These are letters that I'm trying on for size. They stand for Registered Nurse Certified - Neonatal Intensive Care, Master's of Science in Nursing. I've had mixed feelings about pursuing them and hemmed and hawed and prayed and hemmed and hawed some more. About seven years ago my best friend and I (Bezoar) took a couple of Master's level courses at GVSU, ones that we could take without having to officially apply to the Master's program. It was kind of a "I'll do it if you do it" type of thing. Around that time I started working in the NICU, which was a whole new learning experience in and of itself, and once our Advanced Pathophysiology courses ended, the Master's degree went on the back burner. Furthermore, GVSU at that time seemed to want to funnel students in the Nurse Practitioner direction and that isn't the capacity in which I want to practice. So I got my bearings in the NICU, took the opportunity to travel (which was a higher-ranking "bucket list" goal anyway), and walked away from pursuing more education.
So fast forward to now. Working at Holland Hospital is so great because it's a large enough hospital that you see enough-ish of some higher-level stuff, but it's small enough that you don't get sucked into a huge black hole of anonymity the way you do in a huge teaching hospital. There are opportunities to be very involved. Being that our Special Care Nursery is brand-new and I brought a fair amount of recent NICU experience, it's been a fun chance to have input in protocols and decisions and be on committees that are carving out our own best practice.
In the past several months I had the opportunity to attend some meetings and conferences, help develop a policy, write a Power Point presentation, and teach inservices for the rest of the Birth Center staff on the most recent American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for infant safe sleep and preventing SIDS. It was a ton of work and I got kind of tired of the topic, but it totally fired up my love for teaching. I LOVE to teach - it's one of my favorite aspects of my job. It's also one of the primary components of my job. I love explaining things to families, precepting student nurses, looking up research and discussing it with my coworkers...it's just a huge passion. So when I had originally dabbled in the graduate program at GVSU, my goal was to complete their nursing education tract with the goal of teaching at the college level.
I've been praying a lot about this and Matt has always needled me about it (by "needling" I mean encouraging!), especially recently. It keeps popping up in my mind and as I talk with people at work, and I've been saying, Is this the next thing you have in mind, Lord? I've been praying about my motives for pursuing this - would they be for prideful reasons (just to say I did it and feel great about myself) or is it an avenue by which God will use the gifts He's given me as a nurse? I've been praying about how pursuing this and ultimately using it would fit in with my role as a wife and mother (don't freak out - that's in the future, NOT the next several months!), and ultimately how would it further God's kingdom?
This afternoon my friend Renee and I met with one of our nursing professors from Hope for lunch. Renee invited me along, and I confess I dreaded going because Dr. Dunn has been on my case since graduation about going back to grad school. I always had an excuse as to why I hadn't done it, and I simply did not want to tell her THIS time that I was out of excuses and I am just too scared/lazy/whatever to follow through. She always gives me this wide-eyed, serious "And...????" expression and I just don't like it.
Well, this time she did more than just encourage; by the end of lunch she had helped me come up with a plan. She told me to get my feet wet by becoming a clinical instructor at Hope. As a nursing student, you have your classroom lectures, and you have correlating time spent in the hospital, called "clinicals." You have your lecture profs and clinical instructors. The professors who lecture are now required to have a PhD, but the clinical instructors are soon to be required to at least be working on their Master's degree. The latter requirement will be implemented about a year from now, and the person currently in that position at Hope does not want to pursue graduate work. Enter someone like me, who would like to try out that type of position and be required to be working on a degree. The position would be part time and would pay a stipend. Theoretically, if I were to pursue this type of thing, I could drop to part-time at the hospital and part time with the college, while taking one or two classes a semester.
This is very appealing has me very excited. I don't want to put the cart in front of the horse, but this is something I've always wanted to do but never thought I'd follow thru. I did travel nursing for that very reason, because there are so many things that people talk about doing, and that's all they do about it: talk. I never wanted to just talk about travel nursing. But I guess I've thought all along that I would only ever talk about teaching bachelor's students. I love my profession. I love research and evidence-based practice. I love the hundreds of stories I could tell. And I LOVE passing that passion on to a student. I love having students with me. I love grabbing a student on my way to a c-section or delivery, I love pushing them to the middle of the crowd when a baby is being resuscitated, I love giving them the opportunity to see things that they might not see again ever or at least for a very long time. I love doing all that because I HATED being a student myself. I hated feeling in the way, like the nurses who were so supposed to be teaching us were being forced to do so, like they thought we were stupid nuisances, like I didn't understand what was going on. Nurses still enjoy "eating their young" and the shortage isn't getting any better because of it. A huge percentage of new nurses leave the profession within the first five years. The majority of nurses are nearing retirement and there are few to replace them. Nursing is an incredible science and an art and an unbelievable opportunity to help people steer their ship in another direction. The technology is amazing. The research is vast. The joy is palpable and some of the heartache I've seen is too difficult to describe. BUT. I. LOVE. IT. It is serving humanity at its rawest level and I can't think of a better way to minister.
So that's why I want to teach, and I want to start plowing forward. If my mission turns out to be a bust, at least I tried. I have not applied for anything or done any more than gather information. My first choice is Michigan State University; it's a good program that offers a completely online option to study. I have to take a Basic Statistics class that I absolutely dread, and I'd probably do that at the community college. Lord willing, I want to see if they'll allow me to apply and enroll for this fall semester, which starts September 2nd. Provided they don't laugh me off the phone, I'd like to wrap that up and apply for school this coming spring and start next fall. During all this, I'm going to study for my national certification for neonatal intensive care. It affords no more luxury than a few more letters behind my name, but it'll get me back in the mode of budgeting my time for studying.
For the two or three of you who actually read this, I appreciate your fortitude in plowing thru my novella. I didn't really want to blog about it, because what if my excitement wanes, the plan backfires, I don't follow thru, etc etc. But then I realized that's exactly why I SHOULD blog about it and make it public knowledge: more accountability! (As if Dr. Dunn isn't enough.) And I really have nothing to lose if I come up short. I'll pursue it and see where God leads.
(And yes, for those who are wondering, we'll still have kids. That's partly why I am entertaining this so enthusiastically. Teaching affords a MUCH nicer schedule than the hospital, and if I eventually teach full time at Hope, tuition for them is FREE!!!!!!)