My Journey to the Best Job
My nursing career was born after a miscarriage, followed by a divorce, both life-altering experiences. At Chico State School of Nursing as a nursing assistant I worked every weekend and full-time three summers. I envisioned providing for myself the rest of my life and was motivated to persevere. I started at age 38 - twice the age of other classmates. I am forever grateful for their compassionate acceptance of an "old lady". Obtaining prerequisites for nursing was more demanding than nursing school. However, in retrospect, my prerequisite time was one of the best in my life as I grew more as a human being. I was taking on a lot of student loans, so I set a goal to work in Iran where I heard American nurses received excellent compensation. I obtained the minimum one-year nursing experience required prior to working overseas. My plan to go to Iran was dashed when the Shah's government collapsed. A colleague noticed I was a bit down (actually depressed) and suggested Saudi Arabia. After interviewing a nurse who had just returned and finding the country on a map, I decided to apply. This didn't come without sacrifice; my then nine-year-old daughter would need to live with her father and his new wife while I was gone. In 1983, I arrived in Saudi Arabia, where women could not drive or show their faces in public unless accompanied by a male relative, and where shops closed for prayer five times a day. I was placed at the King Kahlid Eye Specialty Hospital in Riyadh, the largest eye hospital in the world. Here are a few of the details contained in my contract: - Salary with no income taxes, equivalent to a 38% increase.
- 44 hr. workweek, 30 days paid annual leave with return airfare.
- Reduced price meals at the hospital cafeteria.
- A nice, furnished, air-conditioned two-bedroom apartment, which I shared with an Australian nurse.
- Free transportation shopping via hospital bus. (Dress code was a long skirt and no visible arms.)
No fraternizing with the natives.
After orientation, I was assigned to the Male Retina Unit, a 48-bed facility handling cataract, cornea, retina and injury surgeries. Within a few months I was Head Nurse for the day shift, overseeing staff from all corners of the world, including the Philippines, England, Ireland, Australia, and Sweden. After three very challenging and fulfilling years, I repaid my student loans and traveled with my daughter in Europe and Mexico. I also met a wonderful man and remarried. Our marriage was unexpected because I was a devoted single woman. How we met and dated in such a closed society and against my contract cannot be stated in this small venue, yet outright danger was always a factor. If we had been apprehended together, I would have been shipped out immediately and Muhammed could have been incarcerated for a long time. He had to petition the government for approval of our wedding even though his family readily accepted me. We were very fortunate to have found each other and continue to enjoy a wonderful life together. We moved to El Cerrito in 1991 and for the next few years I worked part-time or cared for my ailing parents. Five years later, I convinced my husband that I should return to work and found San Francisco Center for Reproductive Medicine. Knowing nothing of the field, I had to learn all about IVF. At first I was overwhelmed and I found myself thinking I would never be able to master all the new information. My job was to admit, monitor, and discharge IVF patients undergoing egg retrievals. Gradually my job expanded into ordering medication, medical supplies, and doing quality assurance tasks. By the time the practice changed its name and moved to Francisco St., I had been with the practice for five years. I can truly say I have the "best job in the world". My job is rewarding, even though my part in the whole IVF picture is small, considering what all the coordinators, financial staff, clinical nurses, and medical staff have completed for the patient to reach the retrieval stage. I love taking care of our ladies. When they arrive for their retrieval some are very anxious, while others are calm. I try my best to assure them the procedure, from their prospective, is easy. Of course, most will not believe it until afterwards. I provide them with a warm gown and slippers, go over pre and post op instructions, start their IV, send them in for their 20 minute retrieval, observe them in recovery before discharging them to a responsible adult. My main objective is to make their experience easy, comfortable and stress-free. For most patients, being in retrieval means they have endured many procedures and have ridden a very emotional roller coaster. I place a box of tissues under each recovery bed. The tissues get a lot of use, and the patients are encouraged to cry as much as they need. Not only have patients' emotions been thoroughly tested by the IVF experience, but the cost has also taken a major bite from their pocket books. These factors have formed my philosophy to provide every imaginable creature comfort. Every morning as I am opening the IV bags for that day's procedures, after going over the mental check lists for a smooth procedure, I then find myself thinking how lucky I am to have the best job in the world. -- Carol Willsey-Alyusuf, RN
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