I don't know where that saying originated but I heard it several times over the years. It may be true in a very few circumstances but I don't think very often.
I started my nursing career working in ICU/CCU. The hospital, where I was first employed, was just opening their first unit and a group of us were being trained to staff it. ICU/CCU is a very exciting place to begin a nursing career. It gives the nurse an opportunity to really focus on a limited number of patients and it provides the assistance of high tech monitoring equipment to assess what's going on inside the patient.
The RN working in ICU/CCU really gets to have close contact with his/her patient, from giving the bed bath, emptying the bed pan, holding their hands, to providing all the medications and treatments needed. It is a very stressful place to work because of the seriousness of most of the medical conditions found in that kind of an environment. You also meet more death there and as a young nurse I was not comfortable with death. When I had to go out to tell a family that a loved one had died, there was no doubt on my face what my mission was. I looked like a character from the movie about the zombies.
I went home every day after work and replayed the tapes in my head of what I did throughout the shift to analyze whether there was anything I could have done better or different. Sleep wasn't easy to come by for those two years that I worked in that unit. The staffing, as often is the case in many hospitals, got worse and worse and I decided I needed to find a place to work where I wouldn't spend all my off time stressing about it.
My best friend Jan, who graduated with me from nursing school, was working at our local university. She told me I ought to come try teaching. I could be a clinical instructor. Say what? Teaching, me? I wasn't even a good student. She said well you are a good clinical nurse and that's all you need.
My turning point was the day I had to take charge of our 13 bed unit with only one technical nurse and an orderly. I thought yep, teaching, me. It was either that or the mental ward. That wasn't a hard choice so I packed up my ugly cap and my stethoscope and applied for the clinical instructor job.
At the same time I started teaching, I also enrolled in a graduate program in Houston. Even though a graduate education wasn't required at that time to be a clinical instructor, I felt I needed it. If this was going to be something I wanted to do for a while, I had better be qualified.
Teaching did turn out to be a wonderful choice. Nothing will keep you on your toes like being responsible for preparing a bunch of eager students for their life long careers. Nothing will motivate you to learn more than having that responsibility. The information I will impart would impact a lot of lives.
To teach, I had to understand the information really well and believe me concepts involved in medicine aren't always easy to understand. It's even more difficult than going to school where you can just get enough of an understanding to drop it on the test and then move on. You had to answer questions. If I didn't have an answer, I always told my students I didn't know but I would find the answer. With my ego, I didn't want to have to do that very often so I read everything I could prior to teaching a subject so I would be prepared with any answer I thought could come my way.
I knew I would get some Karma there also. When I was in graduate school and thought I had a pretty smart teacher, I would come up with a really difficult question to ask, just to test the depths of my teacher's understanding of the subject. I was sure there would be some little whippersnapper, like me, waiting to do the same to me. Just in case, I was going be prepared.
I had to work a lot of moonlighting jobs to make ends meet while I was teaching. They don't pay teachers very much but we did have all those nice holidays. Of course I had to work all my holidays and most of my weekends to make up for the drop in salary. But I found that my time spent teaching added so much to my ability to function as a clinical nurse. In addition to being able to perform clinical skills, I really understood the whats, whys and hows of it. My moonlighting jobs also provided some interesting antidotes for my lectures.
One of my moonlighting jobs was working as a nurse at a local horse racing track on the weekends. What those jockeys did to lose weight by shedding extra body fluids worked real well with my fluid and electrolyte lecture. Throwing in a few other tidbits about a jockey's lifestyle kept my students from getting bored also.
Nope, those who teach can do, and do it better.
I do miss my 23 years of teaching at the university, but it is always a part of any nursing career. I do almost as much teaching while taking care of my inmates. They have the capacity to be big consumers of health care in their futures and often won't have any means to finance it. The Doctor I worked for at my first correction's job complained about the time I spent teaching my inmates. He said they just don't care. I told him that if just one of a hundred cared, it was worth the effort.
I can't prove it but, if I can get my inmates to pay more attention to managing their own health care problems or even preventing some, I can save a great deal in future health care costs to our community, state and federal government.