65: Too Dumb to Be a Nurse

65: Too Dumb to Be a Nurse

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

Too Dumb to Be a Nurse

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.

~Author Unknown

When I was eight we moved to a house a block from Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania. Always a rover, it wasn’t long before I had checked out all the different nooks and crannies around the building. One entryway caught my attention because at certain times of the day the nurses came and went through that door.

After a while my curiosity got the best of me. I was no longer content to watch the nurses arrive for work — I wanted to see them at work. Before long I was roving the upper hallways and watching my Nightingales in action, despite the sign in all the hallways that read, “No Children Under Age 14 Permitted to Visit.”

By the time I reached junior high I was sure I wanted to be a nurse. If you didn’t study Latin, you couldn’t be a nurse, so I enrolled. Many Latin words were familiar to me and I thought it would be pretty easy. The hard part turned out to be the usage and creating sentences with the words that seemed so easy to pronounce. Several weeks into the course my teacher came to me, without tact or gentleness, saying, “I think you should withdraw from this course. It seems to be too hard for you and you are slowing the rest of the class down.”

Teachers and other adults should be careful when trampling on young people’s dreams. That was the day I learned I wasn’t smart enough to become a nurse. With shame and humiliation, I handed in my Latin textbook and switched to study hall for that period for the rest of the year. Throughout high school I never again took a math or science course that wasn’t required for graduation. I left those courses to the smart kids.

After high school the years raced by. I married, had children. Most women didn’t work outside their home and if I did become acquainted with a woman who worked, she usually was a nurse. The conversation would go like this:

“Do you work?”

“Yes. I’m a nurse.”

“Oh. I wanted to be a nurse, but I’m not smart enough.”

“Oh I doubt that.”

“No, really. I couldn’t even learn Latin.”

Then one day my husband John came home from work with news that would change my life in a major way.

“Carol, Mav died this afternoon.” I looked at my husband with disbelief.

“What!” Mav was young and healthy. “How?”

“He was a passenger in a car that came over the crest of a hill that was obscuring a truck parked half on the highway. They couldn’t see the truck until they were right on it and had no time to swerve, and well...” his voice trailed off.

Mav and John had been friends since they were in their early twenties. John was devastated by this tragedy. As the days passed he was unusually quiet. Finally one evening he said, “Carol, Jackie has never worked and now she’s alone with four children. Unless Mav had great insurance, I don’t know how she will manage. I’ve been thinking — if anything happens to me, I want you to be able to take care of yourself and the children. Why don’t you think about what you’d like to do and get the training you’ll need to do it?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For months before Mav’s death I had been having the most unusual experience, but hadn’t shared it with John since it was spiritual and at that time he was skeptical about matters of faith. Many times a day a verse from the New Testament book of James would come to my mind: “Is any among you sick?”

Then one evening, while I sat reading, I suddenly saw myself, vividly, on what seemed like an internal movie screen. I was walking down the hall in a hospital dressed as a nurse. I entered a room with two female patients and walked to the bed nearest the window. I knew the patient had had a stroke and I was checking on her. After I watched her for a couple of moments and was certain she was sleeping comfortably, I turned and walked back to the nurses’ station where I picked up a chart.

The combination of these two occurrences started me thinking that God was calling me to become a nurse. His calling didn’t diminish my belief that I wasn’t intelligent enough. But He gave me the determination to try because that was what I believed He wanted.

I began looking at nursing programs. I was certain that I would never be able to become an R.N., but maybe I could become a Licensed Vocational Nurse, as their courses weren’t as difficult. I signed up for the entrance exam.

The day of the exam I entered a large room full of people also wanting to enter LVN training. I imagined every one of them would do well on the test and would go on to become an LVN except me.

One day not long after I opened our mailbox to find a letter from the school. I wanted so badly to open it, but with my lack of confidence, I laid it on the kitchen counter saying, “I’m not in the mood for a rejection letter today.”

Letters like that call to you, though. With every trip through the kitchen, I saw it. Finally I forced myself to open it, thinking, “Let’s get this over with.”

“Dear Carol,” I read. “We are pleased to notify you that you successfully passed the entrance exam for Licensed Vocational Nurse. We are saving a seat for you in our next class provided we hear from you within one month.”

Twenty-five hopeful LVNs started in my class on that September day. To my surprise, for the next eighteen months I earned the highest grades in the class and eventually graduated as valedictorian. With this success under my belt, a year later I challenged an R.N. program and was exempted from the first year of studies. At the end of the three-year course I finished fifth out of a class that started with forty students.

An insensitive teacher once stole my dream. It took an act of God to get it back, but there is a saying that whom God calls, He also equips. If I were a motivational speaker I would urge my listeners to adopt this mind-set: If you have a dream, exhaust every effort and every avenue necessary to reach it. I’ve worked thirty years now as a nurse and I’ve never been more certain that this is what I was meant to be.

~Carol A. Gibson

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