5 Years In

5 years… 260 weeks… 780 days… 28,000 hours. Those are the numbers that summarize the time I’ve spent with Kettering Health Network. The numbers that show where I have been the most, outside of my home. Five years ago I started my first nursing job “status post” nursing school. If you’ve ever started a new career following training or a degree, you might have an idea that the job is sooooo much different than school itself. And nursing is no exception.

When I graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2011 the nursing shortage was no more. We were reminded by our professors frequently that it would not be as easy to find employment as we were led to believe. It was a nerve wracking experience applying for positions and getting rejected continually by email. I couldn’t even get an interview. By the time jobs found their way to the “career” part of the website, they were already filled. Finally, I got an interview and received an offer on the spot. (Thanks, Tami!)

My first job was on a very busy, fast paced medical-surgical unit at Kettering Medical Center. The morning was spent discharging and the afternoon was spent admitting patients from the ER and surgery. Obviously that is a very generalized statement about the day, but come on… it’s hard to describe everything that happens in nurse-world. As a new nurse I was so lost. First of all, the hospital is a big place! But beyond being lost physically, I was lost in the job. I had done my preceptorship in PEDIATRICS, but I couldn’t get my “dream job” at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. (I’m thankful for that now, I like adults much better.) Anyway… everything I knew was in relation to kids and real nursing is different from nursing school. The biggest change was that I’m the one responsible now. Things that are so simple now (using the Pyxis, starting an IV, hanging an IV piggyback) were so challenging 5 years ago. So here’s a shout out to my primary preceptors Rochelle and Cheryl who were so incredibly patient with me, and helped me build the “first floor” of my nursing knowledge. I would say foundation, but that was nursing school.

After a year and a half on that particular unit, I decided it was time to move on. While I was a much stronger nurse, I still relied heavily on my peers for feedback and advice. Side note: It’s always good to consult your peers and not become a “know-it-all,” because none of us can know it all. I noticed I was very stressed at work and was carrying it home, and decided it was time to try something new. Job number two was on an observation unit. I was trained to be a charge nurse, which helped me to grow immensely. And while earlier in my career I relied a lot on my peers, here I learned that you can’t trust everyone. You have to be confident in yourself, know the policies, and have a general idea of what you’re asking about. You have to be able to decipher what others tell you and categorize the information into “fact” or “false.” Some people will give you an answer no matter what you ask, even if they don’t know the answer. Or maybe they think they know the answer, but it’s wrong. You must think critically on your own.

I decided being a charge nurse wasn’t for me and received an offer to “jump in” to the float pool. (They didn’t give me the offer quite like that, but that sure would have been cool!) I’ve now been with the float pool for over half my time at Kettering and it’s going so well. It’s the perfect fit for me. Through my time with the float pool I’ve been trained to work on over 26 units between 3 hospitals. Those units include ERs (not typical ER stuff though), ICU, medical-surgical, step-down, and psychiatric. I have a normal schedule like any other full-time staff, but instead of showing up at work I first have to call the staffing office.

“Staffing, this is ______.” “This is Laura Dennis.” “Laura… we’ve got you going to (insert unit here.)”

My favorite part about my job is the unknown. In the Bible there are several verses that tell you not to worry about tomorrow, but that’s exactly what I did before the float pool. I’d worry about how I was going to get through another day with the same patients, I’d worry about who I was going to work with, I’d worry if we’d be short staffed… it was never ending and I was stressed out. But, with the float pool I can take each day as it comes. If I have a bad day I know it’s only 12 hours, and tomorrow I’ll get to work somewhere else. People say floating as a nurse is a good way to find your niche and I tell them that floating is my niche. It’s also so fun to see different people, take care of different types of patients, and you never get bored.

I can’t believe the amount of growth I’ve had in the last five years. Yesterday someone asked ME for help with an IV (and I did successfully place two IVs in their patient.) I assume the majority of people who read this are non-medical so it’s pointless for me to really expound upon what I used to struggle with, since most likely wouldn’t understand. I guess if I could put it into everyday terms it’d look like this:

Crawling used to be such a struggle, I thought it was so hard. The more I crawled, the easier it got and pretty soon I was able to stand. My confidence grew more with each passing day, and before I knew it I was walking. But sometimes I would stumble and need help to get back on my feet. Now I can walk by myself, but I enjoy having someone beside me to keep me company. I continue to work towards improvement and will one day be running, but will always want people by my side. 

Nursing and healthcare continually evolves, so I’m excited to keep growing, learning, and building upon what I already know. I’m excited for the next five years and know that it’s going to absolutely fly by. Here’s to making new friends, gaining new knowledge, and loving patients every day. 5 years down, many more to go.

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