August 7, 2008

Cortney Davis, RN, MA, ANP


First of all, I have to confess right off that I never wanted to be a nurse. When other ten-year-old girls were reading “Cherry Ames, Student Nurse,” I was riding my bike, pretending that my Schwinn was a bay stallion and together we were galloping down Sylvandell Drive in Pittsburgh, always under the gray cloud of steel-mill smog that hung in the sky. When I was twelve, my father, a public relations writer for Blue Cross, was transferred to New York City, and so we pulled up stakes, said good-bye to the smog and moved to Connecticut. I continued to ride my bike but alas, most of my new friends, just like the friends I’d left behind, thought about nothing but becoming nurses. They donned candy stripers’ uniforms and gave of themselves at St. Joseph’s Hospital while I signed up for Saturday art classes at the local museum. After high school graduation, my candy striper friends debated the size, shape and overall appearance of nursing caps—the main criteria for deciding which nursing schools they’d attend—and I went off to Gettysburg College where I wrote poems, wore black net stockings, played the guitar and grew my hair down to the middle of my back. The thought of giving someone a bedpan or even a bed bath gave me the creeps. But life has a way of sending us where we never thought we’d go.

Move forward several years: I’m married with a baby daughter and my husband and I aren’t meeting the monthly rent. His cousin, a nurse’s aide, suggests that I become a nurse’s aide too: on-the-job training, flexible hours, uniforms provided and, best of all, decent pay. Feeling somewhat up-against-the-financial-wall, I enrolled in the six-week course, got my blue uniform (eerily similar to a candy striper’s garb), bought white stockings and white Clinic shoes and went to work four evenings a week from 6 to 11:30. When I returned at midnight, all was quiet—the baby in her crib, my husband snoring in our bed.

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