Journey of a Nurse
My name is Tammie Lynn Mericle I am now a whopping 41 years old. I absolutely love life and all the crazy little things that make it CRAZY. Life is such an adventure full of all kinds of secret doors to explore. I have a constant smile and genuinely am a very happy person. I can always find humor in any situation and believe there is more positive than negative at any given time. Yes, some days are plain rotten but there is always tomorrow and Walmart! Walmart is our local have everything store. I am a firm believer that your life is what you make it. It is simple, “You live and you die and what you do in between is totally up to you, so follow your heart and do what makes you happy”.
I chose the path of a nurse and what a wonderful, challenging, heart felt career. It has touched every aspect of my soul and honestly can say that it is my true passion in life.
I have thought back many times as to what prompted me to go in this direction. There was no inspiring person or dynamic experience. I hate hospitals and I still get light headed when I have my blood drawn. It just felt like a natural part of me. One day I woke up and told my now ex-husband I wanted to be a nurse and here I am 16 years later and no signs of ‘burnout.”
My journey actually started when I was 20. I already had two children and was in a marriage that was doomed to fail from the beginning. I had quit school at 15 and was working as a waitress making $2.01/hr plus tips. I needed to make a change fast! I started College in around 1988. College was rough because of my lack of education and sheltered life. Growing up we moved around quite a lot and my education and my social skills suffered. I worked my way through college and ended up on the deans list I was able to get scholarships because of my high GPA and grants because of my low income. Life was an uphill battle for a while. I went through the big “D”. Wow, what a reality shock that was. After the divorce I took a short break to get myself and my family back on track. I had two small children and was always feeling guilty for investing so much of my time in school. I managed to get things in perspective and we all enjoyed the time we had together. Things were always a little crazy and I still have vivid memories of: the day that my daughter had taken my birth control pills to school for show and tell, the day a strange man was standing in the middle of my living room and the kids were screaming and shooting him with their Nintendo guns, and the day I was at the laundromat with the whole back end of my shorts ripped out. I could go on and on but I will keep these with me. During all this craziness I met my soul mate, Steve.
Steve-o is another part of my life that is wonderful. Steve had a construction company and was now going to be a nurse. I do remember his dad thinking that I had corrupted his son and his family was in complete shock. But like I always say, “You live and you die and what you do in between is totally up to you, so follow your heart and do what makes you happy”.
I graduated in 1992 and worked at a local hospital. I was eager to learn and be the best possible nurse that I could be. I loved bedside nursing and thought I would do that until the day I died. The people I met were so interesting. I had awe for the doctors and looked at them as if they were a superior life form. I thought it was nuts how the nurses would jump up and offer them their seats and wait on them hand and foot. I remember my days as a new nurse and it was filled with many new learning experiences and “stress.” I remember crawling out of a room because I was starting to pass out. I was supposed to be offering support to my patient as a central line was being inserted. I was embarrassed for a short while but learned new ways to cope with invasive procedures. I have to laugh when I think of the days as a new nurse. There was a time when the doctors actually smoked at the nurse’s station and nurses wore their caps. Wow, am I feeling old! After a couple of years I took my certification through ANCC in med-surg specialty.
I thoroughly enjoyed med-surg. The variety of patients was refreshing. I would go and watch as many surgeries as I could and enjoyed expanding my knowledge base and improving my skills. I worked med-surg for six years but the fast pace and increasing number of patients that I was expected to care for was causing me to dread my job. I felt that my patients deserved the best of my services and I was not able to give it. I then moved on to pediatrics for the next three years.
I wanted to adopt every one of those kids. Pediatrics’ is a field that really opens your soul to the human spirit. I found this group of patients to be so different from what I was used to. I am not just talking about the obvious physical things. Everything about these little people was so unique. It made my realize just how much my voice tone, movements, facial expressions and touch affected a person. Pediatrics helped me to focus in on my nonverbal skills. Children seem to have a special gift of honing in on your true mood. During this period in my career I received my Pediatric Emergency Certification and developed the tender raw experience of emotional sharing. It was such a different experience to cuddle and hold these little ones compared to standing at the side of a bed with my adult patients. Just a smile from a sick child would brighten my whole day. Since, my husband worked in the same hospital I would often call him down to admire these beautiful little people. The one thing that would break my heart was the abuse cases. It just got to be too much. It seemed that after a while I started taking my work home with me. I had not learned how to separate my work and personal life. I was trying to save the whole world and losing me in the process.
I then wondered through the different fields of nursing lost for a period of time. I felt as though I was losing the passion that I had once had. I drifted through brief journeys on an oncology unit, and an adult psych unit. I decided those were not for me. I then decided to try Home Healthcare. I felt that this may be my true calling. The beeper I carried was going of 24 hors a day and the time limits I had to adhere to were unrealistic. I remember my last days as a home health nurse…one particular event stands out. I was teaching a newly diagnosed diabetic patient to give herself insulin injections. She had an extensive history of mental illness but her medication seemed to be controlling those symptoms. Well, that’s what I thought, until the day she had me trapped in the laundry room. She lived in a group home. She suddenly went berserk and started repeating, “I am not a needle.” I remember this huge figure coming toward me. I really thought she was just joking at first but when she wanted to shove me in the dryer I knew I was in trouble. Well to make a long story short the police came and took her to the local hospital. I was laughing when I really felt like crying and decided to take a break from home health.
In 1997 we put our house up for sell and sold it a week later. We started to build our dream home. I literally mean WE BUILT IT. It was a family project that mainly involved Steve, his parents, me and our three children. We had always talked about a log cabin with a huge porch and a peaceful view so that’s what we built. My nursing career was on the burner and the flames were just barely burning. Other things in life were more important, mainly getting my children through the teenage years.
