On the job
Yesterday my younger cousin, who’s in his last term as a Legal Management student, started his on-the-job training, the kind that prepares graduating students for their future and long lives as members of the work force. My cousin has been assigned in one of the offices of the National Bureau of Investigation. Last night, he relayed that he had an uneventful day. Apparently there was more drama in his commute from our home to the NBI: too many people for too few jeepneys, too many vehicles along too-narrow roads, heavy traffic, and so on. In other words, just an ordinary work day for the rest of us.
20 years ago, as a graduating Nursing student, I also faced a similar situation. As part of our on-the-job training, we were deployed to various institutions so we could experience the lives of working nurses. I got assigned to the one of the infirmaries of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT)–a smaller one in the semi-residential part of Makati City. It was a short assignment, but I was filled with apprehension.
I took up Nursing because it was the course that my parents wanted me to take–the one that they financially supported me to take. If I had my way I would have taken Journalism or Communication Arts but when I enrolled in the college of Nursing I had no feelings or judgment at all to the course. By the time I realized Nursing wasn’t for me, it was too late. As a student I did well–I met all academic requirements, I learned all skills but my heart wasn’t really in it. As graduation loomed I felt really un-certain on what I would do after.
The only thing I was certain of was that I didn’t want to work as a Nurse. The OJT (or practicum, as my teachers called it) was, for me, a portent of a life that I didn’t want to live so I didn’t care much for it.
On the first day I was oriented to the different sections of the infirmary, which closely resembled the Out-Patient Departments of tertiary hospitals. My supervisor was an amiable lady who seemed to treat those burly PLDT linemen and crew with tough concern, barking orders at them with familiar and good-natured humor. She was also very fond of snacking. She had a drawer full of cookies, chips, and candies. She also buys all sorts of food from sellers that regularly dropped by the infirmary. And she loves to share it with the other staff in the clinic. On that first day alone, I think I ate 5 varieties of snacks.
The infirmary was generally busy in the mornings so by lunch time, things become slow in the clinic. I liked getting busy as it distracted me from my own thoughts. During the slow times, my supervisor and I engaged in small talk while doing paper work. I learned that, like me, she didn’t really want to be a nurse. That she took it to help her own family. In fact, she worked in Saudi Arabia for 15 years before returning to the Philippines to work as a company nurse. She said working abroad was difficult but she had to do it so she can send her younger siblings to school. After that, she returned home and tried to start a business. When that failed, she sought work as a nurse again.
I remember asking her how she liked being a nurse. She just shrugged her shoulders. “It’s a job,” she said. “It pays the bills, lets me buy some of the things I want. So I guess I like it now.” She was smiling but there was a tinge of resignation in her tone.
The rest of my practicum went uneventfully after that. She gave me a good mark; even went to the extent of telling me that she would gladly recommend me if I decided to apply as a company nurse at PLDT. As it turned out, my fear and apprehension towards the experience was unfounded. I had a good and productive time in that infirmary. I learned a lot.
But it didn’t change my mind on not wanting to work as a Nurse.
I wish that my younger cousin’s experience is as pleasant, productive, and thought-provoking as mine.