If you’ve read the post entitled Why I Became a Nurse that story continues here. You may recall what influenced me to become a nurse and my journey getting there. If you haven’t read the post prior to this one, definitely go check it out.
The decision to go to the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) was not without sacrifice. I was living in the Birmingham area, in a city named Calera. Calera is roughly 133 miles from Huntsville. At the time my husband was a high school math teacher and basketball coach. Going to school in Huntsville would mean commuting and being away from my husband for days at a time. Huntsville is a city that I love. It is where my alma mater, Alabama A & M University is located. It is also where the aforementioned awesome uncle mentioned in the prior post lives.
With the support of my husband and family, I took off to UAH to complete a second bachelor’s degree. This time in Nursing. It would take me two years instead of four since I already earned a bachelor’s prior in Biology. My uncle allowed me to stay with him while in Huntsville and affectionately called me his “boarder”. I can’t begin to describe the impact he’s had on my life or all he’s done for me. Just know when I count my blessings in life he’s at the top of the list.
When I wasn’t studying, attending classes, or trying to work out, I was driving between home and Huntsville. I did this while managing to remain part time as a patient care technician at my hospital Birmingham. When I graduated nursing school, I went back to the same unit as a registered nurse. I knew that I still wasn’t done yet. It was important to me to get more nursing experience but I knew I wanted to go back to school again to become a nurse practitioner. Admittedly, I love setting goals and achieving them. If I know there is more that can be accomplished, I’m usually going to make that a goal.
What struck me most about becoming a nurse practitioner is the bond between care and cure. As a nurse, I spent years caring directly for patients through education, medication administration, assisting in activities of daily living and being the liaison between other healthcare professionals. As a nurse practitioner, I could continue to do those things, but I could also diagnose and treat certain conditions. I could directly impact the patient even more.
After some time, while continuing to work as a nurse, I decided it was time to apply to graduate school to become a nurse practitioner. I wanted to not only be the best nurse I could be, but I also wanted to be a nurse with an advanced degree and have the option for more opportunities. I knew that the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) was where I wanted to go to graduate school. I loved the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), but this time I wanted to go to school locally and save myself several miles in the process. I also have it in my mind that it would be so cool to have a degree from every university in the University of Alabama system. Shh UA, you’re up next, lol!
After applying and gaining acceptance into the Family Nurse Practitioner program at UAB, a new journey began. There are different nurse practitioner specializations, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner or Adult Nurse Practitioner to name a couple. The family program appealed to me the most because it allows you to practice across the life span. I liked the idea of being able to know and care for babies and the elderly. About three years later I graduated from UAB with a Master’s of Science in Nursing. I had excellent preceptors and very engaging clinical rotations. I learned so much from the professors, physicians and nurse practitioners I was able to glean from.
Along the way I managed to have two babies. How I pulled that off is a story for another day, lol. I will tell you this! I missed graduation because my youngest son decided that two days before graduation was a good time to make his arrival. This ended up being for the best! He weighed nearly 10lbs! It would have most certainly been more adventurous than necessary if he’d come around his due date two weeks later! My husband took a picture of me in my cap and gown before returning it back to the store. Graduating is only part of the process. Next, I’d need to take the national certification exam.
Studying would prove challenging with a newborn but I was determined to pass boards and become certified. The first few weeks post-partum dedicated to adapting to a newborn, a 19 and a half month old, healing from delivery, breastfeeding, and just generally trying to live, lol. Close family came to help me in those initial weeks like my fantastic maternal aunt who graciously and lovingly plays a grandmother role to my children. Also, my experienced and loving mother- in- law came to my rescue as well.
Following the adjustment period, I decided it was time to refocus and truly buckle down and study for my certification exam. At that point it was my amazing father-in-law who filled in the gap. He is truly spectacular. He would come each day and help me care for my newborn during the day so that I could study. He treated it like working a shift; he was consistent and reliable. He never once complained or made me feel like a burden to him. I am so thankful for him and do not take it for granted. Needless to say he has a special bond with my son that holds to this day.
I studied for about three months straight. My husband sent me to a hotel the night before my test so I could be refreshed and totally focused on my exam. He stayed home with the boys. The day came for me to take the nurse practitioner national certification exam and I felt nervous yet prepared. I pumped my inspirational gospel between my motivational Jay-Z tracks (what can I say, I have a diverse music palate, lol) as I traveled to the testing center. After talking to my husband and saying a prayer I went into the testing center determined to conquer. Hours later, I left the testing center as a board certified family nurse practitioner. I was ecstatic! I’d overcome major obstacles and my dreams were coming true.
After passing my certification exam, I sought a position in oncology. I knew it would be hard because much of my oncology experience had been personal and not professional. However, I completed my projects and whatever assignments I could on oncology related subjects. I also made it my business to have a few of my clinical rotations within the oncology setting. This afforded me inpatient (while hospitalized) and outpatient (office or clinic setting) oncology exposure.
As grace would have it and by word of mouth, I learned that an oncology practice affiliated with my hospital was looking to hire a nurse practitioner. This person would be the practice’s first nurse practitioner. This meant there would be hills to climb but I was not deterred. I received recommendations from colleagues and physicians. I then had FOUR interviews, one with each doctor in the practice and the chief operating officer. Ultimately, I earned the position and set out to continue to learn as much about oncology as I could. I wanted to be the best oncology nurse practitioner I could be.
I am blessed to have physicians who really poured into me by providing me with additional extensive training. I also attended as many oncology related courses, continuing education units (CEUs), and seminars as I could. When pharmaceutical representatives would come to the practice I reviewed all their literature and took the time to listen to each of his or her presentations. Several years later, I’m proud to say I’m still there. Mom would be proud.
Read Part I of "Why I Became a Nurse Practitioner"