My name is Bri Taquinto. By night I am registered nurse with a probably unhealthy reliance on Red Bull and macchiatos and by day I am a proud duck mom to a very sassy duck. (Yes all of my patients want me to sneak him in to meet them; no I have not attempted to do so…yet.) I spent the first 18 years of my life in Florida, right across the river from the Kennedy Space Center.
I’ve lived in the NYC Metro area for the past 5 years of my life but I still consider myself a bit of an outsider. This is mainly due to the fact that I haven’t figured out the obsession with bagels up here. My education path to becoming a registered nurse was a little strange according to most. I began college and high school when I was 14 years old. I knew back then that I definitely wanted to be in the medical field. I ended up graduating high school at 16 and receiving my associate’s degree when I was 17.
What was the reason(s) why you wanted to become a registered nurse? And why would someone choose this career?
From a young age, I always knew that I was destined to work in the medical field. For starters, I was the preschooler who would much rather watch a show about a surgery on Discovery Health than any cartoon that Disney Channel had to offer. I remember being absolutely obsessed with the human body and all of its various systems to the point where I went out of my way to find any reading material I could get my hands on. Of course for the first few years, this primarily meant looking at diagrams and pictures. Needless to say, I have always been truly fascinated with anything medical related. As cliché as it sounds, I have always thoroughly enjoyed helping others. Helping people to any degree possible is one thing that has always brought me true joy. Just sitting down and talking to somebody when they are lonely or letting them vent to you as they are going through a difficult time is such a rewarding feeling. I knew that becoming a registered nurse would be the best career option for me because it is one of the few careers where I would feel fully satisfied in my work. In my opinion, it is the only career/career path that allows you to fully treat a person. Nursing is holistic in nature, meaning it is both an art and a science—yes, there is the scientific, evidence based medical aspect of treating a patient’s health conditions, but taking into account their psychosocial wellbeing is greatly important as well. Someone would choose this career if they are passionate about helping others, enjoy implementing their problem solving skills, and take pride in being a lifelong learner.
How long does it take to become a registered nurse and what classes should you take to become a nurse?
One of the greatest things about becoming a registered nurse is the endless educational paths. One way to become a registered nurse is by receiving an associate’s degree in nursing. This path typically consists of two years of college after prerequisites are completed. Another route is a four year bachelor’s degree in nursing. As with the associate’s degree, one must pass prerequisite classes and then go on to study for four years. A bachelor’s degree in nursing requires more time because it goes deeper into topics such as evidence based practice and cultural competencies. An accelerated program, which is what I chose, is yet another route to becoming a registered nurse. With this route, it is required to have a bachelor’s degree in something other than nursing. Then you take the prerequisite courses and the program takes anywhere from a year to just under two years on average. The program I went to was only 11 months in length; it seemed like a nice challenge and ended up being one of the most intense years in all of my schooling. Additionally, there are programs that allow you to receive your bachelor’s in nursing after receiving your associate’s in nursing if you have successfully passed the licensing exam. These programs are typically shorter in length as well and are flexible with the schedules of already working registered nurses. There are more ways to become a registered nurse as well, but these tend to be the most popular. To get accepted into a nursing program, one will have to take prerequisite classes and pass an entrance exam. As I mentioned earlier, nursing fully encompasses a person’s being, so one be prepared to study a lot of social and life sciences. Most programs I have researched require classes such as general psychology, developmental psychology, sociology, microbiology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, and statistics as their prerequisite courses.
On a typical day as a nurse, what do you do in your nursing job?
I work 13 hour shifts overnight from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m., so my “typical day” is a bit different than a day shift nurse. I should also add that there is rarely a “typical day” in nursing; one must always be on their toes and prepared for the unexpected. When I first get into work I receive my patient list and review their medical charts to get a basic understanding of what is going on with them. I then receive report from the off going nurse and get to meet my patients. I find out at that point how they are feeling, if I can get them anything, how their pain is, etc. After I have received report on everyone, I do my assessments. Depending on what a patient is there for, I focus heavily on a particular assessment or two. For instance, if someone is there with pneumonia, I will be most interested in their lung sounds. If they are there with altered mental status, I will give a very thorough neurological assessment. After that, it is typically my “heavy medication pass hour”. On my floor patients seem to receive the most medications at 10:00 p.m. With 5-6 patients at a time and sometimes 10+ medications each, you have to be extremely diligent and thorough because medication errors do happen. Once the major medication pass is over, I check in on my patients again before I begin charting. (Most medications scheduled for my patients from 11pm-5 am are intravenous antibiotics, a random medicine here or there, or breathing treatments. 6:00 a.m. is the next major medication pass with everyone receiving their various early morning medications.) I spend around an hour charting the various systems for my patients. Before I go on my break, I check on my patients again. I love having “night owls” as my patients because it allows me to really bond with them and get to know them after the craziness of the beginning of the shift has died down. Most nights I get a 30 minute break to eat what I refer to as “breakfast” or my “post-midnight snack.” There are definitely nights where it is impossible to take a break, however. As the night goes on it pretty much consists of me rounding on my patients and charting. If anything new or emergent pops up, I will have to place calls to doctors for orders. Around 4:00 a.m., I get ready for morning care (cleaning, wound care, replacing peg tube feeds, etc.), my main morning medication pass, and drawing patients’ blood work from their central lines. Once that is over, I check on my patients a final time and make sure they are clean, dry and not in pain before I give them off to the oncoming nurse.
