By Margaret Hansen
Switching careers after 20 years in her profession and going back to school while juggling family responsibilities, Hera Knight of Westbrook, Maine hasn't had it easy for the past few years. But her hard work has finally paid off in spades. As a registered nurse, she has discovered a rewarding and respected field with wide-open and lucrative opportunities.
What made you choose nursing as a career?
I have been in what Americans call "alternative healthcare" as a Licensed Massage Therapist for 20 years. I had hoped that our culture would embrace the alternatives more fully by now and that our system of healthcare would become more integrated, allowing me to practice in a way that would actually be a part of people's preventative health coverage, but I have not seen this happen as much as I would have liked.
Consequently, it has been hard to make a living as an LMT. So, I made what seemed like a logical conclusion: to continue working with people, educating them about health and encouraging better health practices, while at the same time being respected and well compensated for doing so.
What is it about your personality and skills that helps you to fit into the role?
Nursing is a fast-paced profession in which critical thinking skills are essential. The fact that I am always on the go, solving problems and fixing things as an essential part of the team - for multiple patients - is exciting and deeply gratifying for me.
Was finding a nursing job difficult?
Despite the fact that the Greater Portland (Maine) area is not suffering a nursing shortage, which is the case in other parts of the country, I took a local job immediately after graduating. There are several places that hire "Graduate Nurses," which means that you can work there even before passing your boards. You then step up to the Registered Nurse position once the boards are successfully behind you. Other places will not even interview you until you have passed the licensure exam.
What type of nursing job do you have?
I have the ultimate renaissance nursing job. I work on the Float Pool which is a group of nurses that are dispatched to practically every area of the hospital to cover where the needs are. This means we have to know virtually every type of nursing there is.
What do your hours/schedule look like?
I work three 12-hour shifts per week. In reality, it is closer to 13 hours per shift. I am fortunate to have a daytime schedule. I start at about 6:45 am and finish about 7:30 pm. I love having four days off a week!
What do you like most and least about the job?
I love being respected and trusted to aid people in their recovery process. I am also proud that I am doing something that is not only appreciated but is vital. My least favorite part of the work is being given more than four patients. Having four patients at a time is manageable and busy, more than that is too stressful feels downright dangerous.
Any advice for those considering nursing as a profession?
Even though nursing is difficult, nursing school is tough and the profession is not for the faint of heart, I would say keep perspective and persevere. It is worth the incredible challenge, because once that degree is in hand, there are virtually endless possibilities for what one can do in nursing these days.