Today is graduation day.
After 823 days, 7 semesters, 14 classes, 600 clinical hours in various NICUs, 3 on-campus sessions, and a hell of a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, I am a nurse practitioner.
What a weird thing to say.
I haven’t quite figured out what to do with my time the in last 2 weeks since I finished all my coursework, but it sure has been nice to take a minute to breathe. I find myself overwhelmingly grateful for these last two years, though I may could have done without some of the more awful moments (learning about dementia and diabetes medications that I’ll never prescribe comes to mind…) I made some wonderful friends who I am forever grateful for, because who else can you text at 0600 about exactly when a pre-renal kidney injury becomes intrinsic? And I had the best instructors led by the best program director a student could ask for – if you’re reading this, Dr. Wood, you are truly an angel sent from heaven above and all of us are so, so thankful for you!
It’s an interesting perspective, sitting in this limbo between endings and beginnings. Here, as I step away from this particular chapter onto the precipice of a whirlwind of change, my vantage point feels very middle-ish – I am right smack in between two graduate programs, right on the edge of a move from one city to another, waiting impatiently to transition from the bedside into my new role. I feel like I am waiting in the wings before the show starts – the rehearsals done, the preparation completed, the orchestra tuning, breath held before taking that first step onto the stage in the spotlight.
Attending graduate school while working full-time is an excellent prescription for personal growth, and I have learned lots of things in addition to a fount of knowledge re: sick babies. I’ve learned to say no gracefully and without too much regret, and I’ve learned that ice cream from Big Spoon is a really, really great treat for finishing a test. I’ve learned exactly how much tenacity I possess, and that it really comes out when the rubber hits the road. I’ve learned to appreciate my husband in ways that I’d never been able to before, and also to forgive him for putting my wooden cutting boards and good knives in the dishwasher. I’ve learned that it’s ok to live in the mess if that works for you, and I’ve also learned that it’s ok to pay somebody to clean your mess up for you once it doesn’t. I’ve learned to appreciate precious, precious free time, and to prioritize that time with things that really matter, like having lunch with beloved friends or maybe even taking a nap. I’ve learned that breaks are essential and that you really can fit a WHOLE LOT of information into your brain at once.
I am glad to be carrying these and many other lessons forward as my journey progresses north to Nashville. I am a ball of paradoxical emotions about it – excited and filled with apprehension, eager to learn and scared to make mistakes, thrilled about decorating a new house and sad to leave ours here in Crestwood. My new job will come with a steep, scary learning curve and also a thousand opportunities to expand my knowledge and skillset. We are overjoyed to be moving to a village full of precious friends, and heartbroken to move away from the ones we love in Birmingham. I am SO EXCITED to step into my new role and also a little sad about leaving behind the specific type of patient care that I love so much about bedside nursing.
I may feel a lot of ways and know a lot less things about exactly what is to come, but I do know that this work has been worthwhile, that my future work will also be worthwhile, and that my career, my life, my family are all better for it. I know that I will walk across the stage tonight so proud of the work I’ve accomplished, and I know that babies and their families will benefit from the hours of reading and studying and memorizing and preparing that I’ve been doing for the last 2 years. I know that I love what I do, I love the NICU and the babies and their families, and I love learning about ways I can improve their care and outcomes. This has all been for them, after all, these 823 days and 600 clinical hours.
So as this chapter closes and the next one opens and I wait impatiently for it all to unfold, I hope and pray that I will learn to be like the practitioners who’ve come before me, that I can follow in their footsteps and eventually fill their shoes. May my hands continue to heal and not harm, may my mind stay focused and ready to learn, and may my heart never harden to the suffering of my babies and their families. I am so thankful for this journey, and so eager to see what the future brings.