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Registered nurse: How I got my job and where I'm going

Registered nurse Julia talks about why she chose nursing school over medical school, her educational training, and how she got her current job.

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Video transcript

I grew up on a farm next to my grandparents. Of course, I lived with my parents, but my grandmother was a nurse, and so I was first introduced by nursing by my grandmother who was an OR supervisor. And I always was very interested in the compassion of caring for somebody. And I got to do that with my great-grandmother, younger cousins, and so just caring for people in general was kind of ingrained in me as a child. I entered college with the intent of going into medicine. I didn't end up becoming a medical doctor, as I had initially planned. Family members and people that I had shadowed with over time said, "You know, being a physician as a woman "is kind of hard in this country, even though things "are changing. "If you want to have a family, it's a very hard career." And I learned that from female physicians, and I guess I took their advice, and I'm really glad I need. I ended up going into nursing against my grandmother's wishes, and I initially started that journey, I started at University of Colorado with the intent of going to medical school, so I got a history degree, thinking that would set me apart. And I never ended up taking the MCATs. Instead, I applied for nursing school and got a second bachelor's degree. So in nursing school, you learn a lot of different things. You not only learn about the physiology and anatomy, the pathophysiology, pharmacology of nursing, but you also learn the softer side of nursing. So you do a lot of social sciences as well. To get a degree in nursing, you typically have to have some sort of psychology education, teaching education even, sometimes that's involved in programs. Community service is a big one, too. A lot of nursing programs require that you do service in order to give back to your community, to understand that you're not always taking. You're not going to your job to take home a paycheck. Of course, that's why we do it, but in nursing, you have to have a little bit more of an edge to why you're doing it every single day. So my bachelor's program for nursing was 11 months long, and it was at school actually, so none of it was online. So I went to school three days a week, and then I was in the hospital two days, so a total of five days, sometimes six. And then in 11 months I was finished, and I was taking our state boards in order to practice. You have to study so much for the NCLEX boards, and it's terrifying, and you walk out of there, and you feel like you didn't pass. Everybody says that. Most of us do. Most of us do. After that, I had to go through the job hunt, just like everybody else, and it was stressful. It is very hard to know that you have so much to bring and get denied constantly. I had a 4.0 GPA in nursing school, and I sent out over 20 applications and got denied around 15 times. And it's defeating. It is exhausting, it's time-consuming, and it makes you feel pretty rotten about yourself, but nonetheless the right thing does come along, and it did for me. I worked in an outpatient specialty clinic, which I really enjoyed. I worked there about a year and a half. I ended up becoming a manager towards the end of my time there, and then realized that I wanted to be a nurse practitioner. So in order to become a nurse practitioner, and the best nurse practitioner I possibly could be, I realized I needed acute care experience to really hone in on those critical thinking skills. So then I ended up moving towards the critical care unit. So the job that I'm currently in, I got through networking, actually, which is huge in any field, really, but also in healthcare. I got it through a family member, actually, and fortunately this critical care unit was willing to take on someone that doesn't have previous critical care experience, outside of school, that is. You do get some in school. I was there for about a year, and then I had a baby, and I took quite a chunk of time off. I decided with my husband that raising our child and having Mommy home with her constantly was more important, so I'm taking time off right now. Fortunately, I had a wonderful boss who said that when I'm ready to come back, she will have a position for me, and I'm very grateful for that. So there's so many opportunities for growth in nursing. Whether you want to stay at the bedside, which is working at a hospital. You can move up to a charge nurse position, management, administrative roles. Nursing informatics is actually a huge field in which nurses are getting into with the electronic medical records system, trying to make those more seamless for nurses and providers to use. There's also the clinical side of things where you can get a master's degree or doctorate degree and become a nurse practitioner and basically wear the same shoes as a physician might, just from the nursing perspective. There's a lot of opportunity for growth in nursing, which is why it's such a wonderful profession. So my long-term aspiration in nursing is to become a nurse practitioner. I'm currently in graduate school. I'm doing classes online right now while I'm taking care of baby, and I hope to become a nurse practitioner probably working with children. That's my goal. My specific field that I'm studying in is family practice, so you can really go anywhere with that degree, whereas other master's degrees focus primarily on pediatrics, gerontology or older adults, or even sub-specialties, like acute medicine, things like that. So I hope to be a nurse practitioner, maybe have some normal hours, not work at night. Come home and cook dinner with my family and not have to work Christmas day. That would be really nice, too. So if you're in high school, and you're interested in nursing, go get a job or volunteer in some capacity in which you are caring for people, whether you become a nanny. That's the route I took, actually, is I did childcare all through college and worked at a daycare. You can become a CNA after, I think, age 16. It kind of varies between states, but you can become a CNA or a Certified Nurse Assistant, where you can work in hospitals or retirement facilities, where you're really focusing on the softer side of human care, bathing, bed changes, things like that. That really helps you have an edge up on other applicants into nursing school, if you can show that you've already had hands-on patient experience. And I think the biggest pitfall to avoid is once you get into nursing school, and you're on the floor doing your nursing school shifts, don't let the older nurses walk over you. That's really common in nursing, and we're really trying to get away from it, but just take what the nurse says with a grain of salt if it's very negative and move on. If you're in nursing or if you've chosen nursing, you're there for a reason, I'm guessing, because it's not the easiest profession, but it's a calling, and so if you feel called, you should do it.