing home while I was going to school.
Now my dreams were about to become shattered as circumstances in my life made me withdraw from nursing school. I was devastated. i picked myself up though continued to work as a nurses aide this time in a hospital setting. If I didn't admire nurses before I did now. The experience that I gained was tremendous.
I got married had two children and always in my heart knew I would go back to school and become a nurse. The nurses that I worked with would tell me, "You have to become a nurse you love this field so much it shows in your work." I would smile and say, "I will!" But in my heart I was starting to believe that dream was not obtainable.
My husband became very ill at the age of 33. He was hospitalized and his doctor told me he may not make it through the night. I'm happy to report he did make it through the night, and I took care of him for his time in the hospital. In fact, on the day of discharge the nurse caring for him said she should give me her paycheck since I did everything for him. She asked me if I was a nurse. I said no, but that I hoped to be someday.
You see, I never though I was just a "nurses aide." I always felt that my role was very important and still do i have the highest respect for nurses aides they are the nurses eyes and ears. After my husband recovered, we both realized how precious life really was and he encouraged me to start applying to nursing programs. I did, but financially I thought, "What am I doing?!" Our son is going to be going to college in 4 years and we can't afford it. But my husband's famous words, "It will all work out" gave me strength.
I started taking my prerequisites and thankfully some of my classes from 14 years earlier were able to be transferred. i worked full time, took care of my family, carting my sons to football practice and cheering them on, while studying along the way. This would prove to be the toughest struggle of my life, but i was so determined to do this.
My husband and boys cheered me on when I thought this may be too much for me. The nursing instructors were difficult and wanted to weed out the weak links; I am not one of those links though. I graduated at the top of my class the same year that my son graduated from high school. we had the biggest graduation party and I cherished every moment of it!
My husband and my biggest supporter AND was so proud of me. I owe my success all to him. I went on to practice nursing in the same hospital that I was a nurses aide. Shortly after that, I received employee of the month. Later, in 2005, I was honored with the Nightingale Award, which was the most humbling experience of my life. I wear my pin everyday with pride to remind me of how hard the journey was. I went on to become ANCC certified and won an award for leadership in nursing.
I have experience the beauty of holding the hand of someone who took their last breath. I would always think after I went home what a beautiful experience to offer comfort to someone who is leaving this world. Nursing has always made me feel special like that.
I am more than proud to be a nurse, and I have met a lot of wonderful people along the way. I've maintained friendships with nurses and doctors along the way but there is no greater joy for me than running into a former patient in the supermarket and they say hi remember me, what a great feeling to know that they remember me.
I was once told by a patient who was 50 and dying of pancreatic cancer as he looked into my eyes, "You can't possibly remember all of your patients, there are too many. But I can assure you your patients will always remember you. It's not what you say or what you do; it's how you make your patients feel special." That statement has stuck in my head for many years; I remember each every day while I care for my patients.
Some people choose their careers maybe for money or prestige but some of us are born into our careers. I would like to believe that I am one of those lucky people born into their calling to be a registered nurse.
Lisa Salvador is a registered nurse from Midddlebury CT.
Tell Us Your Nursing Story!