Job Title: Registered Nurse (RN)
Type of Company: I work for a local community hospital.
Education: BA, Biology, Providence College BS, Health Care Policy & Administration, Providence College AS, Nursing, Northern Essex Community College (Haverhill, MA)
Previous Experience: I did administrative work for a home healthcare agency for two years and worked at a major Boston hospital for 4 years. I then worked on a patient-care unit as a unit coordinator for four years.
Job Tasks: I now work as a registered nurse on the Medical-Surgical floor at a local community hospital, which means I care for adult patients after they have had surgery, or if they've hospitalized for a medical condition that isn't heart-related issues. (There is a separate floor for cardiac patients).
I provide direct, hands-on care for anywhere between 4-8 patients at a time (depending what shift it is). This means I perform physical assessments, monitor and control pain and vital signs (blood pressure, etc.), provide emotional support, act as a liaison with the physicians (to ask for things on behalf of the patient or inform them of changes in the patient's condition), administer medications (pills, intravenous, injections/shots, etc.), assist with personal care as needed (from brushing teeth to toileting), and perform other medical "procedures" as needed.
Other medical procedures can include but are not limited to: inserting nasogastric tubes, urinary catheters (a tube into the bladder to drain urine), assisting physicians with bedside procedures (inserting needles into a patient's spine or lung-area, inserting intravenous lines into the neck), using complicated intravenous ("IV") therapy tools, and drawing blood.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is the sense of satisfaction I get from knowing that I've helped a human being in need using a special set of skills and my hard-earned professional experience. Another gratifying aspect is the camaraderie I've built with my co-workers. We look out for one another and get helped in return. It is a positive social atmosphere, where you get to know your co-workers well without the pressures of "the office" (i.e promotions, raises; pay is based on years of experience).
The worst part of my job is having to work on weekends (usually every-other weekend, which is the baseline for hospital nursing) and the fact that you I'm exposed to potentially dangerous situations at times (disease exposure, violent patients). It is also a huge and stressful responsibility to hold a life in your hands, especially in an environment where everything is moving at 100 miles-per-hour with multiple, multiple demands!
1. Before you start pursuing the education required to become a nurse, it's a good idea to spend some time in a hospital to see if it is something that appeals to you. Don't let anything deter you outright, but be honest with yourself about what you can tolerate or not tolerate (You'll be up-close & personal with the human body!) Working as a nurse's aide or unit coordinator are good jobs to take to familiarize yourself with the way hospitals look and feel.
2. Grow some "thick skin" if you don't already have it! As a student nurse and a new nurse, you'll be doing things for the first time very often, and your self-confidence can consequently take a beating. You'll be carefully scrutinized and critiqued as a student, and will be expected to "hit the floor running" as a new nurse. Feedback is necessary, and it can hurt the ego if you don't have "thick skin"! You also may be on the receiving end of people's frustration at times, even when you had nothing to do with the current problem!
3. ASK QUESTIONS!! If you can't figure something out, you need to ask. That goes for a student nurse right up to the experienced professional. In a field that is so complex, expansive, and ever-changing, it is easy for you to misunderstand or just totally "miss" something. You need to always know why. Once you understand why, you can build on your knowledge and be a better nurse.
Additional Thoughts: As I studied to become a nurse, I had someone tell me "I used everything I learned in school. It all comes up... eventually!" I found that to be true as well. There is something so incredibly special about the education a nurse receives, as it is a true building block. Take your educational path seriously. You will be thankful for it, as things will be automatic for you later on.
Nursing is a wonderful profession to be in, even though it is very hectic and can be very stressful. The workload is intense while you're on, but the nice thing is that when you leave at the end of your shift, you're done. You may have emotional "baggage", but in a general sense, you don't bring your work home with you.
I really enjoy having a skill for my work (many skills, to be exact), which is something I really cherish. Other jobs can be that way, too but this is the first job I've ever had that is like this, so I appreciate it even more.
The great thing about nursing is that it has so many different areas you can get into, that if you get "burnt out" in one field, you can sidle on into another, re-inventing yourself over the years if need be. You can also do it anywhere, which will allow you to re-locate and still find employment in the absence of a network of friends.
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