A Place To Belong

When I applied for nursing school the three areas of interest that I wrote on my application were labor and delivery, neonatal intensive care, and burn care. Throughout my clinical experience I eliminated labor and delivery. One of the reasons was that I simply was drawn to intensive care settings, I believe because of my experience as a patient in intensive care. Another reason is that I desire to give care throughout a long term process, to see bad situations progress into great ones; them going home! Labor and delivery was too short of a time frame for me; patients deliver and they leave. My only way of gaining insight into where I needed to be for the long haul, was to get into those units for some experience. I had received burn care as a patient, and two of my four children were admitted to the NICU, but being on the side of the bed as a patient and as a nurse are very different worlds. Spending some time in each of these areas as a nurse extern allowed me to gain understanding and truly know where I would be the greatest benefit to my patients.

In the summer of 2011, I did an externship in a neonatal intensive care unit. My first day was undoubtedly one of the worst I had experienced throughout all of my clinical experiences. Being a nursing student is a very humbling experience. I chased after many nurses as they sped down hallways; I stretched my ears to listen to helpful information because it wasn’t always generously offered; I was avoided as if I were a cultured bacteria; I was called “student,” rather than being called by my name. Of course this is a compilation of unpleasant experiences, but none compare to my first day externing in a unit that I was so eager to get exposure. What makes it sad is that it was the actions, and demeaning comments, from one individual that qualified it as “the worst.”

My time to reflect on that Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, has stirred many thoughts and convictions. I will never belittle or intimidate a person to feel superior. I will not negate teaching moments in order to imply that what I know is far above anyone’s learning capability. I will never outgrow Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Because of such instruction, I can set this behind me, gaining the lessons, and moving forward in kindness, compassion, forgiveness and love.

One thing that is great about having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, is that it makes the others not seem so bad, and it makes good ones seem fantastic! Which is exactly what I experienced on my first day of my current job; returning to the same unit as a new employee. Conditions were not ideal. I arrived to find out that my assigned preceptor was out for the day, but I had a beautiful smiley co-worker snatch me up. Unfortunately she got called to go on a transport call, but yet I had the pleasure of briefly learning from another co-worker, who was as equally friendly and welcoming. A couple of hours later, another blessing arrived. The nurse that was called in for about half the shift poured into me step-by-step instructions. She even shared with me a special moment; my first time to write, “HMeadows, RN!” And the day ended with yet another opportunity to meet a new face. A nurse, my co-worker, came in for the last few hours of the shift. She too, took many opportunities to explain anything she felt would be beneficial for me, and she continually checked on me to see if I needed help.

To add to the joy, my manager kept popping in delivering what I felt were like house warming gifts. She gave me my log-in for the computer, my key to the supply carts, a code list for all the doors, and my own locker. I amusingly made comments about my locker. I’ve heard people say something to the fact of having “a place to hang your hat.” Well I now had a place to put my bag, and that made me feel at home. After all the places I traveled to find where Nurse Heather belonged, I was finally home.

Four different faces blessed my day. Many more contributed to my feeling welcomed and a part. And all of these instances brought to mind John 14:2-3. “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Isn’t that what we all really want? Is to know that there is a place for us? That we belong somewhere? Isn’t it awesome to think that we don’t have to have credentials behind our name to have a place in eternity? Isn’t it absolutely fabulous that we’re not just getting a locker, but a room?

In the meantime, I’m grateful that perseverance is a part of character, and that on the other side of any unpleasant circumstance can be a world of acceptance. We get doses of that now, but it pales in comparison to the acceptance that is in store for us in eternity.

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