By: Dr. Beth Templin
I can remember all the way back to a project I did in Kindergarten about “what you want to be when you grow up”. I’m sure many of us had a similar assignment at some point in our younger years. We had to draw a picture of what we wanted to be and say why we made that choice. I, of course, wanted to be a nurse just like my mom.
I think many of the other kids in my class probably chose a profession they were familiar with, just like I did. But for as long as I can remember, I really did want to be like my mom. She always knew what to do when we were sick or had cuts or scrapes. I felt safe and cared for. Plus, I wanted to “help people” just like her.
Throughout the course of my school aged years, I considered a few other professions, but I always came back to wanting to be a nurse. My decision was cemented in while I was in high school for two reasons. The first is that I took Human Anatomy my junior year and was so fascinated by how the human body works. It was my favorite subject and I wanted to learn more. The second was that my grandmother had become very ill during that time.
Grandma was in and out of the hospitals and nursing homes several times over many years due to complication from diabetes. As a result, my mom was always visiting her and helping to care for her. I went along with my mom on many of those visits to keep her company and to visit with my grandma.
On several occasions, I remember my mom interacting with nurses and physicians at the hospital. She was always able to make sure my grandma received the best possible care. She would question them, asking for more details about why certain decisions were or were not being made. They were often surprised because I think they were just so used to walking into the room, talking at people and then leaving.
My mom was also able to take the complex medical terms and make them understandable to other family members who were not in the medical profession. She helped guide us all through that process and I wanted to be able to do that for myself and my future family.
As planned, I started my college career as a nursing major. I loved everything I was learning about the body, about disease processes, about medications, about ways to make people more comfortable and help them on their path to healing.
Then we started our clinical rotations and that’s where I began to experience a little bit of a disconnect. I would come home from my day at the clinical site completely exhausted. It wasn’t just physical, but emotional as well. I had several experiences that made me question if nursing was truly a good fit for me. If I wanted to make nursing a career.
Then there was another barrier for me. I found out that I don’t do well with needles. We had just learned to give shots in class by practicing on oranges. Sure, I was a lilt nervous, but I was willing to overcome my fear as I had done with other new skills. During our next week of clinical rotations, I had the opportunity to administer a shot to a patient and I almost passed out. With the assistance of my instructor, I did make it to the hallway before I leaned against the wall and slid to the floor with my head between my knees.
The next skill on our list was to learn how to start an IV. If I couldn’t handle giving someone a shot in the belly, how was I ever going to be able to successfully pull off shoving a needle accurately into someone’s vein?? This gave me serious doubt on if I had chosen the correct profession for me or not.
I very vividly remember going back to my parent’s house after a really challenging day at the hospital and talking to my mom. I was sure she would be so disappointed in me that I didn’t think I wanted to be a nurse anymore. I told her all of the things that I was struggling with and that bothered me about continuing on this path. She listened. We discussed the other role’s a nurse can have out in the community and in places besides the hospitals and nursing homes.
At that point in my education, all I had left were labs to learn more skills and clinical
rotations to practice the new skills before I graduated. I couldn’t bear the thought of continuing to go on my clinicals for another year and a half, just to graduate with a degree I didn’t think I would every use. So, with my parents’ support, I dropped out of nursing school.
My mom was the one who suggested that maybe another profession in the medical field would be a better fit for me. She helped set up some volunteer opportunities so I could observe Physical and Occupational Therapy at a local hospital.
My first day volunteering in the therapy gym was life changing. I watched the physical therapists help a man who had a double knee replacement stand for the first time. It was such a powerful thing for me to witness, for me to experience. I knew I had found my new calling.
Physical Therapy was a way that I could still “help people” get better, that didn’t involve needles or other invasive procedures. A way I could continue to expand my knowledge and experience in the medical field to help others navigate it more successfully.
After that day, I figured out what I needed to do to apply to Physical Therapy School. I switched my major to Exercise Sciences and took the extra requirements needed to get accepted. I had a plan. I was on my way.
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Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ understand the changes of aging and how to live a healthy active lifestyle, so they don’t start to miss out on the good things in life.