After I become a nurse, how much money can I expect to earn?
The average salary for a registered nurse in the United States is around $65,000 from when I last checked. This varies based on what state you live in, your experience and various differentials for overtime, night shift, weekend shifts, holidays, etc.
What does your typical work schedule as a nurse look like?
My typical work schedule is 3 nights a week unless I book overtime which might put me at 4 or 5 nights a week. I always work 13 hour shifts but I can do partial shifts (typically 4 or 8 hours) for overtime. I ideally try to schedule myself for two nights on then two nights off to allow myself time to be on a “normal” schedule. I work every other weekend, so a normal week for me might look like having Sunday off, working Monday and Tuesday, having Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off, and then working on Saturday.
What type of patients do you take care of at your job?
My floor is the pulmonary floor. This means we are the only floor other than the intensive care unit that can take care of ventilator dependent patients. We often receive patients who are on the ventilator straight from the intensive care floor. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is when the ventilator dependent patients’ progress on our floor to the point where they can have their tracheas removed and they leave the floor talking to us, working on walking again, and even eating solid foods. We typically receive the non-critically ill patients with tracheas as well. We treat a wide variety of pulmonary conditions ranging from COPD exacerbations, patients with cystic fibrosis, emphysema, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and many others. We also take care of patients with Parkinson’s disease on my floor. If there are any other beds left on our unit, medical-surgical patients go there. This means you can see anything from a person with a GI bleed, gallbladder stones, non-healing wounds, infections, and almost anything you can imagine on my floor. My floor provides a great learning experience because you are exposed to many different disease processes.
What should someone new to the nursing field, who is thinking about becoming a nurse, know about the nursing field?
Remembering back to how I felt a year ago, I would tell a brand new nurse to not be so scared; it is always okay to ask questions. In nursing, we will never know everything; even nurses with 20+ years of experience still ask questions. I would tell a new nurse to take their time with everything and to not get caught up or distraught over little things. You eventually reach a point where everything seems to be going awry and you will be able to stand back and say “this is fine” and carry on. A new nurse should always try to be available to others. You will learn so much that way and more experienced nurses will be more willing to help you. Choose your friends wisely; the saying is that “nurses eat their young” and there are definitely some people with that mentality. With that said, there are also some absolutely amazing people in nursing. There will be days where you cry and feel defeated. There will be days where you feel like your heart is literally touched by your patients in the best way possible. You will have patients that hate you no matter your best efforts and you will have patients that cannot speak highly enough of you. You have to take it all in stride. The first year is a major learning experience but halfway through it you will have a moment where you feel like you are actually starting to get the hang of everything. As for people who are thinking about becoming a nurse, I suggest thoroughly doing research before completely deciding on your career. Volunteer at a hospital to see the environment. Find a nurse you know and interview them about their career. Take a few prerequisite classes before deciding officially on a school/program to see if you enjoy them and do well in them. If someone is in high school, join the HOSA club if your school offers it or take any health science related classes offered.
What challenges do you face as a nurse?
As a nurse I think that adapting to stressful situations is a major challenge. You must always be prepared for the worst; you could have a walking and talking patient that needs to be intubated an hour from now out of nowhere and you have to be prepared for that. Because of the stressful situations that may arise at work, one always needs to have a stress relieving outlet at home! Taking care of violent and/or confused patients can be very challenging as well. You have to “think on your feet” and be creative with how you handle situations that might become unpleasant. Sometimes this means distracting people with music from the 1950’s from your phone while another nurse tries to put an IV in. Another challenge is time management. Not everything goes as planned every shift and your floor might be short staffed so it is always smart to plan your time wisely because tasks will creep up on you. Being a night shift nurse makes it challenging to have a healthy work-life balance sometimes. When you sleep during the days you can miss out on a lot that goes on with your family and friends. Lastly, being there when a patient receives bad news can be very emotionally challenging. You might be the first person they relay the doctor’s news of a cancer diagnosis to. You might be the person they cry to and the first person that sits down with them and comforts them as they try to mentally process what is going on. Because of this being emotionally strong is very important.
Despite the challenges of the career itself and the intensive schooling required, becoming a registered nurse is one of the most fulfilling career choices you can make to have a great impact on peoples’ lives.