February 13th: then and now

One year ago was one of the best days I have ever had. It changed my life and gave me so much hope. I doubted myself entirely and prepared for the absolute worse, as I usually do. Thank God that wasn’t necessary. February 13, 2017 I received my acceptance letter into the nursing program.

That feeling was incredible. I cried tears of joy because finally all my hard work had paid off. Taking off the semester for residential, struggling through strong ED thoughts and behaviors, an extra year of school, depression, and the huge amount of stress I encountered didn’t take my dream away from me. The fact that I could push through all of the barriers showed my strength. I felt proud for all I accomplished just to get there.

One year later brought another amazing, anticipated, life-changing day. Yesterday I was able to have an off-unit experience in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at our children’s hospital. I have been interested in pursuing this field for a long time now. Part of the reason I switched to nursing from PA is because there are NNPs but not neonatal PAs, so if I go to graduate school I could still work there. I’ve read countless blogs, personal stories, and other accounts written by NICU nurses/families, but still had no idea if putting it all into practice would continue to be a good fit. I wanted so badly to experience it hands-on. I cried when I found out that I was one of the people who would go visit for the day (and I get to see the OR, so double fun for me!). I’m honestly surprised I didn’t start bawling right in our clinical meeting, aha. I counted down the days with such excitement. I didn’t even care that I had to wake up at 5am while everyone else in my group got the day off. I thought it would be worth it, and I was so very right.

I still can’t believe how lucky I am to have spent a whole day in the NICU. The nurse I followed was great and did everything possible to maximize my time there. She has worked in the NICU her entire nursing career, over 40 years. We took a tour of the floor, which is HUGE and holds up to 110 babies, and I got to see everything from older babies who just needed a little bit of help to micropreemies  born 27 weeks gestation or less. She had 3 patients, 2 of which were former micropreemies she took care of for a few months and the other an older preemie about to go home. It was really interesting seeing how a g tube works, watching her interaction with parents, observing an ophthalmology exam, and being able to help in any way that I could. I got to feed one baby through his g tube, and despite being super anxious I did well with it. One of my favorite parts, of course, was holding sweet babies. I went back and forth between the two. The one was a little “feisty/drama queen” and didn’t even want me to leave her after I put a binky in. She was teeny while the boy was 2 kilos heavier, even though they were the same gestation born a day apart. It’s pretty crazy how different the growth and development is for each baby. Another part I truly appreciated was how willing she was to explain everything, answer questions, and share her experience as a nurse. She was drawn to NICU nursing for very similar reasons as I am: building a relationship with the family, being able to watch the child grow stronger over time, celebrating when they finally go home, and very involved hands on care. Despite the long hours and craziness, her choice to stay for such a long time proves what a great area this is.

Yesterday has 1000% confirmed how much I would LOVE to work in the NICU one day. It’s one thing loving the idea, but experiencing it in real life just showed that it is what I thought it would be. Of course I may change my mind in the next year and a half before I actually work as an RN, but I am certain that NICU is going to be a top contender no matter what.

I honestly haven’t had this amount of joy in a very long time. I couldn’t stop smiling (at least internally considering some of what I saw was hard). It just feels right. I’m not really sure how else to explain it.

I want nothing more than to return one day, but next time with blue scrubs and a badge that says “RN” 🙂

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