You can name all the bones and organs, and you passed AP Biology with flying colors. For hours on end, you study everything from diseases to medications, but becoming a nurse isn't what you think.
You've heard the stories already - the nurses who go an entire shift without eating or using the restroom. Day in and day out, they wade in the pits, administering medications and injections, performing physicals, and assisting their physician.
But there's so much more to nursing than just this
It's holding the hand of a dying patient, knowing there's nothing you can do but keep them company, or hugging the parent who's just learned their child has cancer without alarming the child. It's also learning the true meaning of dignity - helping the Vietnam veteran shower because he's just had a stroke and can't do it for himself. He's proud but a little broken, and you can't help but ache for him and try to make him more comfortable in the awkward situation.
You think you understand the terms compassion and empathy
But until you're in the middle of one of those situations, you cannot fully grasp just how much it hurts. The nights you can't sleep because you're worried about the child that came in, covered in bruises. It took all you had not to strangle the parent who'd been standing right next to you, and all you can do is report the incident and hope the authorities will step in and rescue the little tike.
You may even believe that you know what it means to perform your duties - to administer care to every person, regardless of their status, religion, or creed. Then you go to a prison and treat an inmate, spend every moment intimidated and frightened, but you treat him with kindness and care for his medical needs anyway. His crimes do not negate his need for or right to receive quality medical care.
It's knowing that, at the end of the day, you've given and done your best, but it still wasn't enough to save every person. Every child. Every parent. Every car crash victim. It's the waves of emotion that hit you in the middle of rounds. It's crying in the shower when you go home because you feel like you failed and then getting up the next day to do it again. But mostly, it's knowing that you are giving all of yourself to save the lives of others.
So go ahead, study, cry when you fail an exam, and then take it again
Work hard. Someday soon, you'll join the ranks of the world's strongest, most compassionate unsung heroes. It's nothing like you'll see in the movies, and words will never quite give you a full understanding of what it's really like to actually be a nurse. But there are few jobs in this world that even come close to being as rewarding.
At least now you know - it's going to be nothing like you thought. It's going to be so much more.