My career as a nurse had many twists and turns. My mother wanted me to follow in her footsteps. More than that, she wanted me to be more than she was. In order to tell you my story, I have to tell you a little bit about how my mom influenced me to become a nurse. My mom was a nursing technician. She worked in the burn unit and the intensive care unit. She wasn’t an LPN or an RN. She could have been but she felt she was too old, so she made it her duty to encourage me to go to nursing school.
I went to Lanier Technical Institute which is located near Gainesville, Georgia. It wasn’t a college back then, it was a technical school. Classes were more relaxed. Classes were taught more like at high school level for one year. Now Lanier Tech is a technical college and nursing is an 18 month course. When I went to nursing school, it was like I had found what I was supposed to do with my life. After graduating and getting my license, I worked as a licensed practical nurse. You might say my career as a nurse started in nursing school.
As an LPN I got to work directly with the patients while also doing administrative duties. They teach you the bare minimum while you are in school. You really learn nursing when you get out. For instance, they didn’t teach me how to insert IVs or to start blood, but as an LPN I was certified for both. When an admission came in that needed an IV started, and it was my patient, I started the IV and hung the fluids. I was also certified to hang piggy backs and administer IV pushes. Piggy backs are those little bags of antibiotics or other medications that are hung when you are in the hospital and getting IV antibiotics. IV pushes are medications that are directly pushed into the vein with a syringe. Some steroids and other medications are given this way. I am very thankful for the excellent training I got after graduation; it set the course for my career as a nurse.
As an LPN, I did a lot of the work of an RN. Why? Because I worked at a small hospital and RNs were scarce. They could pay me $15 an hour and save a bundle on paying more RNs to do the job. Registered nurses were getting about $30 or more an hour back then, so made sense to train the LPNs and give them legal certifications of achievement to do these jobs and save money on professional nurses.
I also did supervision on the night shift. Again, this is an RN’s job, but they could pay me 25 cents more an hour to handle all the problems that arose on the floors. I handled my floor and I also had to counsel and discipline staff when other nurses had problems with their staff. I was only to call on an RN if the problem was too big for me.
My career as a nurse was classified as a float nurse. I worked when the staff nurses were taking their days off. Sometimes nurses had to cover more than one floor. From 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. OB and ER was covered by one nurse; this meant that when she was off I took her place. That got hairy sometimes, as you can well imagine.
As I said above, nurses training starts after graduation. While in school I only had one day of working with tracheotomies. There is a sterile procedure that must be followed to change tracheotomy tubes and to clean existing tubes. Sterile suctioning through a tracheotomy tube is quite scary the first time you do it, and it is also scary for the patient, if he or she is conscious.
My mom worked on my floor sometimes, and I had a patient come in from the nursing home. She had a tracheotomy tube. I had only done “trach” care once in nursing school. My mother could do it with her eyes closed. She came down to the patient’s room with me and walked me through the procedure, just like she was my nursing instructor. She told me what to do and I did it. I was grateful for that bit of “extra” training from my mom. She was ward clerking at the time, because she could no longer work on the floor. She knew her stuff. My mom did the work of an LPN, but never got the recognition for it. She wanted me to graduate so I could fully enjoy my career as a nurse.
I’m retired now, but I enjoy looking back at my life as a nurse. It has been a very rewarding career for me. There is much that I enjoyed, but there were times that were sad.