From Bartender To Nurse

4 minute read

I bartended as soon as I could at 21 years old. It was supposed to be just a short term thing while I figured out how to make money in the music industry. Short term turned into my profession and I began to question what I wanted out of my future.

I started thinking about other directions for my life. I began looking at going back to school and wondering what I could do. I wondered what careers could have solid growth ahead and allow me to feel secure moving forward. I looked into computer science and nursing, as both seemed to have great outlook. They were very different paths so I had to go a little deeper in making a decision on what I would like to do professionally.

Computer science seemed to be a way to help shape the future as everything is being changed by computer technology. On the other hand, as a nurse I could actually help save lives and heal people. Having dealt with health issues in my own life, I was drawn to learning more about disease processes and helping people deal with their own diseases and injuries. Furthermore, as I looked into what I would be studying for each career, I found anatomy and physiology more interesting to me than advanced mathematics, so nursing was a little more appealing. I also felt that I had a built in skill set of dealing with people in the hospitality industry, so that was another benefit. Finally, I really wanted to have some of the freedom I was used to having when bartending. The option of being able to work 3 to 4 shifts in a week and still have some time to work on music on the side was the final selling point for me for a career in nursing.

I spent the next 3 years in nursing school for my associates degree in Manhattan. It was a challenge to have such a drastic change in the way I lived my life. There was hardly any time for socializing during the semesters. I was lucky enough to get some help from family. That, along with a few loans and grants, allowed me to stop working for two years to really focus on school. I also did some medical volunteering during semester breaks in Asia and South America. I finished with a 3.88 GPA and won a NY State award for two-year colleges from the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. I started to feel that my hard work had paid off. I was also able to obtain a competitive externship outside of school at an intensive care unit (ICU) at Bellevue hospital which was a great experience and helped me decide to focus on critical care nursing.

Unfortunately when I graduated, the grades and accolades did not matter. Most of the hospitals in NYC were only accepting applications from Bachelor level students and Bellevue, where I had connections for a job, was on a hiring freeze. I debated finishing my Bachelor degree online as quickly as possible since I had been accepted to Penn State’s BSN program. I even played with the idea of moving to Colombia for a few months to study more Spanish. But as I tried to figure out what the best plan was, I got a call from a hospital in Upstate NY who wanted to interview me. I ended up getting two offers in two different ICU’s and decided to go for it, as critical care was my main interest.

So, I ended up moving to begin my career in a new area with no friends or family. It is only 3 hours north of NYC but traveling down was tough to fit in around my nursing schedule. It has been a real challenge at times dealing with the cold and solitary environment, but I learn so much everyday and have no regrets on my decision. I am proud to be helping people and be using my brain all of the time. I feel my future is bright and the possibilities in healthcare are vast. I’m not sure what the future holds but I am glad i made the change. I wish I had done it all a few years earlier, but I try not to dwell on that. I’m just glad I didn’t wait any longer!

Overall, moving out of the service industry is a very personal decision. Some people have a lot of success in it and can continue to be excited working in that environment. I do miss it sometimes, especially the social aspect. The last bar I worked at was like a sort of family and I miss seeing them regularly. But I needed to move on and find something new. For me, the choice became clear. It was difficult to change my world around as an adult, but I feel that the struggle was worth it. Knowing I was creating a better future that I would enjoy is what keeps me going every day since I went back to school. I have to sacrifice a bit now, to create a better life for later. Or, hopefully sooner.

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