What Is It Like To Be A Nurse In 2021? 2 Women Share Their Stories

Every day, nurses can have a life-changing impact on those around them. They are the eyes and ears of their doctors, the fiercest of advocates for their patients, and the hearts and souls of their hospitals. It’s impossible to exaggerate the importance of their role, especially over the past year and a half as frontline workers during a pandemic.

To celebrate nurses and all that they do, we joined forces with Cuddl Duds earlier this year to launch a sweepstakes calling on readers to nominate a nurse in their lives for the chance to be featured in an R29 photo shoot. Now, once again in partnership with the clothing brand that recently expanded into scrubs, we’re delighted to present our two deserving winners.

Below, discover the inspiring stories of Jaspreet, a Queens-based clinical nurse and practitioner candidate, and Damilola, a Brooklyn-based labor and delivery nurse and practitioner candidate — both, coincidentally, nominated by their sisters. From what initially inspired them to become a nurse to the support systems that help them overcome any challenge, read their stories below.

What inspired you to become a nurse?

“I was born and raised with my two younger siblings in Queens, where my parents immigrated to from India. At the end of my undergraduate career, I had a health scare — I found a lump in my breast — and needed to get some testing done to figure out if it was cancer. I was very scared at the time, and I had a nurse who figuratively held my hand through it all. Luckily, it ended up being benign, but I was so impacted by the experience I had with my nurse that I realized I wanted to do the same for someone else. I wanted to give someone the strength during their vulnerable times to take care of themselves.”

What has been a formative moment you’ve had as a nurse recently?

“The last few years that I’ve been a nurse I’ve worked in critical care, so we look after some of the sickest patients. For me, the satisfaction I get in helping people is enough to fulfill me, but small things like when someone says ‘Thank you’ or explains how much something you did meant to them always leaves me feeling inspired. When we had our COVID ICU, there were no visitation hours. We were FaceTiming patients’ family members so they could see their loved ones and find a sense of closure. It is an honor to be there with my patients at that time.”

What type of support systems have gotten you through the past year?

“I have a close group of coworkers who are like family to me. It’s important during such a difficult time to talk to someone — especially someone who really knows what you’re going through — to help you feel validated in your experiences and process the things that have happened. I also personally try to deal with difficulties at work while I’m at work, and not bring them home with me. I have an amazing family, sister, and boyfriend, so if I do come home needing to talk, they are always there to listen. It’s just about finding people who can help you in the way that you need to be helped.”

What hopes and career goals do you have for the future?

“I’ve been a nurse for five years now, but I’m also now a full-time student. I’m currently getting my master’s in nursing to become a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners are allowed to diagnose patients, do histories, and physical exams. We can order lab work and imaging, diagnose and treat patients, and prescribe medication. It’s about more autonomy and more control, and being able to help patients in another way.”

What has this past year taught you about your job or about life?

“I know a lot of people associate negative things with the COVID pandemic — and rightly so — but I do believe that through adversity, you can make yourself better. Kind of like how Batman lost his parents and then became Batman, right? I think it’s about finding ways to invest in yourself, whether that means taking a daily walk, switching out a sugary drink for water, or booking a session with a therapist. Over time you can become a better version of yourself.”

What inspired you to become a nurse?

“I was born in Canada and moved to Brooklyn at six months old, where I’ve been living ever since. As a young child, I’ve always loved science and anatomy. On top of that, my family has a history of health issues. One particular situation that led me to nursing was witnessing a family member have a seizure when I was in high school. I was the first one to find them in the middle of their first episode, and I had no idea what to do. I thought they were going to die and I couldn’t help them. The inability to help them in that moment made me want to work in the medical field.”

What has been a formative moment you’ve had as a nurse recently?

“I am a labor and delivery nurse, and with COVID protocols, pregnant women were not allowed to have visitors. Imagine being a new mother going through your first pregnancy, and you can’t have your spouse by your side until you’re in active labor. Then, once the baby is born, the partner has to leave while the mother stays in the hospital for two more days. So, for most of the time, these women were alone. For me, the pandemic really tested you as a nurse. In these moments when there is nobody supporting these women — some of them who even tested positive — are you going to risk yourself to fulfill your duty? I had to decide that I was going to be there for my patients, stay in that room with them, and hold their hands during these times.”

What type of support systems have gotten you through the past year?

“I’ve been a nurse for two years now, and transitioning from school to the actual field hasn’t been easy. School does not prepare you for the expectations in the field. I recently transitioned to a new job at a new hospital, still in labor and delivery. While I’m still finding my footing in my new role, my preceptor has been incredible. Your preceptor is basically your backbone while you’re still learning. I do have coworkers from my old job that I still lean on who I can text about things I’m dealing with at work. We are very dependent on each other, and that’s important with nursing.”

What has the past year taught you about life?

“The past year has taught me that life is short and that tomorrow is not guaranteed, so it’s important to do what you can while you’re still here. The pandemic encouraged me to go back to school and pursue a higher degree because I want to be able to do more for my patients. I love that there are so many opportunities to grow in nursing, but it doesn’t stop at the bedside. I’ve recently been accepted into a Doctor of Nursing Practice in a women’s health graduate program for fall 2021. This aids in fulfilling my passion for women’s health.”

What hopes and goals do you have for the future of your personal nursing career?

“Right now, I am working toward becoming a nurse practitioner so that I can work in an OBGYN clinic as a primary care provider. I would also love to become a professor for maternity in a nursing program. There’s a lack of education for pregnant women, especially prenatally. It’s unfortunate because it leads to delayed diagnosis, pregnancy complications, and patients not being able to advocate for themselves when they don’t know enough about their own bodies. Education is key, because prevention is better than a cure. Eventually, I want to open up my own health clinic — but let’s just work on paying for graduate school and actually graduating first.”

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