Sunday, July 21, 2013


The envelope arrived. One that has been anxiously awaited for over a month.

"It gives me great pleasure to offer you unconditional admission to the Niehoff School of Nursing of Loyola University Chicago."

That's right, I was accepted to graduate school. 

Let me take a moment to do a happy dance.

After deciding to "settle back in" to life here in La Crosse, I did some soul searching in anticipation of needing to re-direct my career path given my back injury. Many jobs in nursing require a master's degree, especially those that would accommodate my restrictions. Lots of nurses decide to get their master's and become a nurse practitioner, a career which never appealed to me. Others obtain their master's to teach at the collegiate level, with the intent to later pursue a PhD. With the few years of experience as a nurse I had under my belt, teaching, although an eventual goal of mine, wasn't realistic at this point. Where did that leave me? What type of degree would I get? What job would make me happy?

The Clinical Nurse Specialist.

What do they do? According to the APRN:

"Key elements of CNS practice are to create environments through mentoring and (p. 8) system changes that empower nurses to develop caring, evidence-based practices to alleviate patient distress, facilitate ethical decision-making, and respond to diversity. The CNS is responsible and accountable for diagnosis and treatment of health/illness states, disease management, health promotion, and prevention of illness and risk behaviors among individuals, families, groups, and communities."
In essence, the CNS is a jack of all trades and works across the entire continuum of care. A perfect fit for someone with my background. Most CNS programs are geared toward the general. Critical care, adult care or pediatrics are the most common CNS specialties. Nurses then graduate and try to obtain jobs in the exact specialty they desire (i.e. pediatric surgery, cardiac care, geriatric care, ect).  The program at Loyola is geared specifically toward the oncology population and is one of the only of its kind. As I have said many times before, oncology patients are my favorite and one that I feel passionate about.  I will be taking courses in genetics, cancer biology, and research. And, yes, I'm excited about them; a trait the program director said makes me a perfect fit for the program.

I will be registering for classes this week and starting my first term in August. I'm excited and slightly nervous about being back in school. It will take about 3 years to complete the program as a part-time student. After I graduate, the world of possibility expands and who knows where it will take me. I'm jumping in with both feet. The last jump I made into the unknown turned out pretty well.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ethics or Duty?

There was an accident today. A five car fender bender in front of me as I drove home from work tonight. When I saw a young girl emerge from her car with her face, hands, and chest covered in blood, my mind flashed to the Ziploc bag filled with gloves, gauze, and other medical supplies in the back of my car and my foot hit the brakes.

There is something in some people, particularly in nurses, that makes us believe in these situations there is no other option but to help. Is it a sense of duty? I'm a nurse, its my job. Is it an ethical question? What if someone is seriously injured and I don't stop? Is it the training that is ingrained into us from the day we set foot in the classroom in nursing school? For those of us with the knowledge, skills, and training to assist in these situations, many times the question to act doesn't need to be debated, we simply do it on instinct.

After the excitement was over and I was driving home, I began to toss around a popular topic in my head. Since my back injury, one of my biggest struggles has been not being physically able to do my job but mentally wanting it more than anything. See, I became a nurse to take care of people. To bandage their wounds, give them medications, and sometimes provide treatment that could save their life. There is nothing that compares. When the doctors put strict restrictions on my activity level and pulled me away from bedside nursing, I was devastated. I asked them how I could ignore my primal instinct to nurse people. Being an IV therapy nurse, in a code situation I am one of the only people in the hospital with the ability to place a line quickly which will deliver essential medications that have the potential to bring a person back from the edge of death. Even with my restrictions written in black in white, life likes to play in the gray area. Patients, even staff members found themselves in situations around me requiring my specific set of skills. How can I walk away from that? How can my doctors ask me not to do what I know best? Even now, working out of the hospital in a separate building doing my new job, I'm still encountered with this dilemma, i.e. the bleeding woman on the side of the road today.

I held pressure on a head wound today. Gloves on, gauze in hand; I felt like a nurse again. Like I was doing what I was always meant for: helping people. It has been a while since I had that feeling.

The adrenaline rush was pretty great too.