I came home from my shift this morning and had a strange moment feeling lost without my hospital PPE in my own home. Before I could even shower, I had to take on the dreaded parenting task of cleaning up my child’s vomit. My daughter wasn’t feeling well, so she decided to stay home from school during the intended morning drop-off and vomited in her car seat before returning home. In an instant, I wished I had access to everything I would have had at work.
Luckily, my daughter took it in stride and was patient while I searched for gloves and wipes to clean up the vomit. I was still wearing my scrubs but wished I also had access to a gown and toothpaste sandwiched between two surgical masks (a trick I learned in dealing with malodorous tasks or patients). I tried not to make faces as I collected and cleaned up the mess. In the hospital, I could’ve hidden my face behind [two] masks to obscure any traces of disgust. This morning, I hope I showed concern and care for my daughter over being grossed out while I wiped off her partially digested breakfast from her body and car seat.
I briefly wondered why this seemed harder than work. I clean up vomit and poo as part of my job, but an infant vomiting breast milk or formula is very different than an elementary student throwing up solid food. When a NICU baby vomits, it’s rarely due to the stomach flu or communicable illness. When my school-age child vomits, I wonder and hope I don’t catch what she has. Cleaning up and wiping down a plastic bassinet or hospital crib is much simpler than washing a car seat. I also don’t have access to a hospital laundry bin at home. It is much more convenient for someone else to collect and wash soiled materials I place in a blue plastic bag than for my husband and me to clean and hand-wash clothing and a car seat drenched in vomit.
My daughter is doing better, thank goodness. I’m feeding her lunch while I type this (and hoping she keeps it down). My husband and I get to figure out how to care for her the rest of the day while I’m supposed to be sleeping, and he’s supposed to be working. Ahhh – the realities of being a working parent and night-shift nurse. Here’s to hoping my daughter continues to feel better and that my husband and I don’t get sick!
This past week, I celebrated my birthday. It was not a milestone birthday, and I didn’t have a big party or gathering. I had dinner at a local restaurant and took advantage of their taco Tuesday specials with my family. My celebration was gluten-free, without added sugars, and alcohol-free since these are the guidelines I’ve chosen to follow to lose some pandemic pounds. (So far, it’s been working, even though losing weight is more challenging now that I’m older). I haven’t planned any big birthday celebrations for myself since going over the proverbial hill years ago. I get more joy planning my kid’s birthdays than my own these past years, so I wasn’t expecting or wanting a big bash.
However, I had to reflect and think about how grateful I am to celebrate another year of life. Not everyone gets to live long enough to be considered old. My friend’s recent death is a reminder of how precious life is. While I may be more mature than the average new grad nurse, I am not yet “old.” I plan to spend multiple decades as a nurse. As sad as it is to have patients ill enough to be hospitalized, I’m always impressed when I meet sweet, sharp-witted 90-something-year-old patients. I don’t know that I’ll live into my 90s, but I hope to live long enough to retire and take advantage of senior citizen discounts – my birthdays bring me ever closer to that goal!
Working with sick patients in a hospital makes me thankful for my health and getting older. I’m even grateful for simple bodily functions such as urinating or having bowel movements in a toilet. I’ve noticed some changes in my body (metabolism, eyesight, wrinkles, etc.) as I age, but I’m healthy overall. I’m on the other side of that hospital bed as a bedside nurse. I am well enough to start over in a new career where I can help others. This time a year ago, I was still in nursing school and about to start my preceptorship amidst a global pandemic. I have since graduated nursing school, passed my NCLEX, and joined my new grad RN program. I may be another year older, but I can still learn new things, adapt, and make meaningful contributions to others.
