By Wanda Patrick, LPN
I’ve been a nurse for more than forty years, and I can honestly say that I’m blessed to have found the true calling on my life when I was still in elementary school. Not many children can say at that age that they really know what they are going to be when they grow up.
I’ll never forget reading over and over again a hardcover book about a teenage girl who was a ‘candy stripper.’ I thought that the book was so interesting and it held such wonder and excitement for me. She wasn’t a nurse, and the things she did for her patients were not really considered nursing care, but I knew there was much more than what was on the pages of the book, and it held my interest. I dreamed of wearing that white uniform and cute nurses cap on my head. I know that in my little girl’s imagination, it was all glamour and excitement. But in any case, I really felt that this profession was calling my name.
So, I purposefully attended a high school which at that time offered the LPN training as a major… I had no interest in the training for the corporate world, things like typing, bookkeeping, secretarial skills, etc. So, I signed up for the nurse’s course and again, was blessed to be chosen.
I use the word blessed because the majority of sophomore girls also signed up for the course, and I later found out that only fifteen girls could and would be chosen from that particular school.
So, during my junior and senior years of high school, I took classes at the school for half of the day, and for the other half, I trained with other students at the local hospital to learn nursing skills and patient care.
I did learn one important thing early on in training… I did very well when it came to interacting with patients and performing nursing care, but when it came to learning from the books concerning teaching and disease processes and things of that nature, I wasn’t able to learn and maintain information well enough to make high grades on the test… I was honest with myself and realized that my strength rested in the actual caring of those assigned to me. I really enjoyed what I did at the bedside, and with my patients. I thank God that I was able to maintain a high enough grade and to score well enough on the state board to obtain my license.
My first job was immediately after finishing school, in a large well known Chicago hospital. It was, I admit quite a dose of reality shock! Now, instead of doing small nursing chores for one or two patients, I was assigned the care of at least four or more patients. I worked with adults, no children at the time. It was tough to keep up, and it did take a while to find my rhythm, but after a while longer, things became more manageable, and I continued to work in this capacity for ten years or more.
Then, my career shifted me to work with children. This was a bit challenging in the beginning, since I’d never worked with kids before, and I’d never worked in-home healthcare. I felt nervous, reminding myself that I’d be in an environment where there would be no other nurses, and no doctors to call on for help! But, the first children’s agency I worked for was very helpful in training me and made me feel comfortable enough to give it a try… and I am so happy I did!
I soon realized that this was the place where I fit like a puzzle piece! Each child I worked with soon became special to me! I took my duties seriously and still do. I’ve always wanted the parents of my kids to feel comfortable and free to go as they please. I believe that these families should be able to live as normal a life as possible. I feel that what I can contribute makes a difference, not only to the parents but to the child as well.
The kids I care for would never be able to attend school, ride on a school bus, or interact outside of their homes with other kids if there wasn’t someone like me who is willing to do what it takes to make these things possible. I believe a child should be able to experience as much of a ‘normal’ childhood as possible. So, I make it my business each day to take time to read to, play with, and make my little charges days as fun as possible.
Of course, I performed my nurse’s duties to the best of my ability, but the other things I do to be sure my little patient smiles, giggles, laughs and has fun while they’re with me. I enjoy being with them and want them to know it!
The parents are happy; they feel free to go to the work, to shop, to leave their child in my care, knowing that I will care for their child as if he or she were my own. I know the child is happy as well; he or she knows that when I’m on duty, they will have someone talk to them, take them outside, and do things that any child normally wants to do.
Finally, special kids deserve special care, and that’s what I’ve become good at giving. These kids can feel left out, looked over, and unimportant. My job, and what I love to do is to show them that they are just as important as their ‘normal’ brothers and sisters… That they are lovable and deserve all the love, affection, and attention, they can get!
I feel blessed to be able to give them these things.
Wanda Patrick, LPN