“You’re a nurse? Let me guess, you once wanted to be a doctor?”In a recent conversation with a bus driver, I was asked why I chose to be a nurse instead of a doctor. In 2016, five years after graduating with my bachelors in nursing, I’m still asked that annoying question. I replied, “No, I didn’t start my career as pre-med, I’ve always been a nurse.” I entered undergrad as a nursing student and it stayed that way. I also responded that the deciding factors were how I wanted my relationship to be with my patients and what would make me content in life. Simple as that.
Flashback to my senior year in high school. Two events would completely change my life and solidify my decision to be a nurse. My parents returned from Nigeria late fall of 2007. Shortly thereafter, my father fell ill. He passed out in the bathroom twice. The first time he lied to my mom. The second, he was found in the bathroom after hitting his head. My mom immediately took him to the hospital and he was soon hospitalized.
The weeks following my dad’s hospitalization were the longest and toughest weeks of my life. Not knowing what would happen was the scariest part. I ran through every possibility. I considered foregoing university to stay at home and work should my father be incapacitated. Even considered the worst case should he pass away from his illness. I’d have to help manage finances, help my siblings finish primary school and help my mom around the house.
For a week they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He was admitted to the intensive care unit. My dad was so weak and so fragile. Never had I seen him in this type of situation. My superhero, powerless to the kryptonite of disease. Never will I forget the night the nurse called to say my dad needed a blood transfusion. His lab levels were critical and he had refused the transfusion. She said if my mom didn’t consent for him, he probably wouldn’t make it.
My aunt and my mom were there. They both started crying. Two of the strongest women I knew were now so fearful, so saddened by the situation. All I could say was, “it’s going to be OK, the doctors are going to figure it out.” In my head I didn’t believe myself. I consoled them but my heart was weary. My worst case scenario was now so close to reality.
Luckily my dad made it. He was diagnosed with malaria. Imagine, a tiny mosquito causing such a dire situation. The doctors fixed him, but it was the nurse that saved his life. The doctors weren’t there at 1am in the morning to make that life saving call, it was the nurse. I wanted to be a hero to another little girl, to another family should something like that happen.
After that, senior year had more surprises in store. Before I went to college, my mom called to tell me grandma was in the hospital. She had been with her when she noticed the symptoms of drooping, slurred speech and sudden onset. Grandma was having a stroke. She quickly called emergency services and they whisked her away.
Watching her recovery was difficult. Grandma was so active, so effervescent. Now, her left side was paralyzed and she could barely talk. She was a shell of her old self. Eventually she’d persevere and recover. Only now, she had minimal use of her left side. I just thought to myself, if it wasn’t my mom’s knowledge as a nursing assistant, things could’ve been much worse.
To say that nurses haven’t played a great role in my life is an understatement. These key moments were the reason I chose a career in nursing. I had to ask myself. What did I want out of life? How did I want my patients to view me? Is it the money? Is it pride? The answer? All of the above. I take great pride in saying that I am a nurse. I take pride in the impact I have made in many lives thus far in my career. A career that has allowed me to enjoy life, provided me with a stable income, and allowed me to progress in the field. I am thankful to those that came before me and for my life experiences. Without it all I wouldn’t be where I am or the nurse that I am today.