I Wanted To Be A Portrait Painter


 
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By Allison Palmer, ASRN Staff Writer

As a kid, I wanted to be a portrait painter. Then an archeologist. Then, for a very brief spell, a news anchorwoman. Never once did I consider taking on my mother's profession. No glamour there. No romance or undercover mystery in nursing. I'd been lugging dolls around since I could walk, changing their unsoiled doll diapers, and spooning imaginary doll food to their plastic lips. I assumed that nursing, the work my mom did, was something akin to this. Having recently graduated from print to cursive and already reading chapter books, I was fairly convinced that I could be a nurse right then myself, if only I felt like it (which I most certainly didn't).

There were things about my mom which I instinctively associated with her nurse identity. Unlike my friends' parents who discreetly handed their children library books or rented PBS's "The Miracle of Life", my mother gave us our birds-and-bees talk at the dinner table over steaming chicken pot pie with poise and enthusiasm. There she was, putting her graduate degree in Health Education to good use.

My mom picked me up every Thursday afternoon after my Brownie meetings. I wore a vest upon which she'd sewed all manner of colorful patches, each one signifying some impressive feat of accomplishment or skill. Merit badges, we called them. My mom was taking a refresher nursing course at the time, ready to return to work after a child-rearing hiatus. She got out of the car dressed in a white getup pinned with her own merit badge, a name tag that proclaimed "Anne Fitzgerald, RN".

"What's the R.N. stand for?" my seven-year old self asked her on the drive back to our house.

"Really Nice." She replied with authority, which sounded reasonable enough to me.

Imagine my mother's surprise when, fifteen years later, she found herself seated in a mud, tin-roofed house conducting my own reproductive chat with a roomful of brown-skinned, giggling high school girls. Explaining the concept of ovulation, one finger pointing to a larger-then-life uterus, I watched her face. With a combination of amazement and shock, I could practically hear her unvoiced question. Whose daughter is this and where did mine go?

By the time I'd returned to the United States, I'd made up my mind. Despite all childhood protestations to the contrary, I would go back to school and begin a post-baccalaureate nursing program. Never say never, folks.

I continually reexamine the nursing role, fashioning my own interpretation of the craft. I will be a different kind of nurse than my mom, certainly. I will be more cautious, more circumspect. Over the course of her career, my mom has been a military nurse, a high-adrenaline jack-of-all trades nurse, a visiting nurse, a hospice nurse, and a traveling Red Cross nurse. I am a brand new nurse-midwife. Between the two of us, we've got most bases covered.

Nurses hold court for the most vulgar and the most exalted, often spoken with the same breath. We receive hushed phone calls from friends who ask about things they cannot mention to others. We use our heads, hands, and hearts in equal measure. I couldn't quite grasp all of this as a kid. But, over the years, the pieces have came together. I guess what they say is true - the most important lessons are learned at home.


 
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Articles in this issue:

Masthead

  • Masthead

    Editor-in Chief:
    Kirsten Nicole

    Editorial Staff:
    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
    Robyn Bowman
    Kimberly McNabb
    Lisa Gordon
    Stephanie Robinson

    Contributors:
    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
    Liz Di Bernardo
    Cris Lobato
    Elisa Howard
    Susan Cramer

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