Looking back, I remember my answer when adults would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up ?”. My answer was always, ‘a singer and a nurse’. Yes singer came first for me. Music was my joy. My parents convinced me that my second choice would be better if I wanted to eat regularly. That definitely informed my decision.
I was maybe ten years old at that time and couldn’t honestly tell you how I became interested in nursing. I just knew that it was what I wanted to do and I was lucky enough to be able to follow my path. I say lucky because if a school like Harlem Hospital School of Nursing in NYC didn’t exist my story might have been very different. Hospital based nursing schools allowed people with limited financial resources, a quality, affordable nursing education and I was proud to be accepted into their program and more importantly, proud to be a graduate of that school. It costed my family a total of $300. I will tell you it felt like I was in nursing boot camp but it was worth every minute and every experience has been valuable throughout my entire rewarding career. At that time all nurses wore white caps as part of their uniform and you could identify what school a nurse graduated from by the distinctive shape of their cap.
I must give a disclaimer here to be fair. I have been retired for several years now and could not advise pro or con for the medical profession today, especially given recent world events. I do know that every time I think about all the people I was able to help in all the different medical settings, I know my choice was correct for me.
I was even able to combine nursing with my first choice of singing in a few of my jobs as I became known as ‘The Singing Nurse’. I worked as the nurse for a adult medical daycare for the visually impaired for 13 years and to keep our clients coming we gave parties monthly. Our clients loved music and singing so I got to sing every month. What a joy that was for me.
Another unique job was a newly created position for a well known life insurance company in NYC as a medical underwriter. I learned so much about the business world and was able to use all of my years of practice interpreting medical records.
My advice to anyone just starting out or anyone finding themselves in need of a new career path:
Do your research into the field and if shadowing or interning opportunities are available, take advantage of them.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box sometimes. I had some of the most unique and interesting nursing jobs because I took a few chances.
In nursing I found that the more experience you had the further away you were likely to be from the patient in many settings as you assumed lead positions. There were times when I found those positions less rewarding because I loved the 1:1 caring aspect of nursing. It was my vision of what nursing should be and that was deeply ingrained in me always.
Although I have no current desire to be a part of the medical field at this time, I have the utmost respect for those on the front lines today because I know enough to know what they are dealing with and there’s no denying the amount of internal strength it takes to face it every day.