Nurse to Doctor?!?!
In my last post, I mentioned that I would post my statement of purpose, attempting to explain my transition from nursing to medicine. I don’t know if anyone would even be curious to read, but I hope this helps to explain my passion of helping others and my sincere desire to keep learning for the rest of my life.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
My decision to pursue a career in medicine has been nothing short of a journey. I did not always have aspirations to become a physician, but I was encouraged by those around me to strive for excellence in the things that interested me. I was always an accomplished student, and demonstrated passion and enthusiasm in broadening my knowledge. Whether it was rushing home after school to practice the piano and cello for hours on end or falling asleep finishing a chapter out of my AP American History textbook in high school, I have always loved to learn new things. I believe these traits are essential of any aspiring doctor, as the medical career requires a commitment to lifelong learning.
My younger brother’s illness was an enormous catalyst in my decision to follow down a career path of medicine. As I began my undergraduate studies in piano performance, my brother’s illness took hold and led him to spiral down into the depths of mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and identity crisis. He was only eighteen. I remember sitting at his funeral, with steady tears flowing, believing that if I had been more present in his life as a supportive older sister that somehow, I could have saved him. I remember a new passion that had been ignited within me – I wanted to help save people’s lives. It didn’t matter if they were suffering from depression, heart disease, or cancer. I wanted to be the one at their side, making things better. But most of all, I remember my brother’s smile, and his desire to leave his own mark in this world by helping others and being a friend to those who needed one.
Soon after, I enrolled in a rigorous 15 month BSN program that afforded me the opportunity to simultaneously complete my music degree and my nursing degree. As I embarked on this new journey at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center School of Nursing in Houston, my eyes were opened to the world of health care. I learned about the human body, and hundreds of different disease processes of which I had never previously heard. I learned about how to talk to patients – how to teach them about their disease, how to support them through the toughest of times, and most importantly, how to be their advocate.
Another important influence in my decision to pursue medicine was my time as a registered nurse in the Texas Medical Center. I worked as a floor nurse in a post-cardiothoracic surgery unit. We collaborated with some of the best cardiothoracic surgeons and cardiologists in the world. As nurses, we were always learning about new surgical techniques that the surgeons had performed on our patients, and how to care for them. One such example was the introduction of minimally invasive heart valve procedures to our unit, and the faster recovery times associated with these surgeries. We were getting patients to ambulate either the same day or day after these procedures, and used a new type of ambulatory pain relief called ON-Q that controlled pain and allowed patients to ambulate without compromising the success of the surgery. There was one day in particular, that a doctor had asked me to join him on afternoon rounds, as I was caring for many of his patients that day. He discussed with me about their condition, and had me listen to several different heart murmurs. As I desperately tried to hear and differentiate between these subtle murmurs, I also admired this doctor’s efforts and determination to teach me in depth about his patients’ conditions. He could have easily completed his rounds alone, and spent less than half the time that he did that afternoon. Dr. Nelson* embodied the ideals of the kind of doctor I aspire to be one day. He is a teacher and a leader. He empowered me to take better care of his patients, by imparting his knowledge on me.
The longer I worked alongside fellow members of the healthcare team through my clinical rotations and nurse residency program, I realized that I was lacking something essential. I lacked a strong scientific foundation that would allow me to fully understand these disease processes. I believe that pursuing a career in medicine will allow me to have a complete understanding of health and disease. This will, in turn, allow me to be a stronger advocate for my patients, a leader in the healthcare team, and to have more autonomy in my future practice.
A subject matter I have spent much time reflecting on this past year is my decision to go to medical school versus continuing my education as a nurse and becoming a nurse practitioner. My years in training to become a nurse and working as a new nurse were some of the most formative years of my life, and helped me to realize my career goals. Regardless of the increased time and financial commitment, a medical education will be invaluable to me in pursuit of a more complete knowledge of the human body. Combined with incredible experiences in patient care as a registered nurse and a passion for learning and teaching, I believe that I have what it takes to become an excellent doctor.
*name changed for confidentiality purposes.