I’m at disbelief when I got the notification that it’s been two years since I’ve passed my board examinations to become a licensed nurse. To be honest, these past two years have been emotional. I want to take this time to reflect on how this profession has shaped me personally.
Disclaimer: A huge chunk of this was written back in 2016, to what comprised of my roughest times of that year. You might find that the tone of that writing is a little angsty, borderline emotional, because I was. I didn’t have courage to finish or even share what was going through my head at that time. But in essence it resembled what my thoughts are at that time.
Two years ago, I was an eager new grad. With fresh new eyes, I was entering the world of healthcare and “adulthood” (whatever this term represents). Finally, I can tell my patients, “Hi, my name is Jea and I’ll be your nurse for today.” There’s an air of pride within my family. The excitement from my class was at it’s highest; everyone was receiving their passing scores, getting their diplomas in the mail, making out of the country travels, receiving job offers, purchasing their fancy cars, and even receiving acceptance mails to grad school. It was exhilarating.
2015 for me was definitely a year of firsts:
- Traveled by myself out of state and out of the country
- Purchased my first lease
- Had my first job as a pediatric ED nurse
As mush as I would like to believe that nursing school was challenging, it didn’t quite prepare me for “the real world”. Let’s face it, academic excellence does not predict outcomes. There are too many variables such as emotions, goals, personalities, and expectations; and unfortunately, formalized academia, even if we took psychology or mental health, doesn’t quite prepare you completely.
After graduating and passing my boards, I landed my first job in a really great pediatric hospital as a pediatric ER nurse. I had a great shift (4 pm – 4 am), I was making real income, I had no student debt, and I acquired a scholarship to the “dream job”. I’m checking off the three things that I was taught that a career should be three things:
- You must be passionate about the work. There was so many affirmations throughout nursing school. Encouragements such as, “you’re going to be a great nurse,” or “you’ll be amazing out there,” pushed me. Nursing was a way for me to help people. It didn’t question motives and it is not prejudice to good deeds. It was a true and admirable profession.
- You must be biologically-made to do the work. Ok, now some may argue that hard work overcomes talent or that you shouldn’t limit yourself to what you are made to do. BUT, there are just some things that you feel that you are born to do. For example, I know I’m not going to be a professional basketball player (standing 5’2 -5’3 and tragically coordinated). We are created for some function in this world. There was even more encouragement to do nursing, especially that I’m surrounded by family, friends, relatives who are mostly Filipino nurses or in the healthcare field. (Now this is a separate topic that should be discussed in another post.)
- The work must be able to provide for your needs. This was a secure job. I was able to pay for a lease of my car and spend money on things that I want and need.
With all of three components in mind, nursing was just something that made sense for me to do and there was no other way.
But even if I checked off the three things, there was still something missing. After finishing a year in pediatric ER, I felt something within me stir. I was seeking something deeper into nursing. I reflected back to what I believe was my true niche, intensive care. With the help of my mentors, I was able to transfer to pediatric ICU. During orientation, I thought that this was my calling. It enabled me to make relationships with my patients, it challenged me mentally, and I was good at it.
But then, when I started adjusting and giving nursing what it deserved, I began changing. I had a full-time night-shift where I would leave my house at 5:45 pm to make it to work by 6:30 pm and most of the time my shift will end around 8 or 9 am. I’d go back home, eat breakfast, shower, sleep at 9 or 10 am, repeat it again in a few hours. I was sleeping while my friends were awake. I worked while my family went to mass, or I was called to work when I wanted to attend a friend’s birthday party. My weekends were booked with either being out-of-town or working. Nightshift also required many adjustments with my relationship, my family and my friends. I needed to reshape my schedule and cater to this new lifestyle. I had to take a hiatus from photography, dance, singing, cooking… actions that were part of me.
2016 was the year of change: Making Moves
My views were shifting. Pressures & expectations were coming from different angles. I was pushed at work to not make a mistake. I was being told that I’m “the next one” to settle down. The pressure and expectation to be a perfect nurse, sister, girlfriend… person. It was too much.
