Joining the ranks of nurses

(OA online) Stone is the chief nursing officer at Odessa Regional Medical Center.

In 1993, I was a bright-eyed 17-year pup in the midst of my senior year at Permian High School. A little rebellious, but prone to always do the right thing, I engaged the notion my career path would lead straight to the military out of high school. Opting to pursue the Navy’s Delayed Enlistment Program, my future was set in motion…but not as I would come to expect it. Prior to high school graduation in May of 1994, I had scored well on my Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) but failed the last component of my medical screening physical. Apparently the Navy did not take healthy 18-year-olds with inguinal hernias. I was informed my hernia would need to be surgically repaired before being allowed to serve in the military. Little did I know, at the time, this would set my career path for years to come.

During the process of preparing for surgery and learning about the procedure, I became intrigued by the practice of the team caring for me…particularly the nursing staff. My parents were both hesitant of my decision to pursue a military career. Essentially knowing my mind was set, my father made a compromise with me that summer. He was content on me entering the military, but preferred I complete my college education and enter the Navy as an officer. I recall a similar conversation with my high school sweetheart, now my wife, explaining to her my decision to enter college and become a nurse. The look on her face and response was of shock and disbelief. Nonetheless, she was very supportive and has been to this very day.

My plan to enter the military was always my intention, but fate and God’s will certainly trumped my own. By 1998, I had completed my associate’s degree in Nursing at Odessa College and become a registered nurse. My next step was to pursue my undergraduate work and attain my bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN). With a BSN, and medical specific profession, I would qualify to become a naval officer. By 2001, my world took an unexpected and dreadful twist. I had completed my BSN, through Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, but began experiencing sudden weight loss and an onslaught of debilitating issues. I endured over six months of tests, procedures, and exams to figure out what the heck was going on. Of all days, on September 11, 2001, I received a phone call from my gastroenterologist confirming my diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. But, for every door that closes, a new one opens up. From that point forward, I gained a whole new appreciation and firm believer of the careers choosing us versus us choosing our careers. With that, I thank God each day for the privilege and honor to be one of over 3 million nurses in the United States.

Each nurse has their own unique story to what led them to this wonderful profession. The dedication and passion, among these professionals, is found in a range of diversity. Nurses are integral parts of all communities, representing hospitals, clinics, schools, research entities, law enforcement, and shelters to name a few. Nursing practice ranges from staff level positions, to advanced practice nursing, leadership, and faculty for colleges and universities. Each year, nurses are celebrated for their contributions, talents, and service during “Nurses Week.” Nurses Week is from Sunday, also known as National Nurses Day, through May 12th (the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who is the founder of modern day nursing). An annual theme is traditionally added to every Nurses Week with 2012 being no exception. The premise for this year’s recognition is “Nurses: Advocating, Leading, Caring.” These three attributes certainly reflect what nurses contribute to our community daily and the influence they add in all facets of society.

Recognized consistently as the most trusted profession, nurses have hopefully made a positive impact in your life personally. To be welcomed in caring for the lives of so many patients and families in the Permian Basin, we as nurses are humbled to practice our profession and serve you. I extend a sincere appreciation to my fellow nurse colleagues and thank you for all you do. Days, nights, weekends, and holidays, our job doesn’t end nor does it rest. “Thank you” are two words you never hear nearly enough, but always know you are appreciated and respected. You make a difference and are always heroes in my book! If you see a nurse this week, take the time to shake their hand and thank them for what they do.