My first year out of nursing school was rocky, to say the least. I graduated in 1994 (EGAD! That was over 15 years ago!), when there was a shortage of nursing jobs-more because of hospital cutbacks than because nurses weren’t needed. I ended up working in a level III NICU, thinking it was close enough to labor and delivery that I’d still be happy. Level III is a designation of the highest risk hospitals with regards to newborn care. The tiniest of preemies, the most exotic of birth defects, the sickest of the babies.
Boy howdy, was I wrong. About the “close enough”. I wanted to be exactly where I am now. I spent three months thinking I’d died and gone to hell. I went home crying more days than not. I REALLY came unglued the first time I cared for a dying baby. He was a suffering little guy from the time he was born, and four months later, his parents made the agonized decision to discontinue life support. Since I was the new nurse, and I needed to learn how to do postmortem care, his care was assigned to me.
Ick. Anyway, after three months of varying degrees of Dante’s inferno (I think I made an accidental pun there-inferno? degrees? Insert eye roll at myself here…), I had to leave the job or end up in a rubber bouncy room. I’d already become friends with my couch, tissues, and pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
This was the first time in my life that I had “failed” at something. School always came easily to me. My next job was six months in a nursing home. It was dauntingly humbling, and to this day I have trouble seeing the difference between being humbled and being humiliated. After a week of working there, however, I was able to pinpoint another feeling: relief. I wasn’t surrounded by beeping machines anymore.
As I usually do, I made the best of it. And every so often I’d call the nurse recruiter’s secretary at the hospital where I’d worked as a nursing assistant in labor and delivery, where I’d worked in the NICU, and where I WANTED to work as a nurse in labor and delivery.
Finally, about 9 months after I graduated, SHE calle ME to let me know there was a job posting in L & D. Within three weeks I’d interviewed, interviewed again, and was offered the job. On my birthday.
It was one of the best birthday presents ever.