My interest in nursing started in the summer of 1993 when I was diagnosed with type I diabetes. While my career interests varied between the ages of 9 and 27, I always knew I wanted to work with people in a dynamic and interesting environment. Nursing is a profession that relies on communication and problem solving with opportunities for intellectual and personal growth and options to develop expertise in different fields. For all these reasons, I decided to pursue a career in nursing.
When I started looking into nursing schools, I quickly realized I wanted to attend Whatcom Community College's nursing program. Feedback from former students outlined a program that, while challenging and life consuming, would prepare me well for a nursing career. My initial excitement was shortly drowned out by discouragement. Even though I held a bachelor's degree, I needed a year's worth of pre-requisites to apply for a competitive entry program that had only 30 spots and more than 100 applicants. I felt like I was working toward an impossible goal when I stepped into Whatcom adviser David Knapp's office. He changed my outlook completely. Within 15 minutes he found credits from my previous degree that could fulfill some pre-requisites, laid out a nine-month schedule that would expedite my application to the program, and gave me hope that regardless of my B in precalculus, I had a chance. I dutifully followed that schedule, and on June 25, 2011, I opened my acceptance letter.
Nursing school proved to be a great test of time management and my sanity. I ate, slept and breathed nursing school. Lecture, lab, clinical, care plans, test, repeat. Despite the workload, I actually found solace in working two days a week because it was a place where I could feel confident. Any notion I had of nursing as an "easy" profession went out the window with my social life. I learned how the challenges facing a nurse could be subtle or overt. Whatcom's program tried to prepare us for those challenges. Can you keep levelheaded enough to prepare dangerous but life-saving medications while your patient is in cardiac arrest? Can you provide compassionate care to the patient who angrily lashes out at you because they are scared? What do you say to a patient who has just received devastating news?
The spectrum of experience in nursing school is vast. During one eight-hour clinical shift, I participated in resuscitative efforts for a patient who did not survive. Two hours later, I saw a baby come screaming into the world during an emergency Cesarean birth. In the time between, I taught one patient how to use an incentive spirometer and another about options for smoking cessation. At the end of that particular day, my instructor said to me, "You're still smiling. That's a good sign." Nursing school provides knowledge and opportunities to practice, but the challenge facing the nursing student is self-imposed: Can I actually use these tools? After two years of school and more than 700 clinical hours, I have discovered that I can.
Another opportunity offered by Whatcom's nursing program is the encouragement to get involved with the professional development side of nursing. I spent my first year as the vice-president of the Student Nurses of Whatcom club, and the second year on the Nursing Students of Washington State board. Through that organization, I had the opportunity to attend national nursing student conferences, and help organize and host a convention for nursing students throughout Washington state. Involvement in professional development as a student helps lay the path for professional development as a registered nurse. Inside our hospitals and at the legislative level, nurses are a major force working toward the improvement of our health care system. I believe in this cause and look forward to joining it.
The end of nursing school marks the beginning of a nursing career. I cannot say that I will miss school, but I will miss the thoughtful guidance of my teachers. Mostly, I will miss the 25 members of my cohort. Despite personal struggles and the challenges of nursing school, they came to class with smiles on their faces, compassion in their hearts and an eagerness to learn. Through our ups and downs, we supported each other. I cannot wait to work beside them as a nurse.
ABOUT WINDOW ON MY WORLD
Window On My World is an occasional essay in Monday's Bellingham Herald that allows Whatcom County residents to share their passion for what they do, an idea or cause they support. Send your Window On My World, which must be no more than 700 words, to Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessie Beck moved to Bellingham from Kansas City in 2002 when she was 18. After graduating from Whatcom Community College with an Associate in Science Nursing degree, her dream is to work in the emergency department at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham. Whatcom offers more than 40 Professional Technical Associate Degrees, certificates, and short-term training opportunities, including nursing, physical therapist assistant, massage practitioner and medical assisting. Of WCC's 2012 nursing, physical therapist assistant and massage practitioner graduates, 100 percent passed their licensure examinations. The programs maintain graduation rates around 95 percent or higher. Employment figures for Whatcom's therapist assistant, medical assisting and nursing graduates are 95 percent.