- A Nurse’s Personal Story, from Childhood to Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
I grew up in a small rural community in the midlands of South Carolina. My brother had asthma. I remember our doctor making house calls, all of the family standing around my brother’s bed, praying for him to breathe. I remember trying not to cry, but I always did. My Mama held my hand, and she was crying too.
We were a middle-class family and lived three miles from town, “way in the country” as I called it because it seemed that way. My father constructed our ranch-style brick home on land given to him by his father, working every evening into the night on the house, and we finally moved in and “to the country” when I was four years old and my brother was one year old. When I was six, I had the privilege of owning and caring for a horse, Dusty. I loved caring for that horse, and I kept her until she died. Life was good in rural South Carolina, but I missed being next door to my paternal grandparents after we moved—even though they were only three miles away. I spent as much time with them as I could.
My paternal grandfather was a dentist in our town. As a child, I spent time with my grandfather, always eager to hop in the car and accompany him to his office, sometimes late at night, and wait quietly as he extracted a tooth. Sometimes grandfather was paid for his services; sometimes he received an I.O.U., a bag of freshly dug turnips or potatoes, or other garden vegetables. Many times payment was a simple “Thank you, Sir” from his patient, which was always sufficient, and he turned out the lights and we headed home. My grandfather served patients from all socioeconomic levels, and he treated them all with kindness and compassion. He died on his front porch when I was16 of a heart attack. My grandfather’s love for and devotion to mankind made me feel very proud. I knew at age 16 that I wanted to be in the health-caring profession.
My father was the administrator of the thirty-five-bed county hospital in our town. I started work there in 1977, my first job out of college, as a registered nurse. The hospital was very busy in those days, and I loved working there, providing care to those I knew, and to those I had the pleasure of getting to know. I worked in the medical unit, in the small emergency room, surgery, labor and delivery, the newborn nursery, and the premature nursery. I practiced real nursing during my first years as a nurse, whatever was needed, I learned how to do it, and I did it. Nursing theory was my framework, and I learned that experiential learning was so very important. I learned to recognize patterns of illness as well as patterns of well-being. That same hospital has struggled during recent years and will shut its doors this year in 2018.
After hospital nursing, home health nursing led me into the deepest areas of my county, down unpaved roads, into remote areas, providing care [End Page 100] to the homebound. During this time, I received a hard education about poverty, health disparities, and health beliefs. I saw many unhealthy and debilitated people, with conditions that could have been prevented had access to care and education been available. I listened to patient stories. People needed better access to care, and I needed to do more to make that happen. I returned to school, earned a Masters of Nursing, became a certified family nurse practitioner, and later earned a Doctorate of Nursing Practice.
After working a few years as a family nurse practitioner in an urban private practice, school of nursing and school of medicine setting, I had an opportunity to return to my home county where I have always resided. The challenge was to establish a family practice in a remote area of the county, previously with limited access to healthcare. Working with a Federally Qualified Health Care Center (FQHC), I...