This expectation of being perfect, that everything is going right for me, drowned me. No matter how the rational checklist seems complete, there was something that was missing, and it bothered me sleepless. This annoying and overwhelming feeling turned into anxiety, panic, and sadness. It left me feeling alone and abandoned. It made me experience my fears of being alone, of failing, of the future, and of the unknown – which are all valid fears that a few, if not most of us can relate to. It wasn’t something that I can handle all at the same time. I felt alone because even if I try to reach out to people, my parents, mentors, my good friends, I didn’t get the comfort I needed. The phrases, “just give it more time,” “you need to adjust more,” “I thought that you love nursing” or “you just started,” wasn’t the comfort I needed.
It hurt me deeply. Even with all of the planning and control I thought I had achieved, these emotions and thoughts I have still spiraled out of control. I was losing myself. At this point, I was doubting everything. I didn’t know what was going on. Nothing was what I predicted it to be. I started having panic attacks and crying before going to work or going to sleep. I wasn’t sleeping as well. There was this continuous stream of, “don’t make a mistake” that replayed over and over in my head. I became so angry at myself and I felt so hurt by the people that I relied on. I began to doubt every part of what people expected was going good in my life: career & relationship. This cloud of negativity just hanged over me and grabbed me by the neck. I was drowning and suffocating inside.
It wasn’t until I received a call from the simulation center of my college that things started to move into a better direction. They were asking if I wanted to interview for a full-time position. I thought to myself, “isn’t this the solution you’re looking for?” But it wasn’t so simple. There were still too many variables and my mind was racing with:
“I’m just a new nurse.”
“Am I qualified for the job?”
“How will my unit/supervisor think about this?”
“What will my parents say?”
“How will this affect my relationship?”
“What does this imply in my future career?”
“Can I do per-diem or part-time at my current job?”
“Do I have more time?”
Clearly, the decision was hard for me to make. It required me letting go of my plan A, B C, etc. It mandated me to stay in a long distance relationship again for more time, and at this point I thought that maybe going into the next step (which was marriage) was going to solve it. I thought that maybe if we kept on moving forward, we can solve our problems. And this was my mistake. This was now an expectation that I created for myself and my partner. I got caught up with the future, but I forgot to experience and love the present. I failed to protect myself. I forgot to provide for what I need and what I want.
There were many moving parts now and something was string within me. There was this shift inside of me that was very palpable. There was just a part of me that is saying, “this is what you need to do.” In the end I went with what felt right. And so, I accepted the job offer at the simulation center. Unfortunately, there were other pieces that also shifted, that ultimately led to decisions being made.
2017 is my year to follow through: Choose Courage
And these are the decisions that brought me to where I am now.
Nursing had opened doors for me and I am blessed to have these opportunities. I am now a simulation coordinator and I absolutely love my job and my students. It’s a job that still continues to make use of my clinical knowledge, integrate my admiration for innovation & technology, and my passion to mentor and teach. I see growth in the field and I’m seeking areas to which I can develop myself in this career. I’m going to attend the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning (INACSL) conference next week and I’m highly considering advancing my education by taking my MSN in Healthcare Simulations & Education.
With the time I have acquired, I now have time to develop relationships with friends and family, and I have started my new venture HGH|LGHT Studio Photo & Cinema. I’m discovering new passions in videography and developing more as a photographer. My 7x7x17 Project has taken off beautifully. And the friends, mentors and individuals that are coming my way have just been blessings, on blessings on blessings.
In summation, the past two years have been beautiful in ways only God knows. There were challenges and with these challenges I had fallen and made mistakes. But nevertheless, I grew and continue to grow. And at this point, I can say I am happy where I am. As this year progresses, I remind myself to have faith and choose courage.
As I’ve learned, life moves you in different ways. Who knows that the near or far tomorrow holds?
To wherever God takes me, let His will continue to be done,
Portrait photos were taken at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens by Alex Chou. Thank you Alex for the photoshoot.
**Recap photoshoot vlog is up on the Youtube Channel**