Why did you choose nursing?  How did you know you wanted to become an RN?  If you weren’t in nursing, what would your second career choice be?

Well, this kinda overlaps with the previous question about my dream job.  But I had SO many questions on my path to becoming a nurse that I think I’ll address that whole career move in more detail now.  It’s hard to imagine doing anything other than nursing now, but back when I started college I thought I wanted to be a doctor.  Yep, I was a bio/pre-med major at UCLA.  But before I get ahead of myself, I’ll back up a bit.

Growing up with a physician for a father, I always knew I wanted to do something in the medical field.  It wasn’t anything I was pressured into, I just loved it.  Biology was always my favorite subject in school, so it only seemed natural that I should follow that path.  Only problem was, being pre-med at UCLA was the most competitive, cut-throat, insane environment.  Ever.  Also, biology was only 1% of the major.  As you can imagine, the appeal in being pre-med was gone faster than LaLohan’s sense of smell.  Since I wasn’t exactly sure what that medical something I wanted to do was, I just forged ahead with the bio major knowing I would eventually figured it out.  I’d already killed my GPA with all the lower division O chem grunt work, so I figured I might as well get the letters and the diploma that goes along with it.

Sure enough, I graduated, and still wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do with my BS.  RN, PA, PT, how could I know without ever seeing what each did?  To pass the time, I got a job in a hospital (mammography).  My job had me doing a whole assortment of things, but BY FAR my favorite part was talking to patients.  While taking their history, I felt I was able to make them way more comfortable (which was hard to do given that they were about to get their boobs smashed in a vice-like apparatus).  This passion for making patients feel at ease and opening communication with them was my first clue that I wanted to go into nursing.  Obviously nursing requires more than just chilling with patients, but you know what I mean…Nurses are the ones who are the bridge in communication between patients and their doctors.  They explain things to the family, they are the advocate for the patient when he/she can’t be that person for himself, and they are the ones who the patient bonds with during what is often the most difficult time in a person’s life.

So, after doing some research, I decided to pursue nursing.  Since I already had a bachelors in bio, I discovered almost all of the prerequisite classes were taken care of, and I could apply for an accelerated nursing program.  Nowadays there are several such programs, but they weren’t as popular or well known when I was applying.  I continued to work at the hospital while I applied to a few schools, and ultimately, I decided on an 11 month program in Philly.

I loved it.  It was hard.  But I did well, graduated, moved to NYC, and found a job in the cardiac ICU.

Did you always know you wanted to be a cardiac nurse?  Do you think this job is forever?

No and probably not.

To be honest, I loved almost every clinical rotation I had in nursing school, so I had no clue what field I wanted to start in once I graduated.  The best thing about nursing though, is that you don’t necessarily have to choose one field and stick with it.  Unlike medicine, picking a specialty doesn’t mean you are stuck on a path of no return.  I’m hoping to eventually return to school (some time in the distant future), and get my N.P. (Nurse Practitioner).  Since the unit I currently work on is run by an NP, I am basically being trained for the job now.  I love being proactive in patient care, determining the problem before it happens, and taking action to eliminate (or at least minimize) it.  Being able to know how and what to do requires critical thinking, and that’s one of the best parts about my current position that I enjoy thrive on.  Looking at the clinical picture as a whole is way more than just following orders, and I love knowing enough to call the shots.  So, if I can bridge the role of the nurse (with the bedside manner and passion for putting the patient first) and the doctor (with the ability to diagnose and put pen to paper orders to scripts), I think I will have found my true calling.

See it in the OG post here.

As a nurse working in a hospital, what are your feelings on universal healthcare?

Oh man.  This blog is not intended for political purposes, so I’m going to skip this question.  Plus, there is really no easy answer.  The issue is as complicated as the lack of solutions.

Do you have any tips for new nurses?

Ask questions when you have them.  Don’t ever stop learning.  And always put the patient first.  Always.

Comments (20)

  1. Lisa @ I'm an Okie

    This was such a help Q & A! I’m currently getting all my pre-reqs for Nursing school and hopefully will be starting an accelerated program in June 2011.

    The reasons you chose Nursing really solidify the profession for me! Thanks!

  2. elise

    Thanks so much for the great feedback – I’m really happy you too have found your calling!

