Downtown to Beach Town: Forty Years in Nursing

Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a Nurse! I cannot remember wanting to grow up and ever becoming something else!

Passion for serving others

As a very young teenager, I was accepted into a program at a busy metropolitan hospital and given the opportunity to work as a junior nursing assistant. Loving the role from day one, I worked every weekend and summers to my sheer delight, despite the fact that, at that time, the minimum wage was $1.50 per hour!

My career began, as most nurses start off, as an eager Staff Nurse on a busy 40 bed male medical ward. In my assignment, patients were primarily the homeless men in a downtown area of a bustling city. That experience was truly a baptism by fire to nursing, medicine and life in general! It sparked a lifelong passion of service to others. As well, memories of the charming patients and forever friends I hold close in my heart.

Juggling family and a nursing career

My training to become a nurse has always had a profound effect on my behavior - on and off duty. Principles and protocols learned many years ago still motivate and inspire me to strive daily. I credit my nursing training as creating the fabric of my life - both personal and professional. I enjoy riches beyond my imagination all because I entered the incredible field of nursing, starting with meeting my husband!

The greatest pride and joys of my life was becoming a mother to three phenomenal children! Add to that the contagion of the nursing profession and it's wonderful aspect of flexibility, I tried to juggle family and career, as so many nurses do.

Becoming a school nurse

Wanting to increase family time, the field of School Nursing for me began as a temporary experience; I started as a School Nurse for the local School District. Scheduling was even more complementary to raising children. All the while, continuing to think of this as a temporary spot in my nursing career, I soon found myself delightfully working for many many years in the School Health Offices - advocating, caring, counseling, chronic care, first aid, educating, medicating, long-term planning, medical referrals - for students, staff and families.

When the days in our School Health Office was like a small pediatric emergency room, with every interaction on every day, an inner voice from my training days would center me and repeat, “When these students see their family, how will they speak of your care? Make it so you are proud of what they will feel and say; what you would want your own children to take away from a nurse who cared for them.”

Sun awareness in a beach community

Dealing with my own medical maladies enhanced the care I rendered. It enabled me to have that proverbial third eye and ear to offer and assist those seeking help. Living in a beach community added a real motivation for the school nurses to emphasize sun safety using strategies for prevention and awareness. We worked with the American Cancer Society making bracelets out of "sunbeads"; beads that change color when they have been in the sun too long. Using the ACS school program for students, we highlighted their "Slip, Slop and Slap" advice: Slip on sunglasses; Slop on the sunscreen; Slap on a hat. We also annually celebrated the Friday before Memorial Day as "Beware of Fry-day!". With each student, staff and family interaction, we discussed the rewards of sun awareness and the perils of too much sun without protection.

For life at the beach, a popular summer job for our teenagers is an eight hour day, six days a week in the sun as a Lifeguard. So in school as the spring sprung, we would show PowerPoints playing on closed circuit televisions in the cafeterias and halls that heralded the best practices of safety in the sun. It became my daily mantra both professionally and personally - as our own children grew up on the beach and all became lifeguards.

Reminiscing about a dream that became a profession

Nowadays, so many of my beach friends and I reminisce about those summers past - raising our children, running free on the sand and splashing in the waves. We also compare our dermatology appointments, doctors, procedures, outcomes and prognosis. We all made real sure we applied and reapplied sunscreen on all of our kids, not as overprotective of ourselves.

Now looking back on a forty-three year nursing career, the truth is that time really does fly when one is having fun. Even with hindsight, I would not have changed a day, (well, maybe 1 or 2), because each adventure brought me to the present with the memories of a lifetime to cherish. Each person who touched my days, every child, family, friend, co-worker and administrator, all added to a little girl's dream and the awesome journey in the greatest profession.

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