A Professional Journey
By Christina L. Amendolare
My nursing profession is a continued personal exploration. I started nursing school late because I wanted to provide my son with meaningful guidance and be available for him. We both started school at the same time; he went to Kindergarten and I went to college. We discovered the challenges of academia, and together, we completed our homework. My initial interest in nursing came from an old friend. As I was doing anatomy homework, she suggested I change my major from Physical Therapy to Nursing. I assumed they both had a heavy health influence and patient teaching, so I agreed. I did not understand the depth of nursing or the amount of schooling needed for a professional career. It wasn’t until I worked as a school nurse and then later as a home health nurse, that I realized my initial knowledge base needed expanding. And so, I renewed my professional academic adventure and made a commitment to life-long learning.
Examination of my Journey
My nursing career started on a Med-Surg Trauma/Burn floor after graduating from school and didn’t realize the patient complexity or personal stress that I would encounter. I cried many days of the week. After leaving, I realized this was not the appropriate floor for new nursing graduates and was fortunate to have perseverance and intrepidness. My first year of nursing paved the way for greater experiences and years of soul-searching.
My uncle was initially a big influence and encouraged me to seek a position in the public school system. I also received encouragement from a friend that was a home health nurse. Since the school system required experience as a school nurse, I decided to work part time in both positions. After a year, school nursing became my career choice. I embodied the responsibility bestowed on me and reached out to the students, the whole school campus, the and the surrounding community. Unfortunately, some people explained that my drive and perfectionism was for nothing; the students would not be changed. This statement devastated my core nursing understanding of advocacy, beneficence, and fidelity. All of these characteristics were critical for the health of a population in a Title 1 school. I continued on my path, overlooking the opinions and focusing on the students and their support resources. After three years I eventually decided to return to home health. I was losing my hospital clinical skills because in-depth patient assessments and lab values were not typically required as a school nurse. Home health provided me a different perspective of community nursing. Using my background in Med-Surg and my community resources, I helped patients move from acute-care dependence to independent living. Through my work experience, I became empowered and confident in my nursing skill-set, and it highlighted other nursing roles that I could work toward.
There are a couple of things I understand about myself, (a) I am a patient advocate, (b) I exceed in case management, and (c) I enjoyed teaching and encouraging patient autonomy. Also, I can not only stand up for myself but also for a community, family or individual patients. The more knowledge I receive, the better my ability to navigate the health care industry. Collaboration and autonomy enable me to see the important sources that lay within reach. This understanding is why I decided to return to school. I am completing my bachelor’s degree and have a distant hope of obtaining a master’s degree.
Education and Professional Goals
Returning to school after spending time in the workforce brought some anxiety and excitement. My initial goal was to finish my Bachelor's degree, but a few classes highlighted some educational deficits and created new professional goals. Streamlining education requirements and networking will focus my specialized nursing knowledge and provide a direction to steer my career.
Transferring to Old Dominion University was a difficult task as a 43-year-old woman. I completed my associate’s degree but did not realize how much research and presentation skills would be required at a four-year college. I want to become more efficient with writing papers, choosing research data, Increasing my reading speeds and knowledge of the American Psychological Association (APA) writing style will meet this goal. Every new class has a networking variable, but restarting nursing classes added a new group element. Engaging professionals that can be relied upon for advice and mentoring is critical. I have teachers that are good sources of information, and they can understand my struggle since they too have been through the educational process. I also have other students that answer questions and work well in groups. Even today, I still have lunch with five nursing friends from my 2008 graduating class. We support each other through work and life.
Taking Introduction to Human Resources, Global Health, and Professional Development classes sparked my interest in the community and global health. They gave me a broader view of different nursing roles and opened my mind to other possible specialties. My background in school and home health, provide support for expanding my nursing role in the community. I can affiliate with the government, non-government organizations (NGO), and the private sector to simplify community health utilization. Also, I want to learn more about navigating multiple health resources and encourage communities to take ownership of their health. Making a larger impact on communities will fulfill my personal goals and help others.
I have always been neglectful in boasting or pointing out my strengths. With a lot of thought, I see my strength as having eight years of nursing practice, 44 years of life experience, and empathy from personal trials. Characteristics include a dedication to loyalty, truth, and compassion; a passion for protecting vulnerable individuals; and the drive to enable patient autonomy and health responsibility. My weakness is being “very” detail oriented, expecting the same work quality as I produce, and taking the time to grasp the holistic patient experience. Some may see my weaknesses as advantageous; however, it causes time constraints in acute care situations. I can use this understanding to work on organizational skills, growth, and highlight what careers incorporate these assets.
Goals for my career must include all aspects of academics, life, and work experiences. Utilizing the new paradigm of health care includes emphasizing primary prevention, community entitlement and sustainability, and patient autonomy. My strengths help coordinate health service accessibility and advocate for vulnerable populations. There are also a few lessons to remember, (1) it is important to evaluate opinions with my personal goals and current life position in mind, (2) being afraid of becoming uncomfortable can dampen my ability to provide the best patient care, and (3) I must always strive to seek more knowledge. I realize the world is a big place, with many different environments; communities are always in need of caring, motivated individuals that put their needs first.