The brick wall that almost kept me from geriatric nursing

The brick wall that almost kept me from geriatric nursing

Going into my 5th week of nursing school, I am not a person knowledgeable enough to give advice about how to get into nursing school or how to survive it. However, I did want to take this opportunity to share a little story about myself and why I am passionate about geriatric nursing and the most helpful thing I did to prepare myself for nursing school.

My interest in Geriatrics came before I discovered the dream job as a nurse. In my senior year of high school, I was referred to shadow a doctor who owned several nursing homes for Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients in Napa, CA. As a student lost and overwhelmed with essential life decisions, I had no clue what I was stepping my foot into. At the nursing home, I met an elderly woman who went by the nickname of “Grandma.” Every time I walked by Grandma, she would look into my eyes and repeatedly whisper, “I love you.” Grandma would say those words to every person who walked by, even if they were complete strangers. Those words may not mean much for Grandma, but as a fragile teenage girl who had been going through rough times in life, those words warmed my heart every time. I instantly felt a connection between myself and Grandma. I told my mentor that I wanted to be a caregiver and care for these elderly patients. She told me that I was capable of doing something bigger– that can make great contributions to the Geriatric care system. She suggested that I spend some time working towards building a reputation and earning respect from others. Taking her advice to heart, I moved on to college as a public health major where the issues with the aging population was summarized in just one, simple slide on a PowerPoint lecture. “Wait, that was it!!!???” I screamed inside. That was when I noticed that Geriatric care was not receiving the full attention it deserved. And that was the moment I decided that I wanted to be an advocate for the elderly population.

It didn’t take long for me to discover nursing, which I felt was the career that encompassed not only what kind of professional specialist I wanted to become in Geriatric care but also what kind of person I wanted to be in life. I always had the image of a nurse as a caring, compassionate person with excellent communication skills and the ability to warm people’s hearts. “Ok, I want to be a nurse, but how am I going to be one?” Especially for a shy person like me. I was always the type of person who avoided small talks with people and would miss the timing to compliment a friend and regret it for the rest of the day. This was something I always wanted to overcome.

As my favorite quote from the last lecture by Randy Pausche states:

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

I wanted to be a nurse really badly. I especially wanted to be an advocate for the elderly population really badly. That meant I had to overcome the brick wall and change myself.

I was never able to get a position working at a hospital but instead, I focused on constantly challenging myself to go “outside of my comfort zone” and overcome that shy personality. Out of the many things I attempted, the summer camp I worked for right before starting school had the biggest impact. I worked as a Resident Assistant (RA) for a 3 week leadership program at University of California, Berkeley for Japanese high school students who were affected by the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. Here is my logic behind accepting this position and what I learned from it:

  1. It forced me to have to talk to strangers and comfort them from the moment I saw them. (Aha! this is what nurses do all the time!)
  2. 2 RAs leading 23 students meant I had to SPEAK OUT LOUD (yes, I lost my voice the 2nd day)
  3. I was severely sleep deprived for the entire program and was still expected to function and get my job done well (reflects my life as a nursing student)
  4. I wanted to explore other areas outside of geriatric nursing (as much as I love elders, I will care a full range of patients as a RN)
Train station in Fukushima, Japan after the Earthquake and Tsunami

This was probably the best preparation I did for nursing school. Although I am not perfect, I am now able to get myself out of my comfort zone and proactively meet new people and make new friends. I believe this is what got me through these past 5 weeks and will continue to support me throughout nursing school and beyond.

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