Finding your spark – What Led You to a Nursing Career?

My great grandmother was the spark that ultimately led me to a career in nursing. Our journey together is something that I will treasure forever and hold near to my heart. At a young age, I learned to help provide care to my great grandmother who lived to be an astounding 110 years old.


In the nursing profession, it is easy to find inspiration every shift. The work that nurses perform on a day to day basis is nothing short of a miracle. Not to mention that the majority of our nursing colleagues are wonderful, caring people that aid in finding that inspiration. I watch my coworkers every shift go above and beyond expectations to care for their patients. But, I want to tell you my story about the spark that influenced me to become a nurse…

My Story – Nana

I was fortunate enough to grow up around my great grandmother or “Nana” as I called her. Nana has and will always hold a very special place in my heart, maybe it was her charisma, sense of humor or stubbornness. Regardless it was undeniable to everyone around us that we had a special bond. Nana lived to be 110 years old, which allowed for many visits and lots of stories. Nana aged with grace and beauty. Strangers could never guess her age and were blown away when we would disclose the final number. Overall her health and memory were astonishing.

Initially, my family and I lived in New Jersey, where Nana also resided. This resulted in almost weekly visits, family meals, and overnight sleepovers. During this time, there was one specific visit I remember quite vividly. At a very young age of 5, I witnessed Nana slip off a curb while getting the mail and immediately took action. I saw the blood pulsating out of Nana’s head as she lay there on the concrete lifeless. I ran inside to tell my mother what happened and picked up the landline and dialed 9-1-1. I was able to convey to the operator what happened and the address.  Meanwhile, my mother ran outside to check on Nana and attempted to control the bleeding.

The ambulance arrived and Nana was taken to the hospital. I was praised by everyone for doing such a good job with how I reacted to the situation. However, I remember being too distracted by my own thoughts to accept the praises. I was more worried about Nana and wondered if she was going to live. I just kept thinking there shouldn’t be all that blood coming from someone’s head and pondering if she still had any blood left in her body. Well, sure enough, that trait of stubbornness came into fact and Nana ended being okay after some sutures and a short hospital stay.

When I was 7 years old we moved from New Jersey to Wisconsin which became home. However, our family would still make frequent visits out to New Jersey to visit family and to celebrate Nana’s birthday. Every year we would have a big celebration on July 11 for Nana to honor another year around the sun. It was miraculous to see all these people within the community show up every year to celebrate this amazing woman. Her birthday celebrations made the newspaper countless times and she was somewhat of a local celebrity in this small New Jersey town. Nana had been living with my grandma in my mother’s childhood home since her husband passed away at a young age. My grandma would care and look out for Nana, even though Nana was a very strong-willed woman and liked to promote her independence. Sadly, my grandma died in 2000, leaving my family with a tough decision, what do we do with Nana, who is 104 years old at this time. None of Nana’s three grandchildren lived in New Jersey anymore and they all knew if Nana was placed in a nursing home she would not live much longer. Plus that strong will and stubbornness were present, and Nana was refusing to go to a nursing home. Nana was adamant about dying in her own home. So after much research, the granddaughters decided to set up in-home hospice care. All of the caregivers were wonderful and came over various countries such as Poland to work. However eventually with time, the caregivers would want to return back to their families. Due to this and needing to give the caregivers a break my family made even more frequent visits to see Nana. The yearly birthday party celebrations continued of course. As Nana aged, her stubbornness became more predominant. It became quite a task to get her to eat and drink. This is where I stepped in and was able to get Nana to eat and drink adequate fluids. As I got older, I became more interested in helping Nana when we visited. Before I knew it I was feeding Nana every day, helping her to the bathroom, helping her bathe, and getting her dressed. My uncle and I also became Nana’s entertainers. She laughed up a storm at us all while giving us business. Even as the years went on Nana did not lose her sense of humor or wit.

Lifelong Lessons Learned

With Nana, I learned that a simple gesture such as holding her hand went a long way and provided lots of comfort. Sometimes we would just sit there in the silence with our hands intertwined. Other times she would tell me stories about growing up in the 1900s and I would tell her stories about my friends and sports as any middle schooler would. I grew very fond of aiding in Nana’s care and that is how I discovered my strong sense of compassion and empathy. During this process, I learned communication skills at a young age and how to convey myself.

This journey with Nana ultimately led me to my career path of nursing. After Nana passed away in 2006, I longed for Nana and that connection, but I also longed for that caretaker role. As I entered high school in the school year of 2005-2006 I made up my mind that I wanted to pursue a career in nursing. I took as many classes as possible in high school geared towards the medical field. The majority of which I loved, especially the ones about the human body and soon found myself applying to the top nursing colleges in our area. If it wasn’t for Nana I honestly do not know if I would have found myself in the nursing profession. I probably would have listened to my father and pursued a career in business. Leading me to a career of unfulfillment and lack of purpose, as I truly believe nursing was my calling.

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