By Sandra Zawalski, MSN Ed, RN, CRRN, CCM, ABDA, MSCC

It was the ‘70s, and if someone would have told me I would be a nurse, I would have laughed at them. My idols were Woodward and Bernstein! A career in investigative journalism was my future. But it was the ‘70s, and this was not a profession that females were welcomed into. After a year of working on this major, the realization came to me, and the switch to nursing was on. Healthcare was not foreign to me coming from a family that was dripping in healthcare: nurses, physicians, and veterinarians.

Four years later, I earned the rank of a registered nurse. Like most nurses in the early ‘80s, a med/surg floor was the first step. Orthopedics was my first love, and skills were learned with a fast track to mid-management. A few years later and my second love, brain injury, was revealed as work took me to rehabilitation for those with brain injuries and again, mid-management positions. It was here that case management was discovered. The year was 1986, and a workers’ comp case manager entered our facility and lured me to this side of nursing. Except for a two-year stint in the NICU, my passion became case management.

Between experience and fabulous mentors, my knowledge of case management and nursing grew, and I found myself recruiting others into case management. Then, one day I took the leap and became an independent case manager and legal nurse consultant.

All these experiences have made me better at my job. I document better. Remember, if it is not documented, it wasn’t done! I am better at assessing clients/patients, better at communicating and better at self-reflection. This passion led to multiple certifications that demonstrate my knowledge and expertise. I am able to share this during conferences, blogs and work.

So, when someone asks, “Why nursing?” You have to figure that out for yourself. For those that remain in direct patient care, I salute you. This is not a part of nursing that I care to experience again. But nursing has so many paths and journeys that one can take: teaching, case management, legal nurse consulting, speaking, and so many more to list. It is one of the professions that allow a person the flexibility to take their knowledge and expertise and show the world how wonderful of a profession it is. People used to ask, "Why nursing?” And many would respond, “So I can take care of people.” Well, you can still take care of people, and not participate in direct patient care.

If you are unsure about nursing, look again. Yes, you have to learn a lot, experience a lot, and it is not always pleasant. The hours are long, the pay is good, work is hard, but in the end, you can look back and say you made a difference. With all the great paths out there for nurses, you can make a difference. Just show the world what you can do!

Happy Nurses Week, be proud of your profession –no matter the path you choose. Not many can make this choice.

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Bio: Sandra is a registered nurse with almost 40 years of experience in a variety of clinical settings that includes orthopedics, brain injury rehab and neonatal intensive care. There is extensive experience in case management for payers and providers holding leadership positions in each, as well as owning her own consulting business. She has a Master’s in Nursing with a focus on education, is a board-certified case manager, certified rehabilitation nurse, certified as a Medicare Set Aside Consultant, a member of the American Board of Disability Analysts and a designated ATD Master Trainer. Sandra has published numerous articles in case management professional journals and is a regular contributor for Just Begin magazine. Sandra is a former commissioner for CCMC, a former chair and has had the privilege of speaking at national conferences including CMSA and CCMC’s New World Symposium as well as a certified Cert 360 facilitator for CCMC.