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April 28, 2020

Why I Am Training To Be a Nurse During a Global Pandemic

~Always have the courage to follow your heart, and intuition~.

-Steve Jobs

When I was a little girl my dad hung a hand-written note on my wall that read “never, ever quit. And when life gets tough, you get tougher.” Maybe that quote was the defining moment that led to my calling, or maybe it was that black pitted hole I deeply sunk into when I was living on my best friends couch of her studio apartment back in 2013, fresh out of a divorce, jobless and penniless. For years I felt that every job I had in life that would be it. This is where it would end, G-d forbid I retire behind this cubicle with a mountain of paperwork. But, in my mind, there was nothing better. I operated in scarcity mode, knowing deep down I was capable of more, but never believing I would actually earn it. Until one day, life became meaningful again. I arrived at a place within myself where I found solace in helping others.

I have always been that person who only knew how to save myself from the depths of despair by helping others out of theirs. I healed when I was able to heal. I mattered when I watched someone else make a positive shift within themselves. I became pain free when I was able to help someone else out of their own pain. Becoming a nurse is the only thing that made sense. Prior to this pandemic, I spent the last seven years of my life attempting to get into nursing school. I targeted every program from community colleges to IVY league schools, to out of state schools, only to be faced with rejection after rejection. I re-enrolled as an adult student, working from the ground up to repeat every single course in order to guarantee my fund of knowledge was up to date, and I would present myself as a more competitive candidate. For the first time in my life, I became a straight A student. I was relentlessly determined, tenacious, and unstoppable.

Just three weeks ago, followed by years of soul crushing no’s, or sorry but you’re not good enough, or you are a good candidate but you still need, x, y,  and z to reapply — those three weeks ago on a random Tuesday afternoon at 4:00pm, I finally got my yes, from not one, but two of the best nursing schools in the country.

This news comes at a bittersweet time. A time where nurses are experiencing unprecedented trauma, risk, and burnout. I’ve been following blogs of my fellow competitors for many of these programs, and several have opted out, questioning if this is the right time to pursue this profession. There are those that see a fire and run far and fast because the thought of getting burned is just too scary, and then there are those that jump into the trenches to try and save as many as they can, regardless of the consequences. If there is anything life has taught me it is that there is never the perfect time for anything. You can put all your plans out there into the universe, but, ultimately, it is up to a Higher Power to decide what is best for us, when, and how. I can run from the flames, or dive into the trenches. I choose to dive. And I don’t need to be labeled a hero to do it. None of these nurses asked to be heroes. They are simply fulfilling a mission that they have been called to do, in the same way a pilot has to safely land a turbulent plane protecting all of his people in harm’s way.

Recently someone asked me “are you sure you still want to be a nurse”?

Truthfully, some of the hardest days I’ve had amidst this crisis are the days I sit back and do nothing. Nothing but hear the news, over and over again of people suffering, and dying, of healthcare workers wearing garbage bags as PPE, away from their families for weeks on end to have to self-quarantine after 24-48 hours of straight shifts in a hospital. My fellow healthcare friends telling me they are haunted by the sounds of hearing people gasp for air and not having enough equipment to save them. With every segment of news came a feeling of helplessness that I couldn’t be there on their team, helping them to fight this fight. Every day that led up to my acceptance has been an aching feeling associated with a lack of purpose. I didn’t choose this career to be a hero, and I am certainly not sticking with it to receive that badge of honor. Am I scared? Absolutely! I am, after all, still human.

But it was far scarier to stay stuck in a job day after day for the rest of my life that did not provide me with a sense of fulfillment. A job where I couldn’t bring the best version of myself to the table. I chose nursing because I knew I could make a difference, pandemic or not. I chose it because even during those times that little voice inside whispered “you don’t have what it takes”, I wanted to rise above mediocre. I wanted more. And, I wanted better than what I had. It took years of blind faith and perseverance to get here. It took years to finally be in a place where I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and satisfaction from what I will get to do every day. It will take more than a pandemic for me to quit now, or ever. I just want to do my job, and I want to do it well. And I certainly don’t require the accolades of being called a hero in order to do it.

It was June Carter Cash who said, “I’m just trying to matter”. And at the end of the day, we all just want to matter too.

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