I did not dream of a career in nursing when I was growing up. As a teen, when I thought of nurses, I immediately pictured the old cliché of bedpans and vomit.

I was always drawn to the sciences though, and began my college years as a marine biology major. Disillusionment stuck quickly, and I had dropped that major before I hit my second semester. I floundered around for a month or two, trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up.

While home on summer break, I spent some time talking with a friend’s mom, who had gone back to nursing school later in life. She’d just graduated, as the nursing shortage reached an all-time high, and was offered a lucrative salary and benefit package. She loved her new career in nursing, and encouraged me to think about a future as a nurse.

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I discussed nursing with my Great Aunt Delia, who’d been a young nurse during World War II and continued to work as a head-nurse and then in clinical research into her 70s.  She had seen the field of nursing change drastically since the early 1940s. Aunt Delia loved being a nurse and told me that one of the greatest parts of the profession was that you could have many different careers during your life.

Aunt Delia was right. It’s been 17 years since I graduated from nursing school, and as my life has evolved, so has my career. I’ve worked in orthopedics, pediatrics and maternity care. I’ve worked evenings, nights, days and weekends. As a new mother,the 12-hour shifts of floor nursing became too difficult to manage. I found per diem jobs starting IVs in an ophthalmology office and doing safety in-services for a medical device company, both with flexible hours.

Five years ago, I entered midwifery school, beginning yet another phase of my career as an advanced practice nurse. While I love caring for women and the rush of catching babies, I imagine a day will come when I lack the stamina to be up all hours of the night doing the very physical work of supporting women in labor and birth. I’m comforted to know that as a nurse, there will be plenty of options for another change in my career that fits my lifestyle and needs.

The profession of nursing itself has evolved since my Aunt Delia started her nursing career.  Today’s nurses must possess critical thinking skills, be highly technically skilled, while still having the time and patience to offer traditional nursing care. It seems that every day, a new demand is placed on the modern nurse, be it more paperwork, a new medical device or a more acute patient load.

During National Nurses Week, I’d like to express my appreciation for nurses, who continue to face these new challenges while continuing to provide excellent care. I’d also like to remind nurses to take a moment and appreciate the field of nursing, the way it continues to grow and change, and the way we are able to evolve within the profession. Happy Nurses Week!

Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.