There’s so much joy in nursing: caring for people in need, easing someone’s pain, being a patient’s hero. But then there are all those awkward—and even pretty unpleasant—moments. The cliché that it takes a special person to be a nurse is repeated again and again for a reason—it really does.
So why do it? Every nurse has their own reason, but here’s a sampling of what inspired these real-life nurses to get into the front lines of healthcare.
1. An Accidental Career Change
Tammie Warren, RN, CPNP-PC/AC, became a nurse on accident. Or, at least, that’s how she started down the path toward nursing. While working as a research assistant at the University of Texas San Antonio School of Medicine, she went to the hospital to visit a friend who had just given birth. En route to the maternity floor, she ended up in the middle of a nursing fair.
“Before I knew it, I had a full conversation with the director of nursing, who introduced me to the director of the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit), who took me on a tour of the PICU, and before the end of the meeting, offered me a job as a Clinical Assistant,” Tammie says.
How’s that for stumbling into a career? Unsurprisingly, Tammie was hesitant about whether or not this new job was truly going to be a long-term fit. After all, working with critically ill children isn’t for everyone. But she’s glad she swallowed her doubts and gave it a chance.
“Within two weeks, I knew that it was what I wanted to fully learn to do,” says Tammie. “I researched how to get my RN, applied to University of Texas in Austin, moved to Austin, and began what would be the most rewarding career I could imagine.”
2. A Second Chance to Make a Difference
For Kim Koenigbauer, caring for others may have been her first calling, but it wasn’t her first profession. Despite having a passion for taking care of others—from babysitting at a young age to caring for two grandmothers—she started working in the automotive industry right out of high school, and continued on through college.
“I spent almost 12 years in this line of work, but my heart was always set on eventually becoming a nurse,” says Kim. “I just knew that if I didn’t go back to school again and follow my heart, I would regret it years later.”
Now a registered nurse, Kim was drawn to nursing from a desire to learn how to provide important care to others and to be able to better care for her family and herself. While she says nursing is definitely a tough career, the 36-year-old also says it’s super rewarding.
“A lot of my happiness in my career comes from seeing good progress in my patients and seeing smiles on their faces during our visit,” she says. “It makes me feel that I’m doing something right and this career was meant to be.”
3. Finding a Professional Home
Sometimes people pursue their dream career; other people find themselves already in it. That’s what happened to Kelly Gettig, APRN, MSN, CPNP-PC/AC, who wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life when she was in college. After starting out with a double major in education and psychology, she opted out after realizing she didn’t really want to teach, and a career in psychology would require a master’s degree—something she was not ready to think about at 18.
“Honestly, I ended up choosing nursing because it offered a good starting salary after only a two-year degree,” Kelly says. “[But] I was very nervous about things like giving shots and seeing blood.”
But after working as a hospital nursing assistant in an adult medical-surgical unit, she quickly got over her fears. And not long after, she got over her ambivalence as well.
“I knew I’d made the right choice when I transferred to a pediatric unit about a year after finishing nursing school. I’d always known I wanted to work with kids,” says Kim, who is now a pediatric nurse practitioner for Dell Children’s Medical Center’s Trauma Services in Austin. “I’d found my home.”
She also loves the flexibility and options afforded by nursing that have made her work fit into her life and aspirations. “The ability to work part-time, off shifts, and weekends can be a huge benefit when you start a family, Kim says.
And she’s also been able to truly craft the best career for herself thanks to all the options within the field, like administration, education or public health, or changing specialties like cardiology, ICU, or school nursing. “There are incredible opportunities if you go on for a master’s or doctorate, including becoming a nurse anesthetist, midwife, or nurse practitioner,” she says. “The options are truly endless.”