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What My Nursing Pin Means to Me

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It was the dead of night and my eyes were bleary.

The hours were already long, but at 3am the minutes seemed to turn at a painstakingly slow pace, and it took every ounce of energy for me to stay awake. And at that time of night, you really start to question what you’re doing with your life and why you’re awake when everyone else is asleep. But before I would allow those thoughts to take root in my mind, I asked my fellow nurse to help me in turning my patient and finishing a bath.

As she came in the room, I caught notice of something shiny on her badge and asked her what it was. She explained to me that it was her nursing pin from her nursing school graduation last year. My sweet coworker continued to explain to me that she was so proud to wear it because she loved her university and she was so honored to have been a part of their challenging nursing program.

I drove home after my shift and dug my nursing pin out from my jewelry box. Wow, I thought, haven’t seen this in quite some time! Holding that little piece of jewelry in my fingers took me back to another place and time that I hadn’t thought much of in the more recent years, and I couldn’t help but reflect right then and there, sitting on my cold bathroom counter after a 13 hour shift, what exactly I was doing with my life and why I was a nurse.

It’s Not Just a Job

I was told once, early on in my nursing degree pursuit, that being a nurse is not just a job, but it’s a calling. As a student nurse understood those wise words completely. From about the age of ten, I remember telling my parents that I wanted to become a nurse. When asked why I was interested in that, my answer was short and simple: I wanted to help people.

As I entered into my twenties, that answer became a little more refined but still with the same premise. I had felt called, in a sense, to help those who were hurting, to meet people on a day that was one of the worst in their life and to offer a smile that spoke hope into their hearts. I wanted to hold the hand of the dying and comfort the families that mourned. I also wanted to welcome life into the world and rejoice with those who were celebrating. The more years I lived, the more and more I wanted to be a nurse and be a part of peoples’ lives in extraordinary and unique ways.

As I held my nursing pin in my hand that morning after work, I couldn’t help but think about my tedious journey to becoming a nurse. I spent many late nights working at the Irish pub in order to pay my rent and nursing school tuition, and when I showed up to clinicals bright and early the following morning, I swear I still smelled of fish and chips. I remembered heading into work one night after a grueling full day of lectures. I hopped off my bicycle and I stepped right into a puddle, feeling the water seep through my shoe and soaking my sock. Great, I had worn a hole straight through the sole of my shoe, and I didn’t have enough money to buy another pair. I walked into work, grabbed a role of duct tape, and taped up the bottom of my shoe. The rest of that night was fueled by my dreams of becoming a nurse and my upcoming nursing school graduation and pinning ceremony.

The Pinning Ceremony

Beholding my nursing pin reminded me of the ceremony where I received it. I stood on the stage with the other students, in our freshly pressed white dresses, beaming. In the second row of the auditorium, I saw my mom pop up with her camera, waving at me and taking a picture. It seemed surreal. My little nursing pin gleamed under all the lights, and I swear it was celebrating this achievement with me. In that moment, my new treasure was officially the embodiment of my dreams coming true, the little stone of remembrance I would always have to mark such a milestone. This was the day that I transitioned from student nurse to a graduate nurse, and nursing student was ready to sit for the boards to take the NCLEX. I had studied feverishly, I had cried myself to sleep thinking I would never get through nursing school in one piece, I had survived on only 4 hours of sleep for a couple years in a row, I had worked so hard and so diligently for this very moment, and I was now done. I had my nursing pin.

A Needed Reminder

Fast forward seven years.

The sunlight spills into the chilly bathroom where I sit, reminding me that I have to get ready for bed, and ultimately get ready to go to work again that coming night.

But instead of sleeping, I became overwhelmed with the reminders that seeing my RN nursing pin brought to me. How could I have forgotten such a genuine, pure desire to love people and to help bring healing to the sick? When did I start complaining of all the work there was to do in the shift, becoming resentful of the nurse manager who makes my schedule, irritated at the doctors for not placing orders fast enough, frustrated with the insurance system, bitter over my healthy body caring for the broken ones in the middle of the night? When did I become that woman? It was insidious, but it didn’t have to be irrevocable.

I could chose now to become the woman, the registered nurse that I want to be. I want to be patient, kind and loving. I want to be wholly focused during my shift to caring for my patients. I want to reignite my passion for being a nurse, and not concentrate on any of the negatives that are bound to come up. Ultimately, I want to be the nurse that I dreamed I would be seven years ago when I was standing at my pinning ceremony. She was still underneath all the cynicism that had built up over time, and I knew she was just ready to be set free.

After I brushed my teeth and got ready for some much needed sleep, there was still one more thing I had to do. I walked downstairs and pulled my hospital badge out from my purse. Right next to the big red letters that said RN, I poked my nursing pin through the plastic. My little reminder was going to come to work with me every day and every night to keep my heart and motives in check.

Your nursing pin may mean different things to you. Whether you’re like my coworker who is so proud of her nursing program, like my friend who simply likes a piece of nurse jewelry to congratulate her on graduating, or if you’re like me and need gentle, daily reminders of why you became a nurse in the first place, your pin will always be a treasured part of your story.

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