Why I became a nurse: To find a way


By Becky R., RN, MS, OCN
Radiation Oncology

Recently, I’ve been reading Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific by Mary Cronk Farrell. I’ve always found these stories a source of tremendous pride and awe.

As a young 19-year-old nursing student, I had the honor of training with two nurses who served in the army. Adella served in the Pacific Theater and found herself on the island of Corregidor in the Philippines. Corregidor was the site of intense warfare where many people, including nurses, lost their lives, sustained injuries or became captives. Adella rapidly became one of my role models. Her dedication was clear. Her strength and innovation were incredible. Adella went on to fund the nursing program in which I studied.

In the skills lab, one of my tasks was to successfully check off, “how to give an enema.” My instructor, Lyndall, was a retired Army nurse. Lyndall pulled no punches — what you saw was what you got.

After I successfully checked this off, Lyndall looked me in the eye and said, “So, how would you give an enema if you found yourself in a jungle someday?”

Completely bewildered, thoughts were flying through my terrified mind. Jungle! What jungle? After several minutes of eternity, Lyndall, smiled and simply said, “You’re gonna be a nurse, kid. You’ll figure it out.”

No matter what situation you find yourself in as a nurse, you figure it out for the good of your patients and you’ll make it happen.

One of my heroes was Diane. Diane and I worked in the emergency department together for several years. Diane was an army nurse who had worked in the MASH units of Vietnam and she remained active in the reserves, she retired at the rank of colonel. You could count on Diane for her calm in the middle of calamity. Her skills were the stuff of legends, and I knew that when Diane was my co-nurse, all would be well.

Whenever I’m tempted to complain or feel stressed, these women of my past whisper in my ear, “You’ll find a way kid. You’re a nurse.”

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