When I was five years old, my first-grade teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My first answer was a professional soccer player (that dream didn’t last long). My realistic answer was a veterinarian. That dream lasted a bit longer, all the way to my first semester of college. I was enrolled at North Carolina State University, one of the top schools for agriculture and animal science, and the location of one of only 30 vet schools in the entire country. My first animal science class had a lab attached, and after just a few weeks, I knew I had made a huge mistake. I hated animal science. I felt so lost, as my entire life and time in school had been geared toward getting me into vet school.
I ended up switching my major four times before settling on social work. I liked helping people, I’d get to work with kids, and I seemed to pretty good at it…so I stuck with it. After graduation, I realized it was nearly impossible to find a job that didn’t require either a master’s degree or years of experience. I stumbled upon the National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps program and it seemed like my prayers had been answered. I applied and got accepted to my top choice host site: Healthy Start. I would get to be a care coordinator and serve pregnant women, infants, and their families. It checked all my boxes. The further I got in my service term, however, the more I came to realize that social work might not be what I’m meant to do. I loved doing the health education and seeing new babies every day, but I was sitting at a desk most of the time and my engagement with people was almost completely through conversation. I wanted a job where I could be on my feet more and do work with my hands most of the day.
I ended up shadowing the labor and delivery nurses at Baptist Nassau hospital a couple times and actually got to help with the delivery of a baby. After the baby came, I stepped away, scrubs splattered with amniotic fluid. The nurse I was shadowing kept asking me if I was okay because I had this shocked look on my face. I told her I was more than okay, because this was one of the most profound moments of my life. I’d always had this idea in my head that nursing was just wiping people’s butts all day, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. As I watched a new life come into this world, I knew that I was supposed to be a nurse. I want to deliver more babies and care for both them and their mothers. I want to get my hands dirty, both literally and figuratively, and not just sit behind a desk all day. I have had wonderful experiences at Healthy Start, and I’ve loved being here and learning from my incredible mentor and coworkers, but I am also grateful for the opportunity that National Health Corps gave me to explore different careers. I’ve decided to pursue an Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing degree, and I will hopefully get to deliver many more babies. I will always remember the first baby, though, and how that 8lb 5oz miracle changed my life.
This blog post was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps Alum, Melissa Williams.
Melissa served at FDOH- Nassau County as a Care Coordinator.