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Self-analysis gives us the opportunity to make some time to reflect on our accomplishments as a nurse and more specifically as a current nursing student in the Baccalaureate program. It is easy to look at others around us and analyze their behaviors leaving no time to look in the mirror at who and what we are and have accomplished. Many of us feel uncomfortable, or insecure in the thought of talking about ourselves to others. This will certainly be a challenging yet learning experience for me as I attempt to put into words who I am, and what I have accomplished thus far into this BSN program.
Nursing was not my first choice when I embarked into the college life. My life-long dream was to become a physician. As the eldest of three children, I was 7 years older than my brother and 12 years my sister’s senior. With that said, I was responsible for the care of them while my parents worked.
My parents moved to the United States in 1963 from Costa Rica at a young age, married here and raised our family in Massachusetts and later on in Costa Rica. They completed their high school equivalent here, became residents and later citizens, worked hard to make a better living for themselves and their children, save money in the hopes to return to their native country and raise their family.
I completed my high school diploma in Costa Rica and started my general education courses at the Universidad de Costa Rica.
After two failed attempts to ingress into their medical school, I chose to move back to the States and pursue my education here. We lived in California for two years then moved to North Carolina in 1987. Still no med school, just some courses in medical assistant, and EMT. It wasn’t until I started working as a CNA in a local nursing home that my true calling was discovered by the Director of Nursing at the rehab center. Mrs. Barbara encouraged me to apply to nursing school and the rest is history.
I graduated with a Diploma from Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing in 1991. Started my dream job as an ICU nurse after graduation where a was blessed with an amazing preceptor for my first 6 months as a novice. It was in the ICU where I first encountered the true meaning of the nurses eating their young, and yet, I survived. I worked in the ICU for my first 10 years as a nurse, loved every day, every experience and sometimes all patients. ICU was my first love. I obtained my CCRN and planned to return to school for my BSN but, was blessed with a pregnancy of quadruplets that would require my undivided attention for many years to come.
I left ICU in 2000, returned to the rehab place where I started as a CNA, but now as the wound care nurse for the next 5 years. Was trained by a great physical therapist on wound VACs and had a great resource in one of the local surgeons whom always so willingly, would cross the street and serve as a wound care consultant to my more complicated cases. Five years down the road, it was time for a change of pace, more flexibility to balance work-life-family. Worked in Home Health as case manager for 10 years and after many sleepless nights of charting to meet Medicare/Medicaid regulation guidelines, it was time for another change. I decided it was time to return to bedside nursing and so, applied at the local hospital and have been working in the Clinical Decision Unit for almost 4 years now.
What have I accomplished in the past 29 years? Critical care experience, national certification, a wealth of knowledge in the care of the critically-ill patient, many life lessons on how to deal with difficult situations, patients/families, coworkers and physicians. This was just my first 10 years as a nurse. A wealth of knowledge in wound care, and all that it encompasses; the rewarding feeling of seeing a wound heal after days and weeks of research, consults and changes in wound care until the most appropriate and effective one was found; and having the administrator of the facility comment on my “healing touch”.
The relationships formed after 10 years of visiting patients in their homes and the experience gained from being autonomous in the field was rewarding. As rewarding as teaching patients and families how to better care for themselves and make life changes to prevent further complications and frequent hospitalizations. The look on a patient’s face when they finally understand what you have so diligently tried to teach in different ways and finally can perform return demonstration was priceless. The many smiles you get when a patient or family member says to you, “you took care of me or a loved one before, we are so glad you will be our nurse”. The more recent remark made by a patient I had never seen before yesterday say to me “nothing like experience”, after I started his IV for an infusion (infusion nurse had already attempted twice). It’s the little things that make a difference.
Accomplishments since I returned to bedside: Clinical ladder, chair of the Unit Base Council for two years, preceptorship, mentorship, BLS instructor, Charge nurse, Infusion nurse, member of the Skin Care Council, and national certification in med-surg (CMSRN). And now close to the finish line towards my BSN. I am the oldest staff nurse in the unit, with the most years of experience. My manager often refers to me as a leader, the one that promotes and encourages others to seek more educational opportunities. The one that leads by example. My manager is my mentor. She has over 40 years of experience and recently obtained her MSN. She is one I look up to.
