Author: Lauren Amelia Nealy
School: University of South Alabama, College of Nursing
Area of Study: Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Healthcare is a significant aspect of every individual’s life. It is the fundamental building block that makes all else possible. From the very beginning of life, all we are and all we can become begins with the state of our health. Healthcare teams not only save and sustain lives, but they also contribute to our general well-being. To a great extent, reaching our full potential is measured by this fact. This is why I have chosen the healthcare field as my future profession. Each day provides a different opportunity to help others. To me, giving people the basic building blocks to reach their full health capability is both exciting and fulfilling. This is my calling. Let me explain.
Many years ago, I had a conversation with my mother regarding my work and study habits. She told me I was a “woodpecker.” Strange, I thought, for her to think of me as a bird that bangs its head against a tree all day. At first, I was insulted, but then I was curious. “Mom, why would you call me a woodpecker?” I asked her this question while wondering why I could not be an eagle, a hawk, or even a robin. She then explained to me:
Honey, I know this is hard, but I must remind you that you have done everything right, and you have done it in the most challenging and rewarding way. There is no single moment in your life that you can point to and call world-changing. You are working towards your ultimate goal every single day. Just like the woodpecker, you are pecking at that tree every day. You study hard, and you work hard. You are a great student, a great daughter, a great sister, and a great friend. You peck and peck at that tree. Be proud. Your future is bright because you have been working hard day after day. The woodpecker never does anything remarkable on any given day. But in the end, because he has worked hard throughout each day of his life, he has himself a pretty nice home- he has changed his world.
I have come to understand that this was not just a conversation, but a lesson- a story to explain a way of life. As I have gotten older, I see the wisdom in this lesson, the “Woodpecker Theory.” As my mother explained it to me, the woodpecker never does anything singularly remarkable. He keeps pecking away day after day at a goal, and then, after a long hard road, he achieves it. As I have continued to work diligently and consistently throughout nursing school, I have become to see myself as this bird, the woodpecker, and I now understand why my mother has such great admiration for this hardworking creature.
What inspired you to embark on a career within your chosen healthcare field?
So, what does this have to do with my chosen field of healthcare? Well, my dream is to become a neonatal nurse, specifically a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit. I believe this infant nurse mirrors the woodpecker. This type of bird works every day from sunrise to sunset without ever giving up. The bird pecks away tirelessly until it achieves its ultimate goal. Helping care for these babies- some sick, some small, and some even hopeless- takes the same kind of dedication and patience over time. Each individual baby deserves a nurse that strives to give his or her best effort throughout every hour of the day. From the very start of life in the world, doctors and nurses surround each baby, offering this child a chance at life. It was a chance given to me, and it is my dream to be part of a team that helps other babies have that chance as well.
I was born at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital at one pound eight ounces and thirteen weeks early. I know that I became the focus and attention of every healthcare personnel in the delivery room. Fighting and struggling to survive, the nurses remained by my side in order to ensure my health and stability. They provided for every aspect of my care throughout each day and night during the entire three months I was in the hospital. Each nurse was dedicated to sustaining my life and employed his or her time, empathy, and commitment with every minute in order to see me survive. My mother believes my chosen path is ironic. After listening to her explanation, I now know that it is not so strange for her to compare me to this wonderful bird.
Neonatal intensive care nurses are responsible for the total nursing care of infants who are most often premature or in need or advanced or critical care. This emphasizes the compelling amount of responsibility that these nurses assume. They are faced with the fundamental goal of sustaining life and stability for every infant throughout his or her stay. They work throughout every day and night for the ultimate goal, just like a woodpecker does. My mother always told me how much she admired these nurses. I remember her telling me how she and my father had to walk down the hall past the babies in the full-term, newborn unit to arrive in the neonatal intensive care unit. How hard it must be to continue walking by these healthy newborns only to arrive where babies were small, sick and, in some cases, dying. She believed that the neonatal intensive care unit nurses had a higher calling, a dedication to their career that went far beyond a paycheck.
I believe, as a neonatal nurse, I will be able to ensure this level of care in my career. I would like to “pay it forward” and allow for other infants in critical condition to have a chance to fight and survive like I did. As a nursing student, I have “pecked” away at my ultimate goal of becoming a neonatal nurse by working tirelessly, diligently, and consistently, just as the bird does. I am currently in the top of the class enrolled in my senior year at the University of South Alabama. Now that I am in the professional component of the nursing program, it has become increasingly difficult to work the numerous hours it takes to support my education. I receive federal grant money, student loans, and a presidential scholarship. However, this does not provide enough money to finish my bachelor’s degree. I have always worked outside of school to make up the shortfall. This American Medical Resource Institution Scholarship would relieve a great amount of stress for myself as well as my family. It would give me the ability to focus more of my time and attention on my education and my future career. I hope that I have demonstrated the kind of strong work ethic that I know is required in my chosen field. If selected, I would be honored to receive this scholarship in order to pay it forward with my career in the neonatal field. My hope is that, one day, I have the opportunity to do the same for the next “woodpecker.”
Healthcare professionals are already certified in Basic Life Support, or BLS, which provides the necessary knowledge to respond to complications in breathing or circulation using rescue breathing, chest compressions, and automated external defibrillators, or AEDs. Extending beyond BLS is Advanced Cardiac Life Support, or ACLS, and Pediatric Advanced Life Support, or PALS.
