When I grow up…

There are a few childhood memories that will always stick out in my mind and at the top of that list is this question-

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

I cannot even begin to count the number of times I had to come up with answers for this query.  At age 5, my usual answer was that I wanted to become an orthopaedic surgeon.   Then of course there was the follow-up question of “why?”  I simply explained everything my 5-year-old brain understood about orthopaedics with- “So I can take out the bad bones and put in new ones”  (insert orthopaedics joke of choice here).

As I began to “grow up,” my goals and focus shifted several times, ranging from heavy equipment operator/contractor, to farmer, to airline pilot, and then finally to becoming a nurse.  During my senior year of high school I began making college plans to study nursing.  It seemed like the perfect choice- I could get an Associate degree, take boards and start working/making money in just 2 years of college, and NEVER have to go to school again!  Sign me up!

Upon graduating and starting my career in a Level 1 trauma center ED, it didn’t take me long to realize that my heart and mind wanted more… more knowledge, more details, more of the “why” behind medication choices and treatment plans.  And ultimately, more ability to make a positive change in a person’s life.  So I did the unthinkable and went back to school 2 years later to begin work toward my Masters of Science in nursing (Acute Care NP focus).  Although I may joke about it from time to time, I have never regretted that decision.

Completing my Masters degree opened up the incredible opportunity to partner with my great friend and colleague Christi, and become the first NP’s in the region to actually manage critically ill patients in the ICU.  This came with PLENTY of obstacles as well as a very steep learning curve, but it has been 100 percent worth it!  (Christi and I will share more tips/strategies for developing an Intensivist NP model in the future).

Ok, enough with the trip down memory lane.  Why do I even mention all of this?  Well, because I still don’t know what I want to be when I “grow up” and honestly I hope I never do.

At times, it has been easy to just sit back and go into cruise mode.  Not pushing myself to learn, not taking the time to teach others, etc.  But I have realized that in order to do justice to the healthcare profession, it becomes imperative to push ourselves to the next level.  Whether that means branching into research, assisting with clinical trials, taking useful continuing education courses (i.e. smaccUS), taking time to precept students, learning new skills, etc. or it may even mean just taking a day off to recharge with our family and friends.

As a community of providers, we must never be satisfied with where we are today.  In the words of the late Dr. John Hinds we must make our “intentions honorable” and continue finding new ways to improve the lives of the people we touch.  Will there be obstacles and bumps in the road?  Absolutely.  Will we all make mistakes, possibly even deadly ones?  Absolutely.  But what matters is that we keep moving forward and never rest.

So maybe I really do know what I want to be when I grow up- a better man and a stronger clinician than what I am today.