Each of us has our heroes in nursing; someone we admire for their clinical skills, compassionate caring nature, level-headedness, what they’ve done with their careers. One of my nursing heroes is a gal named Rosemary. We worked together years ago and stayed in touch over the years. She has always been one of the most competent and caring nurses I have ever known. Her intelligence, clear thinking, uncompromising values, and commitment to her profession have always impressed me. I have learned much from her over the years. She’s one of the quiet heroes of our profession.
I recently asked her why she became a nurse. I was interested to know what brought her to where she is today. Her answer shocked me. “I almost DIDN’T become a nurse after a high school guidance counselor told me I wasn’t smart enough” she said. “I knew I wanted to be a nurse from the 5th or 6th grade. I had visited a Veteran’s Administration hospital with a Girl Scout troop one Christmas holiday. There were a lot of very sick people there and the place was kind of depressing. All of my friends couldn’t wait to leave yet I wanted to stay. I was somehow drawn to the place, the patients. I almost felt as if I belonged there. I later wrote a school paper about the nursing profession and got an “A” on it and I didn’t get too many A’s back then!
“So when it became time to plot my future, I not only knew exactly what I wanted to do, I even knew what nursing school I wanted to go to. When I relayed this to my guidance counselor, she uttered those words that I will never forget ‘You’re not smart enough to be a nurse.’ To add salt to the wound she added, ‘Besides, you would never get accepted into that school.’ I was devastated. I took her at her word and dropped my plans to follow my dream. I took an office job out of high school and was absolutely miserable.
“My mother knew how miserable I was and in an effort to help, mentioned an LPN program being offered in our area to county residents. My guidance counselor’s words rang in my head and I thought to myself, “But I’m not smart enough.” I decided to give it a shot anyway. I got a great education and happily worked as an LPN for 5 years. I then enrolled in a university program to become an RN/BSN. I was on a roll.”
Over the years Rosemary worked in critical care, cardiac rehab, staff education, telemetry, oncology, float pool, and utilization review to name a few. She eventually became a certified diabetic educator. Rosemary worked all of her RN career to that point in the same hospital. That is where I came to know her. I used to tease her that she should receive an award for having the most positions within the shortest amount of time. It was actually 16 different positions in 18 years but who’s counting? “I had so many interests and so many opportunities. I was always learning something new and open to new challenges and experiences.”
Years later Rosemary decided to go to graduate school and become a nurse practitioner. She was ready to take her practice to the next level. After 5 years of blood, sweat, tears, and many personal sacrifices, Rosemary is a Certified Family Nurse Practitioner. Today she works in a busy cardiology practice. She is still one of the most intelligent and intuitive people I know.
Rosemary’s advice to others: Be true to yourself. Don’t ever let someone else tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your life. And don’t let anyone else shatter your dreams. If you want to do something bad enough, there is always a way to do it. Go for it!
(Excerpted from The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses by Donna Wilk Cardillo)
Who is your nursing hero?