ACLS certified personnel are not only proficient in BLS, but are also competent in the more advanced life-saving techniques that can provide treatment to patients in emergency situations. This advanced knowledge, like intubation, electrocardiograms, and intravenous medications, is widely used in the healthcare field, especially within neonatal intensive care nursing. Many of these premature or sickly infants need advanced life support in order to sustain life. They not only require general newborn care, but also need emergency ventilation, medications, cardiac monitoring, consistent supervision, and much more. In many cases, these types of babies require the use of life-saving techniques that may need to be administered or monitored on a minute by minute basis. In addition, PALS certification teaches one to perform life-saving techniques and ACLS on pediatric patients. Both of these certifications advance the healthcare professional’s knowledge in emergency medical treatment as well as emphasizes one’s commitment and dedication to the chosen field. I believe the ACLS and PALS certifications are an essential component to attain not only in the general healthcare field, but more specifically in the neonatal and pediatric fields. I believe having these skills and certifications are absolutely critical in achieving my goal in becoming a neonatal nurse. Closer to my graduation in May of 2016, I will be attaining these certifications in order to prepare for my chosen nursing field of choice.
Aside from continuing work towards my nursing degree, I have also accomplished a goal that I consider to be helpful in the nursing field. Before starting the nursing component of my field of study, I completed a minor is Spanish. During my initial acceptance into the nursing program, I was told that most nursing students do not have a minor, that there is not enough “wiggle room” in the curriculum to be able to add the classes necessary to complete one. However, I believed having a foreign language minor could be helpful to my chosen profession.
After I requested meeting with the head of both the nursing and foreign language departments, it was determined that I was an unusual case. I could indeed declare a minor. I already had several credits from my advanced placement high school Spanish classes, while I could complete the other classes necessary within the small number of electives I had left in my prerequisites in college. I could then finish receiving my remaining credits by attending an accredited program in a foreign country. I was determined to complete my Spanish minor without sacrificing my ability to complete everything needed for my BSN. My “woodpecker” instincts kicked in. So I saved enough money to attend The University of Costa Rica during the summer of 2014 for five weeks. I stayed with a non-English speaking host family and used local transportation as well as walking in order to travel to the University every day. This experience not only expanded my horizons significantly, but it also broadened my Spanish-speaking communication skills, which can be very helpful in the healthcare field. I am grateful not only for the fact that I was able to complete my minor in Spanish, but for the opportunity to experience another country, its people, and its culture.
Where will your ACLS or PALS certification take you? Write about where you are in your career goals now and where you see yourself in five, ten and fifteen years.
In five years, I hope to have accomplished my main goal of graduating from the University of South Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and then obtaining a job in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital. This is the same hospital that saved my life 21 years ago. After serving my community at USA, which is one of the top neonatal hospitals in the country, I hope to eventually become a travel nurse that is able to provide my skills to other hospitals in need. This will not only allow me to travel to states that need my assistance, but it will also allow others to benefit as I contribute my knowledge and skills through caring for and treating those in need.
In ten to fifteen years, I believe I will either continue to serve at the bedside of critical care infants, or I will further my education as a neonatal nurse practitioner. I believe my love for neonatal nursing will keep me focused on learning everything I can about this field, including the amazing advances that have been made and will continue to be made in the future. By initially working in the field, I will utilize resources available to me as well as the knowledge of other skilled healthcare professionals. I will then decide whether I would like to remain as a bedside nurse or use my skills to assume responsibility for the neonatal critical care population as a whole. If I choose to follow the latter, I believe I will possess the competency to be able to exercise judgement in assessing, diagnosing, and initiating medical procedures for this specific group of patients. The years of practice and education as well as my diligence and dedication will allow me to further my knowledge and be able to attain the greater amount of responsibility that coincides with a neonatal nurse practitioner licensure.
In addition, I recently selected my top three choices for my nursing practicum, which is the assignment of my specialty during my on-site hospital training. This has been a very stressful time, waiting for the decision. I completed multiple challenging classes to get here. I took numerous difficult tests to get here. I worked many long hours waiting tables to get here. I worked countless hours at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital as a patient care assistant to prove that I could get here. I have recently received word regarding the outcome of my application that I will be completing my practicum in the neonatal intensive care unit at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital for my final semester before graduation. Not only does this allow me to begin learning in my specific field of choice before I become a licensed nurse, but it also grants me the ability to share my passion and skills as a neonatal intensive care nurse before graduation. It shows that my lifetime dedication to my ultimate goal is finally proving itself.
I set out on this “woodpecker’s journey” many years back. Everything I have accomplished since I chose this career has been to answer this calling and to do it to the best of my ability. Whatever it takes to further the cause of helping these critical babies is what I will dedicate myself to in the future. They deserve the same chance at life that I was given by this dedicated group of healthcare professionals. I am one step closer to achieving what it has a taken a lifetime for me to prove. As the woodpecker has done when he finally creates himself a home after days of hard work and committment, I have done the same by finally beginning to create my home in the workplace. I will use advanced skills and techniques like ACLS in order to sustain the lives of these critical infants while also acknowledging that my continuous dedication, empathy, and commitment is bringing me one step closer to my ultimate goal- becoming a neonatal intensive care unit nurse.