In 1999 I found my calling. I took a job in the critical care unit and the passion was back. I felt that I was contributing to the well being of my patients. I started enrolling in programs to improve my skills and took an extensive six week critical care enhancement course. This specialty opened up a magical, financially rewarding, exciting and memorable journey.
My husband and I quit the hospital, that we had worked in for over ten years and in 2000 decided we were going to embark on a new journey. Watch out nursing world the Mericle’s were coming through. The new world of the “Traveling Nurse” opened up many opportunities. I found that one great advantage was all the perks. Where else could a nurse make $60.00/hr? I was just amazed. I specialized in critical care which was in high demand. The last thing I wanted to do was further my education at this time. My brain was like a sponge.
My first assignment was at Riverside Hospital on Open Heart. I ended up working in several of the critical care units; Open Heart, ICU, And NICU . It was hard juggling family life and long drives to work. I started becoming confident in my skills and knew that when I left work my patients and their families had received my best. I was also mastering the skills of a patient advocate. The biggest challenge was all the new people I was meeting. I will remember many of these people as long as I live. I have made many lifelong friends. There was the nurse that swore she could read my aura as she outlined the air around my body, the nurse that read my palms, the nurse that made the stinky soap, the nurse that embraced me as a young brain dead boy rolled in the unit, the nurse that could tell when I was struggling and came to my aide, and the one that simply broke the tension by making me laugh. I worked at Riverside Methodist as a Travel Nurse for a total of 18 months with several gaps in between.
Cleveland University hospital was another wonderful experience. I experienced every emotion that a human being could go through. The unit I worked on was a 26 bed critical care unit. It amazed me that I could stay utterly busy for 13 hours in one room. I worked hard at giving the best care I could. During this time a story was written about me and published in Guide Post Magazine. The story was written by the father of one of my patients. He described the care and kindness that I demonstrated to his daughter. He contributed my persistence to part of her healing process.
During this time I had seen many true miracles, became closer to God and realized that life was indeed an uphill struggle. There were many days I felt I had been drained emotionally and physically and just could not give one more part of me away. I gave myself permission to cry with the families instead of doing it at night alone. I discovered that I didn’t have to have all the answers. A kind word or gesture meant more than any words I could say. The most important thing that I learned was that hearing and listening were two completely different things. When I listened I actually felt what was being said. I along with my husband Steve-o did the travel nurse deal until 2003. Steve and I worked the same units and same shift. We both were always full of stories. It amazed me that we still had so much to talk about after working together all day. I believe that this is the time that my career became “We” I noticed people didn’t say Tammie or Steve it was always Tammie & Steve.
Along this journey we discovered a well hidden secret in the per diem business of nursing and it was worth gold. We had discovered that there was a huge difference it the pay rate that we were getting and what the agency was charging the facility. The agency was making a fortune off us. So, the new adventure began. My husband and myself decided to cut out the so called,”middle man” and contract our nursing services out to hospitals. It took about three months to get through all the red tape and get everything up and running. We established our company, Mericle RN Staffing LLC, in October of 2003. Steve and I landed a huge contract with a chain of hospitals called SCCI. These hospitals specialized in long term acute care; vent weaning, wound healing, and rehabilitation. The population of patients usually stayed at the facility three to six weeks. It was nice getting to know the facilities and patients so intimately. The patients usually came to us with broken spirits and hesitant about recovery. These patients had been through the hospital system and viewed this facility as their last hope. SCCI had a network of 13 other facilities across the United States. Steve and I became a two person team traveling to these hospitals as Independent Nurse Contractors. I can’t explain the great feeling of freedom. We took a plane to work and at the end of our six 12 hour shift we would enjoy a week off with our family in Ohio. We were lucky to have my sister who manned our home, dogs and teenage children while we gone. I often felt guilty and homesick but made the very best of family time when I was home. I felt that things couldn’t get any better in my career. We mainly traveled to Colorado and Texas and also worked at one close to our home in Ohio. It was a lot of responsibility as we arranged everything from booking the plane, rental car, housing and the ever changing terms of our contract. In 2006, we became “nana & papa”. We gave up the traveling back and forth as it was becoming a burden especially with the increased delays at the airports and long work week. During this time Steve and I started a consulting business to help other nurses become entrepreneurs.
We wrote a manual that we market online that has become a useful tool to many nurses. The manual appears to be a success and the feed back has been great. Its sole purpose is to assist nurses in business. Eventually our home business grew as we employed up to twenty nurses at one time. Life was becoming all work and no play. I went back to my favorite saying, “You live and you die and what you do in between is totally up to you, so follow your heart and do what makes you happy”. My next journey begins the road back to school.
I am not totally sure what exactly I want to be when I get through my education. I do know that I want to obtain at least my Masters and work in an area of Advanced Practice Nursing I truly believe that along the way I will discover an area that will spark an undeniable interest and grab my soul. Those old feeling of excitement and newness will take hold. I see myself working for at least the next 15 years, retiring in an area of advanced practice nursing, but nothing is ever set in stone. I just never know when the bug will bite and a new adventure in this world of nursing will take hold. I do know that my partner Steve-o will be a part of this decision, whatever it may be. I have found the wonderful world of nursing to be a rewarding and satisfying career. My career has been one of many educational opportunities, life experiences and has truly added to the all aspects of my life. Will see what the next chapter in my career brings. I anticipate a more active role in that of patient advocate and community education. There are so many opportunities and it is hard to settle on just one!