I remember my first day “flying solo” as a nurse as if it were yesterday. I arrived 15 minutes early, my scrubs pristinely ironed, brand new sneakers, and even a brand new stethoscope. I was “dressed for success”, as they say.
I was scared out of my mind, but I figured that if I at least looked the part, no one would know that I had graduated from nursing school only 3 months before. I walked out onto the floor (did I mention it was an emergency department that typically sees around 70,000 patients a year?) and walked up to the charge nurse to receive my assignment. Her words were: “Don’t freak out, I am here to help you. You have rooms 2 through 5 and hallway beds 3, 4, and 5. None of the patients in the hallways have been triaged yet and all need to be registered”.
I remember asking her if she was joking (not even Florence Nightingale could handle this type of assignment). However, true to her word, this woman, seeing the fear in my eyes, was by my side and encouraged me throughout my entire shift. She was never more than a few steps away. She was hands off enough to let me figure out how to organize things, but close enough to “gently suggest” when I may need to reprioritize.
When my shift was over, I was more exhausted than I had ever been in my life. My fancy, new sneakers looked like they had been run over by a semi and I’d lost my brand new stethoscope. Even with all of that, there was a silver lining. I was shown what it is to be a nurse: how to give selflessly not only to my patients, but to another nurse. And I was shown that a few positive words can make all the difference.
Finally, I was welcomed into nursing with open arms. I often think about that day and I have to tell you; had she not been there to support me, I don’t know if I would have made it. Instead of her “eating the young” as we say in nursing, she taught me how to use my “wings” to fly.