Caring for others has always been a part of my life. Teaching, which was my first profession, is a caring profession. Being a mother also placed me in a caring position, and finally acting as caregiver to my aging mother required all the attributes I had developed in my previous experiences and even then it caused me to doubt in myself, my ability to care.
Determined to bolster my sense of self as the consummate caregiver, I decided to pursue nursing as a profession. I took all the prerequisite courses in the life sciences to prepare for a nursing practitioner program. I enjoyed my studies in Anatomy and Physiology, Statistics, Organic Chemistry, and Microbiology and earned straight A’s in all of them. I was accepted into an accelerated nursing program for people already having liberal arts degrees, but when I started the program’s clinical rotations, something changed. I realized that I froze in the acute care setting.
Teaching, caring for children, and caring for my mother had never caused the level of stress that caring for patients in a hospital did. I was always afraid of not responding or responding incorrectly to patient monitors, afraid of causing a “breach in a sepsis” while changing wounds, afraid of starting an IV line, afraid of not following the proper chain of command and afraid of not acting fast enough in an emergency situation.
My nurse supervisor was constantly writing reports trying to remediate me, which only served to make me more nervous. I would follow through to get help back at the nursing school, and even these remediation sessions caused me to become stressful and did not have the intended result.
Eventually, I became so discouraged that I quit. Despite my good intentions, it was clear that nursing was not for me. I realized that caring for people in life and death situations, which required thoughtful action under pressure, caused so much stress that I could not function.
I slowly picked myself up and had to acknowledge that the things that I could do well I had taken for granted. Reading, writing, mathematics, theoretical and practical analysis, abstract design, and communicating with others were all my strengths, but nursing would never be among them.