I didn’t celebrate this year’s birthday with a big group of friends at the Hollywood Bowl or in a backyard movie night as I have in years past. I had an intimate dinner celebration this year – I ate no cake and had no song sung to me by strangers at a restaurant. Instead, I was with family, in good health, and spent time with people who loved and cared for me. I chose how I wanted to celebrate and with whom. Coming off a pandemic year and reflecting on everything that has happened or what could be, I consider my simple birthday celebration a bounty of blessings. My birthday wish is for us all to be able to enjoy what we have in our lives, to recognize and share our gifts with others, and for peace and courage in pursuing our calling.
I was inspired by a quote I saw in a post about life not being easy:
“Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard.
Obesity is hard. Being fit is hard. Choose your hard.
Being in debt is hard. Being financially disciplined is hard. Choose your hard.
Communication is hard. Not communicating is hard. Choose your hard.
Life will never be easy. It will always be hard. But we can choose our hard. Choose wisely”
I don’t know who authored the original quote, but I thought I’d add my own spin on it.
Also, I want to tell you something I tell my daughter (and myself) : “YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS”.
I am my daughter’s first and foremost female role model. How she sees me react to struggle or hard things makes an impression on her. I am not perfect. I struggle and often make mistakes. However, I want my daughter to see me handle difficult things and be resilient. She needs to know it’s okay to try again after failure or to continuously attempt hard things. The best way to teach her that is through my own actions.
Life isn’t easy. We don’t always have easy or favorable choices. We often have hard choices. But our resiliency and how we handle hard choices is what shapes us and makes us stronger. Know you’re not alone.
It is surreal how my and my daughter’s lives have been paralleling one another throughout my nursing journey. When I applied to colleges to complete my nursing pre-requisites, I also submitted preschool applications for my daughter. I was shocked to learn that preschool wait-list applications cost more than college applications. Some preschool application fees/deposits were 1.5 times more than the application fee for our local community college! This week, I had a significant job interview with my top choice employer. In the same afternoon, I received a call to schedule an interview for my daughter for a language-immersion kindergarten. We’re both interviewing for something that sets the foundation and determines how our lives will be for years to come. If I get into my desired new graduate nursing program, I can see myself staying at that hospital until retirement. If she gets into this language-immersion program and accepts the spot, she commits to attending the school for the next six years.
Most of my other nursing school classmates did not have to contend with commandeering significant change in one’s own life while being responsible for someone else’s life and wellbeing or a family budget. You may be the only parent in your class. Or, like me, you may be older than every student in your classrooms. You are not alone. Other people have been in that situation before or are in that situation currently, perhaps at another school. I write this blog because I want you to know it’s possible to earn a college degree later in life, even with kids. It’s possible to start over with a nursing career, even after a lifetime in another role. Everyone has their unique struggles or responsibilities, and while you might feel alone in yours, know that you are not. There are registered nurses who have had to repeat a semester or more of nursing school. Some nurses I know were pregnant or dealing with a loved one’s death during nursing school. I’ve read stories of students getting cancer treatments during their nursing program or single moms balancing working and nursing school with their family life. If nursing is your calling, you will find your way, as countless others have.
Your career path may not look like the paths of other nurses or nursing students you currently know. Your burdens or responsibilities may not be the same as your classmates’. For instance, my classmates did not struggle to potty-train their child while studying for finals, as I did. However, I assure you that there is a nurse with a story similar to yours. Whether you are in nursing school or already a nurse, I invite you to share your story. There’s likely something in your nursing journey that others may find relatable or inspiring. A future nurse might need your encouragement.
I blog for the possibility that someone is encouraged by my story. I blog for the person doubting their abilities or overwhelmed by their circumstances. I blog for mature students who might recognize themselves in me. You don’t have to be a blogger to share your story. Other ideas include:
Accepting career day invitations for schools.
Being a guest speaker for after-school programs.
Joining your alumni association mentorship program as a mentor or recruiter for future students.
Providing helpful or encouraging feedback to communities for nursing students online.
Thank you for reading my blog and allowing me to share. I find when we share ourselves, it permits others to do the same. Good luck on your journey – and share your story!