Licensed Practical Nurse: Karen Whiteside
1. Why did you choose to become a licensed practical nurse?
My best friend’s mom was my nurse as I was growing up and I idolized her, wanting to be just like her. I went into cosmetology initially because I didn’t want to go to school for very long. After doing hair for 8 years I got the opportunity and had the support to go back to school, so I went to Kaplan University for Practical Nursing. After working in long-term care for a little over a year, I had my first child and when he was 5 months old I was able to return to school to further my education towards achieving a BSN. I love helping people, making them feel better and just being a positive person in people’s lives. Nursing is everything but monotonous and boring, and I love that. I love building relationships with people and being someone they can trust and go to and feel comfortable with.
2. What is your typical work day like?
Right now, I’m working third shift in people’s homes as a pediatric home nurse. I give the parents/caregivers/guardians a break so they can rest, have some time to themselves or focus on their other children for some time. I go to work, spend time with my patient(s), depending on the patient, I’ll go to school and activities with them, get them ready for the day, spend time outside or keeping them active, give medications and give showers. Just the daily activities that kids do throughout the day.
3. What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
The most rewarding part is that I get to be one-on-one with these patients and build relationships with their parents and siblings. I get to help them receive care, stay at home and continue to stay healthy so that they’re not in the hospital or in a care facility.
The most challenging part can be the fact that I’m working independently with my patient. I rarely have another nurse to bounce ideas or questions off of. It also challenges me to use and be confident in my knowledge and to continue to educate myself so that I’m knowledgeable in the situations that I may encounter.
4. What is the biggest myth or misconception about your career or field?
I think for me it would have to have been that all nurses make the “big bucks.” Going from cosmetology to nursing with an LPN was a pay cut for me. But it didn’t matter, I was going into a profession that I wanted and enjoyed. The big bucks will come, I just have to work for it and I’m just fine with that.
5. What steps did you take in high school and college to help prepare you for your career?
I didn’t really do anything in high school to prepare for nursing and while I was in college I pretty much just worked towards my degree and worked diligently. During my working experience, I had a good work ethic, always preparing to build my resume so that I could have good work and personal references.
6. What did you find difficult during your career preparation? How did you overcome these obstacles?
Studying and focusing was hard at times. I had to work full-time or as much as possible while I was in school and that took a lot of time away from homework. I had to use my time wisely and go off of little sleep so that I could focus and get my work done and still have time with my family, which they learned to understand and sacrifice as well.
7. What do you see as the strengths and skills needed to succeed in your career?
Honesty, integrity, passion and the will to always do better and learn. I have the passion to make other people happy and succeed in their goals that are set by doctors, nurses and themselves so that they will continue to heal, recover or live to the highest quality that they can.
8. What advice would you offer to students interested in pursuing a career as a licensed practical nurse?
Work hard. Have a good, strong support system. Make time to study and develop a study group of strong people that will support you, encourage you and help you to succeed so that you can do the same. I’d also highly suggest you make sure you utilize ALL of your resources, teachers, clinical locations and instructors, career prep staff, practice resumes, interviews, etc. They’re all there to help make you better and to help you succeed. I know I wouldn’t be where I am without them.