Name: Jaime, RN on a telemetry unit at Backus Hospital in Norwich, Connecticut
Graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in May 2017
Hi all! My name is Jaime and I’m a new grad tackling Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) in the wild. I’ve been living with T1D for about 6 years and was diagnosed as a sophomore in high school. Finding out that I had a chronic condition at sixteen years old was very hard to deal with. The last thing I wanted to hear was that there was anything about me that might make me different from my peers during a period where I already felt vulnerable trying to fit in. Something unique about my diagnosis experience that made it a little bit easier is that my dad also lives with T1D. For as long as I can remember, our house has been stocked with Diet Coke and my mom was always checking that my dad had “his medicine” wherever we went. Up until my diagnosis, that was the extent of my knowledge of T1D. Having my dad by my side through this experience has helped make the transition a bit easier knowing that he has never let living with this chronic illness get in the way of living life to the fullest.
My college experience was very busy. Balancing clinicals, classes, a weekend job, and on campus involvement has me currently feeling like I have so much free time I don’t know what to do with it! I was involved in a mentor program for new nursing students as well as Active Minds, a mental health advocacy organization for all four years, and on the weekends, I worked as a cashier at a CVS near my hometown and visited with my family (while sneaking in a few loads of laundry). One of my favorite memories of my undergraduate career was during the summer entering my senior year when I had the opportunity to study abroad for a few weeks in Cape Town, South Africa. It was my first experience traveling abroad and my first experience on my own with T1D. UConn is very close to home for me so even though I was away at school, my parents were always a drivable distance away if I ever had an emergency. Cape Town was beautiful and while there, I volunteered at a free clinic primarily working with diabetic patients. Something that really struck me was that the patients only qualified for test strips if their diabetes was managed with insulin. If they gave themselves only one injection per day they qualified for 50 test strips every eight weeks, and if they were taking more than one injection per day, they qualified for 50 test strips every four to six weeks. This has really given me an appreciation for the privilege I have in regards to my medical care as well as influenced me to want to give back more, not only abroad but to those who are struggling in my own community.
Diabetes in college always felt tough for me. There are many times I can think of when I would be battling a low blood sugar the night before an exam, feeling frustrated with the fact that this was just a part of my life I had to accept and deal with. The hardest part about diabetes in college for me was telling other people. I didn’t really care that other people knew I had diabetes; I’m the type of person who doesn’t go out of my way to share it or hide it so it was more of a matter of when to bring it up. I felt as if I was constantly meeting new people and I was never sure if it was something I should bring up right away or when we established a closer friendship. Things got a little easier when I created my “community” of fellow T1Ds on campus.
The winter of my junior year, I reached out to CDN to start a Chapter and found out there was another nursing student on my campus also trying to start a Chapter. Together, we had our group up and running for the fall of my senior year when I served as president. Our Chapter met every other week and would occasionally have social events on the weekends too! Having other people who knew exactly what I was going through, who were just a text message away, made some of the things I struggled with a little bit easier. I was also involved with CDN my senior year as a Student Advisory Committee (SAC) intern where I helped new Chapters get started and I worked on developing new resources for Chapters to use. I loved this experience because I felt like I was giving back what I could to a community that has given me so much.
Since I graduated, I started a job on a telemetry unit at Backus Hospital in Norwich, Connecticut. My job is part of a nurse residency program, which means I was hired with a group of other new nurses and during our orientation, we constantly receive educational experiences while spending the other part of the week on the floor. Starting work has allowed me to take in all the new experiences this job has to offer and start putting my dreams into action. While I’m working in telemetry right now, I’m not sure exactly what kind of nurse I want to be. What’s nice about nursing is there are so many options and you always have opportunities to change your path. Eventually, I’d like to make my way into the pediatric world and maybe even dabble in diabetes education as it’s something that hits so close to home for me.
My biggest advice for anyone in college or transitioning into the workplace, with or without diabetes, is to connect with your network of people. First, reach out to people around you who might be in your field, bounce your ideas off of them, show them your resume, and ask what kind of experience they had because they were in your shoes once. Something I found helpful was connecting with other nurses I knew with diabetes to help relieve my fears and collect some tips about managing T1D while also taking care of other people.
Also, reach out to your other new grad friends who are entering the adult world; there is comfort in knowing you’re not doing this alone and chances are these people are feeling the same fears you are.
Lastly, talk to your family and friends. These are the people who have carried you to where you are today and are often your biggest supporters. Whether you’re nervous about going low during an interview or down about a job rejection, these are the people that are going to pick you up, cheer you on, and keep you going. A piece of advice that spoke to me particularly is: “You can’t take care of other people unless you take care of yourself.” While this definitely applies to health care professions, it can really be applied anywhere and it’s something I always try to step back and remind myself of when I’m feeling overwhelmed in my new career.