I have had one preceptor and many mentors in my life, all that have contributed to some extent in my growth as a nurse and a leader. My first official preceptorship was two years ago when I had the opportunity to take a new BSN graduate under my wing. She has now flown the nest and is a travel nurse. I was having a difficult time getting inspiration to write this paper so I texted her to ask what she learned from me, and to point out some of my strengths and weaknesses she observed. Her response opened my eyes and made me realize I have embodied what I have so diligently attempted to inculcate in others: “be the nurse you want to work with”. Claudia’s words: “your care and compassion for others is solid, you stay grounded, you often go above and beyond for patients and coworkers, often chosen a leader because of your integrity and work ethic, and are recognized by management as an inspiration to others. Your teamwork is exemplary and because of that you are often taken advantage of, leaving you spread too thin and needing to stay late to complete the work”. She ended her text with this statement: “I have worked at 4 different hospitals, and to this day you are the best nurse I have ever known and will probably ever know! You are awesome and I was so blessed to have you as my preceptor and mentor”.
Claudia’s texts made me realize why all doors have been readily opened for me everywhere I’ve gone. My work ethics have been the key. My first job in ICU was offered to me during my senior year in school during ICU rotation. My second job at rehab was immediately offered after I applied because the administrator and DON knew my work ethic as a CNA. My Home Health job was literally handed to me by the branch director as soon as I walked into the office. I will never forget her greeting: “I have been waiting for you, when do you want to start?”. We had gone to nursing school together and lived at the dorm, she knew me, she knew my study habits, my clinical and work ethics. She took me into her office, sat me down, went over the job description and then stated, “let’s talk salary”. My CDU job took a little longer, I submitted my application on a Thursday morning at 0800, received a call from the nurse recruiter by 1500, had a roundtable interview with the Nurse Manager and 3 clinical supervisors on Monday, and was hired by Friday.
Lessons learned during this journey towards my BSN: After so many years as a diploma nurse, what could be the benefits of returning to school? I never really wanted to go into management. I had been offered supervisory positions in the past and always declined. A “desk” job was not for me, not now nor in the distant future. Nonetheless, it was time. Time to take that step towards the “alphabet soup” as I so sarcastically called it. A BSN was not going to make me a better bedside nurse but, as I get older, I realize I may not always be able to be that bedside nurse, that “nurse in the trenches” that I have so proudly referred to as myself. I may not always be able to “run circles” around the younger nurses. It’s time to broaden my horizons, become a “well-rounded” clinician and person (as my Patient Experience Director once told me when I asked him to give me a good reason to return to school).
I embarked on this journey last January, going to a seated class for statistics at the local community college because my 22-year-old daughter said to me: “you’ll never pass this class online”. She had just taken it and had passed it with a B. So, I heeded her warning and went to class surrounded by “20-something year-olds”. I passed the class with a B!! I had been out of school for over 28 years, no idea how to do any schoolwork online, I managed, I learned, I overcame my fears, I passed. Started the RN-BSN program in the summer of 2019 and now on my final semester.
Lots of lessons learned, juggling full-time work, full-time school and home life has been a challenge. Medical issues have also been thrown in the mix which in turn have proven my strength and support system to be sound. Writing has never been my strong suit so, I found this program to be overwhelming at times. Papers, group projects, and discussion boards have been intimidating but, as so eloquently said by Dr. Beverly Malone in her Leadership and the healthcare industry video: “A cinch by the inch”. I have been able to complete each project and pass each class by taking small bites at a time, otherwise an impossible task when looking at the whole picture. I have also been fortunate to have made new friends among my online classmates. We all have been nursing for many years and returning to school now has been a challenge for us all. We have become our own support system and cheerleading squad.
Achievements in the Baccalaureate Essentials curriculum to date: Each course has moved me closer to a better understanding of the nursing world around me, not only locally but globally. It has improved my communication and leadership skills through the application of critical thinking to promote changes to benefit patient outcomes in the healthcare setting and the community.
Reflect on DON motto, vision and mission statement: I can personally attest that WSSU has fulfilled to this date, their commitment to providing me with a “transformative educational experience”. One that will promote the use of new found leadership skills to be utilized in providing service for those individuals and communities with health disparities “through teaching, scholarship and services”.
Future aspirations: Once completed my BSN, I plan to work towards my national certification in wound care, so I may have the option to work as the next wound care nurse in the hospital alongside the physician. Certified in infusions may be another one to pursue. I like the thought of having several options available for the future since there are talks about the need of an infusion center in Union county. I do not see an MSN in the near future but, that is always a possibility. Never stop learning.
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