The transition from summer into fall has always been one of my favorite times of year- although summer is full of fun, looking forward to a new year of school was always exciting and refreshing. This is the second September in my life that I will not be going back to school since I started working at Boston Children’s Hospital as a staff nurse on 7 North- the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I am a year and a half out of college and it’s one of the biggest transition periods in my life but definitely not as scary as I thought it would be. Of course there are some days that I wish I could go back to the security of life living on a college campus-especially one as enriching and energetic as Boston College. But, I am lucky to say I have found true passion and purpose in being a NICU nurse. I learn so many new things during every work shift and have done so at a much faster pace in 9 months than I did through 4 years of nursing school. I cherished and loved every moment as a BC nursing student, but learning on the job is a completely different experience.
Being an independent practicing medical professional is a special thing. I work in a really fast paced, complex, intensive care unit where our babies have a variety of diagnoses. On top of caring for critically ill infants, their families require our support in some of the most trying times in their life. Since I started working, I have felt the triumph of discharging a baby home after spending the first 4 months of his life at Children’s undergoing multiple surgeries to repair the gap in his esophagus due to esophageal atresia. Then, a few days later I came in to work to find that the baby I took care of 2 nights ago died after a painful, long stay struggling with chronic lung disease. When I come home from work and my roommates ask me- “how was your day?”, it is really difficult to put into words what I experience caring for these babies. They are the most resilient people I have ever encountered, despite being so small and enduring so much. In the healthcare world, our day to day is getting people through their worst nightmares. It takes a person with a unique set of skills to thrive in this environment.
My BC undergraduate nursing experience was an amazing place to foster skills and learn the theory of nursing. In addition, my time was enriched tremendously through KILN. I think of my mentor-Kate Gregory- regularly. During our monthly lunches and meetings at her research lab at the Brigham and Women’s NICU, she gave me pieces of advice to shape my leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills. These are invaluable as a developing nurse. I am also lucky to have coworkers who are extremely effective role models. I could not imagine being trained more thoroughly than my preceptors, Julie, Xochi, and Lyndsay, did. One of the main factors of my positive outlook as a new graduate nurse is having encouraging senior nurses. You need direction from senior staff to set a solid foundation for your career; they are priceless sources of knowledge and experience. One big piece of advice is to constantly observe their practice and never hesitate to ask a question. I feel I am in a place that nurtures and encourages this learning and that has made all the difference. When choosing your first job, be sure to keep this is mind.
So if you have followed your heart and it has led you to choose nursing as your career, you are a very lucky person in my opinion. Continue to do so as you navigate your transition from college to professional life. Remember when taking care of your patients that showing them compassion and excellent care is your top priority. However, you must give an equal amount of love and nurturing to yourself otherwise you will not be able to maintain that component of empathy, which is so vital to being a nurse. One way to nurture your wellbeing is to have a good support system. It is so important to feel celebrated for what you do- being a nurse is hard work. Whether it be by your friends, significant other, parents, or mentors; try to be around people who make you feel positive and cared for at work and at home. Lastly, enjoy every minute. I know everyone says it, but the time flies by. Once you’ve been working in the field for a few years, you will not get to experience moments through the eyes of a brand new nurse. So far, I can say whole heartedly that I love my career and becoming a nurse is one of the best decisions I made in my life! I hope the same for you and wish you the best of luck.