Dr. Michelle Giddings-White
This is Me and this is what I do...
I am often asked this question “What do you like about working in nursing/mental health?” I have pondered on this question many times to come up with a simple response, an elevator speech.
What I have come to realize is that this question is too profound for me to answer in a simple statement. It is better understood if you gain some insight into who I am and some of the things I’ve done. So here’s to finding the answer.
Leaving everything that I identified with behind, I departed from my native land of Trinidad and Tobago as an adolescent to pursue my educational goals in America. After meeting with several educational counselors I was steered toward a career in Nursing.
I had the opportunity to pursue a career in nursing in my homeland with my cousin who is now a mid-wife in England, but at that time I was adamant about not becoming a nurse. I saw nurses as servants, ladies who catered to people’s demands and cleaned up after them and took orders from doctor’s who didn’t have the least amount of respect for them.
No! Nursing was definitely not for me. I was way too talented to become a nurse, or so I thought.
When I enrolled in nursing school at a community college in NY, I was prepared to make the lifelong sacrifice to tolerate people’s bad attitudes, dish out medications, and clean up after sick people when they soiled their bed linens. I thought, at least this nursing business will give me the opportunity to earn a decent salary.
What I did not anticipate was the rigorous studies that was required, the lifelong friendships I would gain, or the sheer joy I would experience from learning and working with patients in the field of nursing.
During my first year in nursing school I made the Dean’s list every semester. I was elected president of the Student Nursing Council and I joined several other committees in the college community. I also played the center position for the ladies basketball team – the first ladies team for the college in a decade, and I ruled the court.
I’ve kept my NY Daily News clipping of my 22 rebound average for the season as proof. I was determined to make the absolute best of my college experience. Especially since I was the first one in my family to earn a college degree. Some of my stories from community college are mind-blowing, but I will spare the details.
Entering the Workforce
Upon graduating from community college I got a job at a long term care facility. My salary tripled from my minimum wage job and I was ecstatic. I did it! But still, it did not feel like I was done. A few months after working as a nurse, I was accepted into a very competitive nursing program at the State University of New York (SUNY).
I went to my Director of nursing at work with the news only to be greeted with an ultimatum, because as she stated, they could not accommodate my study schedule of one day off a week. So, I did what any sensible nurse would do. I left work that day and wrote a letter of gratitude for the time I spent on the job. The letter stated my intent to pursue my nursing studies. Yes! I decided to give up the money. It was no longer about the money for me.
During my studies for my bachelor’s degree, I obtained employment at the SUNY Health Center and I fell in love with patient care. I worked on the maternal child unit in a teaching facility, Jackpot! And they willingly accommodated my study schedule. I was once again elected president of the SUNY Student Nursing Council, Yearbook editor, graduated Cum Laude, and gave the Graduation speech at Carnegie Hall at eight months pregnant in the presence of several dignitaries and a sea of nursing and allied health graduates.
How Caring for Patients Shaped my Career
I continued my nursing career in maternal and child health for 7 years before returning for my Master’s degree as a family nurse practitioner in Las Vegas, Nevada.
During those 7 years I evolved into the kind of practitioner that I would want caring for myself or my loved ones.
I say this because I have a deep sense of obligation to my patients and the care they receive. I cannot truly say which patients had the greatest impact on me as a nurse, maybe it was the 40 year old first time mother who coded and passed away after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl.
Or maybe it was the cocaine addicted mother who suffered a fetal demise, and when I visited her as the designated bereavement counselor for the unit, the way she fell into my arms sobbing and apologizing.
Or could it be the dying baby boy that I helped his mother dress in a tiny blue shirt that read “Thank Heaven for Little Boys,” so he could have his first and last professional picture taken. No, there are too many life changing moments to define a single one.
What I know is, my career in nursing is more challenging yet more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.