What it’s like to become a nurse

How one women became a registered nurse’and why she’s so passionate about her chosen profession

What it's like to become a nurse

Source: Best Health magazine, May 2013; Image: Thinkstock

In 2004, I was in my first year of training at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, pursuing my dream of becoming a professional dancer. I had been dancing since I was three years old’ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary’and I loved it. Then, suddenly, my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He received chemotherapy treatments, then home care, and was eventually placed in palliative care in hospital.

Nurses played such an important role in the last nine months of my father’s life. I was amazed at the diverse work they did. The care they provided for my father, as well as the relationships that my family and I developed with them during that time, very much influenced my choice to switch from the path I was on and go into nursing.

So in September 2007, I enrolled in the collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Seneca College and York University in Toronto. It was a strenuous four years, during which I was completely immersed in my studies. Now, at age 28, I am an RN and in my second year as a staff nurse in the general internal medicine unit at Toronto General Hospital’and I love it.

I wanted to work in a generalized area of nursing during these first years on the job so that I could gain experience with lots of different patients, diagnoses and nursing interventions. The team of individuals I work with is very diverse. On any given day I will interact with doctors, fellow nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, registered dietitians and social workers. I get to collaborate with a large interdisciplinary team, which is one of the things I love most about my job.

My unit is quite busy, so it’s crucial that we function as a team and support one another to ensure optimum patient care.

I get to work with a wonderful group of RNs who make the working environment so enjoyable. The knowledge and mentoring that I have gained from my colleagues has been immense and I really couldn’t do my job without them.

The majority of my time is spent at the bedside with patients and their families. During my 12-hour shifts I deal directly with patient care. I assess and monitor them, and assist with the basic activities of daily living, including hygiene. I also administer medications, implement doctors’ orders and manage a variety of patient care needs. Like all nurses, I do a little bit of everything!

Nursing is challenging physically and mentally, but it is emotionally challenging as well. I’ve worked with patients who are dying, and it’s not easy. I have experienced loss myself, and I know what it feels like to be the child at a parent’s bedside when there is no longer any hope. I just try and do the best I can to ensure that the patient’s and family’s wishes are carried out, and offer them as much support as possible during those difficult times.

I have been fortunate to meet many incredible patients and families who have taught me so much about nursing and about life in general. I feel it’s an incredible gift to be invited into the lives of strangers. I’m inspired by what I see every day: people who overcome what seem like impossible odds; families coming together to support one another; individuals who transition through periods of struggle with strength and courage. I am privileged to witness humanity at its finest, and that is what keeps me loving being a nurse so much.

This article was originally titled "My work inspires me every day" in the May 2013 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!