The Long Road to Becoming a Nurse

Introduction to Nursing

Going to school while working full time and raising a family has been my life since I had my daughter ten years ago right out of high school. I got a job as a nursing assistant when I was pregnant with her, and decided that the nursing field was made for me. I loved being able to help the clients with their most personal needs and talking with them, and connecting with them as their care giver.

I then had my daughter my first semester of college right out of high school. Many people doubted me and thought I was going to quit school, because after all I had a baby to support now. But that wasn’t going to happen, I knew then if I quit school I wasn’t going to give my child a life that she deserved as I would be forced to be working for minimum wage or near it with very physical strenuous work of being a nursing assistant.

I wanted more than that for her and myself. I continued school, in fact I only missed one class that semester despite giving birth in the middle of it, as I got right back to school, there were some times, I even brought her with me when I was going to the community college as I was that determined to succeed.

I got my Licensed Practical Nurse degree in 2008 and got to work as an LPN. While I loved every minute of my job, I was still struggling to pay the bills, and I knew all along I wasn’t satisfied as an LPN, I knew I wanted more than that. In 2012 I graduated with my associate’s degree. At this point I had two kids, and it was the beginning of a messy divorce from their dad.

Life was chaos, just as it always was, and I found comfort in work. I became an EMT on top of my 8-4 nursing job as a Case Manager for home care, and began teaching EMS refresher courses to different EMS agencies and fire departments such as ‘blood borne pathogens’, or ‘cardiac arrest management’, and ‘C-Spine care’.

I loved it all! I’d go to work during the day and get to go visit all my clients in their homes, while providing the best nursing care and education I could. Then when I’d go home, I’d be on call for the ambulance service as it was a small town where it was all volunteer, and some evenings instead of being on call I’d go teach different agencies across the region their refresher courses.

A Different Path

I had always been interested in mental health at a  Security Hospital for patients who are committed as Mentally Ill and Dangerous by the courts was only minutes from my house, and that always intrigued me. One day I submitted my resume just to see what would happen. I wasn’t actually looking for another job, as I really enjoyed my current job as a Case Manager because I didn’t have a small office, or the smell of a hospital, or the chaos of a rotating shift work schedule. I had a flexible schedule that worked perfectly for my family, and I thoroughly enjoyed home visits with my clients.

I got an interview, however since I wasn’t completely sold, I essentially turned the interview around on them and asked many questions about the environment, the clientele, if it really was as scary as the newspaper articles present it to be, and what my role as an RN would look like. They did a phenomenal job answering all my questions, and since I’ve always been interested in mental health, by the end of the interview I was really hoping for a call back to offer me the position.

I began working at the Security Hospital about three years ago, and it has been an unforgettable experience and I’ve decided my career path isn’t over. I went back to school in 2015 to get my Bachelor’s degree as I knew that’d be the first thing I’d have to do. I told myself I was doing it so I’d have more opportunities in case I decided this wasn’t’ for me, however becoming a Nurse Practitioner has always been my end goal, I just didn’t think it was a serious or obtainable goal until I finished my BSN in December, 2016.

Since working at the Security Hospital I have seen the desperate need for more psychiatric providers in my state and I’m looking forward to being a part of that solution. The mental health aspect of nursing is often overlooked. It is an area that healthcare lacks in significantly, and I’d like to be a part of the change towards the better of making mental health more accessible, and less stigmatized.

Working with those with a mental illness  has opened my eyes to a whole world of concerns in public health care. Many of these patients have tried to get help in the past or their loved ones have advocated for them to get help, and have been unsuccessful due to the insufficient amount of mental health resources with the biggest one being the lack of psychiatric providers.

At the Security Hospital, it is not uncommon for one provider to have 30-50 patients, in many other states psychiatric providers at an inpatient state mental health hospital psychiatric providers don’t have any more than 20-25 patients. However due to the shortage of providers they are left with what they have to work with. Not only is there a shortage in providers but also a shortage in clinics and hospitals. Understandably I cannot change this on my own, however my journey toward becoming a Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner is helping to lessen this as I would be one more provider in my state.

Utimate Goal

I currently work on the crisis unit at a Security Hospital, and watching the transition people take as they begin to get better is what truly made me decide to become a nurse practitioner in this field. On my unit I see patients come in in acute manic phases, or severe depression, suicidal, homicidal, not talking to anyone and not caring for themselves at all. I currently get to help assist the psychiatric provider in helping these patients to get better and back to themselves and the change is often remarkable. One patient for example was extremely manic, and did not filter any of his thoughts, they all came spewing out of his mouth.

The things he said were racist, mean, funny, and most of the time highly inappropriate stuff. When he finally began to get better and come to, he couldn’t figure out why so many of his peers were so mad at him, and when it was discussed with him how his behaviors had been over his first few days at the hospital, he was appalled, as that was not him at all. So all in all, my journey toward becoming a Nurse Practitioner has been a rocky one, but fulfilling, filled with experience, and I never lost sight of my end goal.

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