September 1, 2011, 4:17 pm

To My Daughter, Senior Nurse

My youngest daughter has begun her senior year in nursing school at a university in the Pacific northwest. She never read Cherry Ames, never wanted a blue cape. never tried on my cap.

She never expressed an interest in nursing.

I mentioned it as a career possibility during the high school years. She wheeled around and said, “Mom, you hate your job. That’s all I ever hear!”


Be careful what you say around your kids.



Dear Rebecca,

No one was more surprised than I when the voice on the line identified themselves as the School of Nursing, and asked for you. Telling no one, you went and changed your major to nursing!

My inspiration was a fictional storybook and nursing cap, yours was an interest in embryology and a desire to work in neonatal intensive care. I had no clue what I was getting into. You lived with it every day of your life, and you chose to take it on, anyway.

That’s my girl!

Now, six semesters and a summer session later, you’re a senior. This time next year, you will be a registered nurse.

Does that scare the hell out of you?

It scared the hell out of me, back in the day. The closer to graduation, the more I studied and the less I knew. I was afraid that I would hurt a patient because I didn’t know enough. I thought I would never know enough. I told you the story of leaving clinicals with the intention of quitting for that very reason, with eight weeks left until graduation.

I was scared.

But you don’t have to be scared. You don’t have to know everything there is to know. You will learn what you need to know. The whole point of a nursing education is to teach you how to learn. What you are learning now is only the foundation of a lifetime of nursing education. You are learning how to think like a nurse.

And it’s already happening. I hear it in your phone calls. Your thinking process is being transformed. When you call me on the phone and tell me you knew a patient was in trouble before the vital signs changed, you are thinking like a nurse. Critical thinking takes place at the subconscious level! Intuition is what you feel when your mind sees subtle changes and starts problem solving before the crisis begins.

Rebecca, you are thinking like a nurse.

When you fight to suction a patient in distress when those around you seem to have forgotten the “comfort” aspect of “comfort care”, you are thinking like a nurse. (And don’t ever, ever, EVER lose that passion.)

This is an important year and this opportunity to learn, to be a student, will never happen again. Take advantage of every minute:

  • Absorb everything you can. If there is an opportunity to observe, be there. If there is a chance to assist, do it. If there is a procedure to be performed, volunteer. Your hand is the first one up for everything. Nothing will build your confidence faster than having a procedure “under your belt”.
  • Your professors are a wealth of information and experience. USE THEM! (Yes, even the ones you think are boring!) They are professionals committed to educating the next generation of nurses. They are not out to get you, trip you up or fail you. Your success means they have succeeded. Understanding that they are on your side will make a huge difference in how you approach this year.
  • Oh, and you are not going to harm anyone. Follow the rules, to the letter. Let the world around you be going absolutely crazy, but not you. You stay calm, collected. Check every med. Every time. Every armband. Every time. Question every order that seems off. Every time. No short cuts. Ever. Yes, your clinical preceptor may seem frustrated. Tough. It’s your practice, you go by the rules and you will be fine, and safe.

You are going to have times this year, probably many times, usually after clinicals, when you will be ready to chuck the whole thing and go work the drive-thru window at McDonalds. Does the phrase “Why the hell am I doing this?” sound familiar? I still have these moments, usually in the middle of a hairy shift in the ER. They pass. Every time.

And Rebecca, it’s all worth it. All the stress and the work and feeling like you want to bang your head into a wall with frustration. It’s all worth it.

Do something. It seems silly. Get a piece of paper.

Write your name.

Rebecca, RN, BSN.

Haven’t you done that yet? From the time I was nine years old I was writing Kim McAllister, RN on everything I could find. And when things seem crappy and you are wondering what the hell it’s all about, write out your full name with the credentials after it.

Because that’s the prize. There is four years of work and a lifetime of pride wrapped up in that signature. Keep your eyes on those letters and what they mean. It will make things easier to deal with when you are in the throes of finals week, or exhausting clinicals.

Of course, there is always the phone and I am always ready to commiserate on crummy test questions and boring lectures.

Oh, and one more thing.

I am so proud of you. More than you could ever know.




  • imqtpi

    September 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm


  • RehabRN

    September 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm


    Obviously, you said a few other things that stuck.

    Congratulations as you await graduation day and NCLEX passing day, and the first day of work.

    She has a very important mentor in you.

  • Lynda M O

    September 1, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Cherry Ames was a hero of mine when I read her in later elementary school; circumstances aborted my nursing career but still I provide care on a less professional level and Ms Ames has an awful lot to do with my choices.

    Thank you for a lovely post and I too am proud of your daughter and hope for the best for her during this last year of her first college?may she use her resources wisely all throughout her career.

  • Lynda M O

    September 1, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    oops. * college. May she use….

  • Sophie

    September 2, 2011 at 5:51 am

    My name is Sophie and I am currently writing my Masters dissertation about ?work blogging?. I have found your blog on and want to ask you if you would be willing to participate in my study. It would only take two minutes to fill in my questionnaire under the following link:
    No personal details about you or the company you work for are asked for and all the information and data you give will be treated confidentially and will only be used for the purpose of this study.
    I would really appreciate your help 
    Thank you in advance

  • Crystal

    September 2, 2011 at 5:54 am

    Dear Kim,

    Yesterday I quit my corporate job of eleven years to accept a job as a hospital PCT (and a 50% pay cut). The hospital will pay for me to get my BSN and realize my dream of becoming a nurse. At 38, I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

    Thank you so much for this post. I related to every word, and I really needed the encouragement as I take this huge leap of faith.

    Crystal, RN, BSN
    (You’re right … that looks so cool in black and white!)

  • Michele Roberts

    September 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Kim, this was one of the post touching and inspiring blog posts ever!! I am proud of your daughter too, even though I don’t know her – it takes a lot to become a nurse, and even more to do it for the right reasons – the true desire to make a difference for the health and welfare of others –
    Congratulations to both of you for our accomplishments!!

  • Martypants

    September 3, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Kim, she is a lucky girl to have a mom like you, and you sound like a lucky mom. This was a wonderful letter…it reflects a lot. Really well done – both of you. 🙂

  • […] of being a nurse during that last semester of school are an experience not easy to describe. Her advice and love expressed in her letter for her nursing student daughter are amazing and definitively worth a […]

  • Rebecca

    September 5, 2011 at 10:10 am

    I love you, mama!

  • Rebecca

    September 5, 2011 at 10:11 am

    And I’m proud of you too!

  • Eric

    September 11, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    I am so happy for you. You must be proud of your daughter.

  • […] in the San Francisco Bay area. Recent posts include “Somebody’s Baby”, “To My Daughter, Senior Nurse”, and “So You REALLY Want to be a […]

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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