  3. pitterpatti

    I am finishing my last pre-req right now, and I have applied to 2 accelerated programs here in the state of Florida. I find out within the next 2 weeks if I got an interview for one school, and I find out around March 1st if I got into my alma mater. I’m so torn, but I’m excited to start nursing school in May either way!

  4. elise

    CONGRATS!! thats so great 🙂

  5. inoakpark

    Longtime reader here! I was just accepted to UCSF’s accelerated nursing program. Any tips for getting through an accelerated program? Did you have time to exercise or do anything besides study?

  6. elise

    congrats!! i found the accelerated nursing program very time consuming, but i still made my health (and thus happiness) a priority. i ran almost every day, made home-cooked meals from farmer’s market ingreds and tried to enjoy my peers’ company outside of school. the first two kept me sane, the last one made friendships that i still maintain even across the country. i was VERY overwhelmed at first, though, so dont feel like you have to hit the ground running. youll find a balance that works for you. 🙂

  7. Kaleigh

    I am beginning an accelerated BSN program in 3 weeks and I am pretty terrified right now…! Do you have any tips or guidance you are willing to share from your experience? I love your blog – the healthy, fit lifestyle is one I try to maintain too. I am worried I will be doomed to sitting in a library eating processed crap due to lack of free time!

  8. pitterpatti

    Kaleigh, I start in 3 weeks too. I am getting so excited. I personally bought a huge lunchbox that I plan on filling with fresh fruits and veggies, as well as whole grain salads. I am lucky to have a whole foods on the other side of town to stock on bulk items, but I also have some pretty great other grocery stores in the area. I think it is all down to making yourself a priority even when you are stressed and studying.

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  10. Jae

    Im going to be a freshman in the Connell School of Nursing at BC this fall, and I cant tell you what help your blog has been in guiding me through this process. You make nursing sound so fun! and rather good with the kind of life I want to pursue. Do you have any advice for freshies? 🙂

  11. Elise (Post author)

    congrats!! just remember every single nurse has been where you are now, so dont be afraid to ask questions. if you think theres something you are interested in, seek it out. get as much experience before you enter the “real world” of nursing as you can. and dont let anyone tell you what will fit best for you. go with your gut. everyone told me to start with med/surg nursing but i didnt want to and im SO glad i didnt.
    most importantly, dont forget to take time out for yourself. nursing is hard, so treat yourself to a massage or a fancy meal or mani/pedi every once in a while.

  12. lauren

    i am happy to see you didn’t want to go the med/surg route! i am in my first clinical rotation for my accelerated program and i’ve been on the general med/surg floor and i really dont like it! (and i feel bad/nervous/guilty for not liking it) but i am really hoping once i get to experience other areas i will feel better that there are more options out there 🙂

  13. Elise (Post author)

    something will fit…its hard to really get an accurate feeling about what nursing will be like in clinicals though…so just keep an open mind and explore every opportunity to try things.

  14. Monica (My Middle Way)

    Hi Elise– I’m planning on taking prerequisites to transfer to a second bachelor’s accelerated program (also on the east coast, but probably not the same one that you did)— and I’d like to volunteer in a hospital while taking the prerequisite courses to get a better feel of the field of nursing. What areas would you suggest I volunteer in?

  15. Elise (Post author)

    hi monica! if you are trying to figure out a specialty, then i would recommend trying to volunteer in some kind of position that either rotates or exposes you to the maximum kinds of patients. but if you are simply trying to get a feel for the hospital environment, any floor would be beneficial. i worked in digital imaging/radiology (mammography) while applying to RN schools, and even though it has nothing to do with where i am now, i still got exposure to the medical setting, interacting with patients, and learned many things from the time i was there. i was paid, not a volunteer. if you are looking to get a foot in the door and you dont need an income – great! but i bet you can ask around and figure out some kind of connection because there may be a way for you to insert yourself into a paid position. doing anything at all will give you great insight. good luck!

  16. Kait

    so glad I stumbled across your blog! I love coming across other nurses out there, especially running ones 🙂

  17. Elise (Post author)

    hi kait! glad you found me too 🙂

  18. Beth

    Elise, what nursing program did you go to? Did you consider any in California? I am trying to decide between doing an accelerated program vs going to a community college which would be less stressful since I would have to do all prereqs. Any input would be appreciated!! Did you get a BA or an MA? Thanks so much!

  19. Beth

    did you ever consider being a dietician or a chef? Really hope to hear from you, Elise.

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