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What first interested you in nursing?
I previously worked in newsletter publishing out of college, mostly creating content for the healthcare industry, nursing executives and hospital executives. A lot of our subscribers were nurse managers and I thought their jobs were so powerful and interesting. After I had kids I was a stay-at-home mom for many years. When they were in school all day I didn’t want to stay at home by myself. I had an epiphany to try to get into nursing school. Because my previous degrees were in French and International Relations, I had to take prerequisite science and statistics courses before I could even start the nursing program. That took two and a half years because I could only attend school part-time.
Did any of your previous background help you with nursing?
I was starting from scratch. Even writing healthcare newsletters didn’t help. There was nothing that prepared me for my leap to nursing school. I took it more seriously as an adult and it was something I wanted to do, so it was a different experience than being an 18-year-old on my own for the first time. In the nursing program at Georgia Perimeter College (now part of Georgia State University), there was a group of us similarly aged with children. We stuck together so that helped a lot.
There’s so much information to learn, there’s no way that they can teach you everything you need to know in nursing school. That’s why some specialties have longer training and orientation.
What is your current job and what do you do?
I did bedside nursing in two different hospitals for about six years and now am with Northside Hospital Atlanta in the presurgical testing department. We see patients a few days before their surgeries to do their blood work, their EKGs and to make sure medical history is up to date so that we can ensure they’re ready for surgery. It’s more of a 9-to-5 office setting.
What do you like most about your work?
I like the patient interaction. I could never be an operating room nurse because the patients are unconscious. I like the education part, answering questions about what they need to do to prepare for their surgery. When I used to be a bedside nurse I liked helping a patient who was scared or wasn’t feeling well. I’m not the clinical-type nurse who’s fascinated by the science of it, but I want to make sure the patient has all their questions answered before going into surgery.
What are some challenges you face?
When I was working in the hospital I was always on the medical-surgical floor. What was stressful is that I always felt that I knew a little bit about a lot of stuff, but I wasn’t an expert in anything. I knew a little bit about diabetes, or asthma attacks, or COPD but I never felt confident that I was an expert. I always felt that I might miss something that wasn’t obvious. There’s so much in nursing school that you can’t teach. There’s so much information out there that it’s really hard to be an expert in anything unless you’re in a specialized area. If you’re working on a cardiac floor, you’re going to become an expert in cardiac nursing. But on a medical-surgical floor we saw a little bit of everything, so it was a challenge to feel really confident.
What advice would you give someone going into nursing?
For someone going into nursing as a second career, make sure you really want to do it. Those four semesters were the hardest twenty months of my life. If I had been at all undecided about it I would have quit. I’d worked so hard to get to that point that nothing was going to stop me. I would say know what it’s going to take and have a plan to make it happen.
Someone who’s starting fresh, especially if they like science, they probably won’t have any trouble. They’re going to have a lot more energy than I did without a husband and kids at home.
What makes nursing an option as a second career?
There’s a wonderful thing about nursing. I think there are more opportunities in nursing than probably any other field, bar none. You can work in a hospital, or a doctor’s office, or nursing home, or clinic. You can be a school nurse, or do research, or do missions, or be a legal expert, or work in pharmaceuticals. The other half of my department is on the phone all day calling patients getting their medical history. If you want to sit in a cube all day and talk to patients on the phone you can do that too. It’s a fabulous field to be in just because of the variety. I don’t think there’s another career where there is that much diversity in the opportunities out there.