A Day in the Life of a Registered Nurse

When you are thinking about a career choice or change in career path, it's always a good idea to get the scoop from an expert. If you are considering nursing school, the sage wisdom of a registered nurse can help you decide whether you want to pursue the degree.

Registered nurse Autumn Trott works the night shift at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee. She is assigned to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). There, she provides skilled nursing care to tiny patients. The stronger ones might need only the basics of care, while the more critical patients require intense medical attention.

Autumn's shift begins at 7:00 in the evening. She meets with her colleagues and the day nurse for a discussion about the patients in the NICU. She then assesses her patients, provides the specific care required by each, and keeps constant watch over them. She cares for the babies until 7:00 in the morning, when she reports to the day nurse about the status of each one.

The hardest part of working the night shift is staying awake, but she makes up for it by sleeping during a large portion of the day. "Dark blinds are required," she laughs. The night shift is a bit more laid-back, and the free time during the day is a nice bonus.

The Nursing School Experience

At the age of seventeen, Autumn dropped out of high school and ended up in a program for at-risk kids. "I always knew I wanted to help others," she says. "The program inspired me to pursue it." Soon, she went back to school--something that now can be done from home with online high school diploma programs. Through her senior year she worked part-time for class credit. Her job assignment? The local emergency room. "I absolutely loved it," she says.

Her dream came true at the age of 27, when she was awarded a scholarship to attend nursing school. After earning her associates degree, she enrolled in Vanderbilt's Pediatric Nurse Residency Program. The program consisted of ten weeks of short rotations in addition to classroom study.

Though her residency is over, Autumn stresses that nursing is a constant learning process. "There is an overwhelming amount of knowledge you need to know," she says. "Even seasoned nurses will tell you that you can never know it all. You're always learning."

Being a Nurse: The Struggles and the Joys

Autumn is quick to say that being a nurse is a joy--but she also faces her share of tough moments. "The babies are born for a reason," she says. "But some of them just aren't able to live. That's the hardest part." Though professional boundaries are strictly followed, Autumn admits that nurses can easily become attached to the patients and think about them even when they are not on duty.

Autumn's favorite part of the job is the one-on-one interaction with the babies in her care. When the tiniest and weakest babies begin to grow and thrive, she is reminded again of why she loves being a nurse. Autumn explains with a smile, "I see God work miracles every day."



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