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  • Maureen Dempsey

The Moment I Became an L&D Nurse

“Hi, Ms. Johnson, my name is Maureen. If it’s ok with you, I’m going to check your vital signs and put your baby on the monitor. The triage nurse will be here in just a sec.” I stood at the bedside, smiling expectantly at Ms. Johnson, with a blood pressure cuff in one hand and an ultrasound transducer in the other. 

It was the last week of my senior practicum and my last semester of nursing school. Once or twice, during that last week, my preceptor would let me go into a room by myself for a few minutes to get a patient “started.”

Ms. Johnson glared at me and sort of growled, “OK.”

I put the cuff on and started taking an automated blood pressure. I took her temperature. I was just starting to try to find a fetal heart rate when Ms. Johnson had a contraction. Her abdomen felt like stone, it was so hard. She started moaning. I say moaning, but the sound she was making was so much more than just a human woman’s moan. The sound she was making simultaneously evoked lions roaring in the desert and banshees howling in the woods. With just a smidgeon of Tibetan throat singing mixed in. It was the sound of pain and fear, but also of power. She sounded like a priestess calling forth demons from the underworld. As her moaning got louder, Ms. Johnson reached up and grabbed my scrubs with both hands. She pulled me down to her level. And then she wetly screamed into my face, “get me some #$@&%*! pain medicine RIGHT now! 

Things started moving very fast. I pushed the call bell while I spoke soothing words to Ms. Johnson and found the fetal heart rate. I don’t remember what I said. But as I was saying it, the room filled with nurses. I heard someone say, “BP is 214/108.” I heard other voices, “I think she’s abrupting! I got a line in her left AC. Open OR 2! We need anesthesia and a surgeon stat! Page the NICU team!” 

Less than ten minutes after I pushed the call button, we were in the OR and Ms. Johnson had given birth (by cesarean section) to a healthy baby girl. And I knew for certain that labor and delivery was where I wanted to be. I had already applied for a job on this very unit.

When it came time to interview for that first L&D staff nurse position, I received only one piece of advice. “Don’t tell them that you want this job because you love babies. They hate that,” my preceptor told me. 

That worked fine for me. I really wasn’t in it for the babies. I was in it for the Ms. Johnsons. For the rare glimpse of the raw, magical, terrifying power of women giving birth. I fumbled through that first nursing interview, but I did well enough to get a spot in the nurse residency program for labor and delivery. 

Before you go into your next job interview, put a little time aside to reconnect with your own story. What made you fall in love with your specialty? Recalling your passion for nursing before an interview will help you shine. When you re-experience that thrill, it will shine so brightly that others will feel it too. 

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