By Matthew Watford, RN
“Hello Matt, this is your recruiter! Pack your bags, you’re headed to New York!”
A wave of excitement poured over me as my mind’s eye rushed to crowded streets and hard knocks.
I had just completed my most recent assignment in Los Angeles. In fact, when my Recruiter called, I was 60-miles into a cross-country road trip. The details were finalized, contract signed and – as my recruiter ordered – bags were packed.
After an amazing 4-day road trip across the southern US filled with Texas BBQ, Beignets in New Orleans, and blue crab dockside in Maryland we finally drove up in our hotel for the night. The sounds of birds and trees were quickly replaced with people and machines. There was an indescribable romance to it all.
The smells, clanging steel of the subway, and a thousand conversations offering snippets into the variable human existence. There was a rumbling excitement, almost palpable, to get thrown into the fray and test my mettle in the rat race to end all rat races. This is a literal Iron Man of daily living.
After checking in I get an email: “You are to report to the 6thfloor of the hotel at 20:00 for an exam prep session. Attendance is strongly encouraged; this exam isn’t easy.” Exam? What… exam?
Our coordinator enters the room, she had just finished a 12-hour shift on the floor and still has an hour commute after this, so we get to it.
“You’ll be taking anywhere from 3 to 5 exams tomorrow morning first thing. If you fail any of them, you walk. I am here to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
She has that quintessential New Yorker demeanor and accent, I can feel my resolve crumbling already. We wrap up around 11 pm (yes, 11 pm) with little more than illegible napkin scribblings I’ve used to dry my tears and free dinner; cannon fodder for my nausea. I got little sleep that night – as it turns out using old nursing textbooks as pillows weren’t as comfortable or an effective study method.
The next morning, we arrive at the orientation site and file in. After short hello’s (and mental goodbyes) we head to the testing area where I spend the next 2 hours in mental assault with 5 exams while fellow nurses are being sent home all around me. One from this row, one from that row. I give a moment of silence realizing all they have done to get here – only to be sent home.
The experience was utterly brutal, but this is what I came here for, this is the New York I wanted to stand up against. These are the people and experiences I dreamed would mold me and add something not available elsewhere.
Sprinkled in amongst the grit and fast pace are glimmers of human kindness. A smile here, a joke there, even a few compliments exchanged.
I remember thinking to myself that below the hardened surface are good, nice people. I better have my act together. If I work hard to meet their standards I shouldn’t have a problem. The door to a New Yorker’s heart is there, I just have to open it.
After 5 exams, several breathless guesses and countless coin tosses I made it. I still had a job. We head back down to the classroom to begin hospital orientation.
Wait a minute… the patient ratio is what?