When I walked into orientation, I felt out of place. As I scanned the faces of my classmates I saw individuals not much older than my oldest son. I felt an inner gnawing of fear; did I really belong here in nursing school, at my age? As the lecture progressed we were bombarded with the rigors of an accelerated program and how strenuous our journey over the next year will be. Again, that gnawing reared in the pit of my stomach. Then I centered my mind on a conversation my younger sons and I had at bed time; both had been discussing the fears they have during the night, and as I walked in, simultaneously they asked, “Dad, what are you afraid of?” I kissed them each on the forehead while tucking them in bed and answered, “Nothing, boys your dad is afraid of nothing.” They were comforted by my answer and forgot their monsters, grinning to themselves as they passed quickly to sleep. Thinking back on that moment, I pushed the self-doubt out of my mind and quickly became excited about my new career.
I held onto that excitement as I entered into my first clinical experience, five weeks after orientation, on the cardiac intensive care unit. My mentor, an unassuming man three years my senior, was absolutely brilliant. Kind spoken, knowledgeable, and patient; he gave me the autonomy and tutelage to learn my new profession. He empowered me to interact and positively affect my patients; on one occasion he had me assist a patient while a chest tube was being inserted to relieve a pneumothorax. Despite her intense pain, we could offer no medications. I was given a wet rag and my presence to ease her agony. I grasped her hand and said “Mrs. G, I need you look at me and slow you breathing down. I want you squeeze my hand as tight as you need when it hurts.” I wiped her brow and started breathing loud and slow so she would match my rhythm. With her tear filled eyes locked in my gaze, she began matching my breathing rhythm, her forehead, creased in painful wrinkles, began to relax and smooth, and then she smiled.
Now, as I enter my second semester clinical experience, I am again excited. Eight short, exciting months away from my new profession. I am grateful and indebted to The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, New Careers in Nursing Scholarship, without which, I doubt I would have been able to afford my education. The generosity of the foundation has allowed me to once again to be fearless in my children’s eyes, and I plan to pay that debt forward through hard work and long career in nursing.