Dear Future Self –
I am writing this to you at the end of my third term in nursing school! What a journey it has been thus far. I am now 60% nurse with only 174 days left until graduation! They said this term would be the hardest and while it did prove to be challenging, the challenge was productive in shaping me to be a nurse, a friend, and a strong and faithful woman of God. I am thankful for the challenges of this term and the lifetime of learning that took place in just 10 short weeks.
In hopes of documenting my journey into medicine and remembering where I’ve been, I am writing this letter to you, my future self as a nurse. May these words remind you of the bravery that it took to embrace each new step, each new learning hurdle, each new exam, and each new patient case that has brought you to becoming a nurse; may that inspire you for each new day in your work. This career path is not for the faint of heart and its learning and challenges do not stop at the end of nursing school. It’s a continual process of learning, failing and succeeding, reflecting and doing your part to touch a life and impact it forever.
Just some words of encouragement from this first year nursing student….
This career- it’s a commitment to compassion…a commitment to saving lives….a commitment to gracefully ushering life into death…a commitment to being strong and courageous while offering empathy and comfort.
This term was about all things ‘acute’….from the patients that I cared for, to the theory content that was taught and studied over, to the personal journey of recognizing my identity and worth in the eyes of the Lord…this term was about all things ‘acute’.
I helped little old ladies recover from hip replacement surgery…I heard them tell their stories; we laughed together and shared a moment along this acute journey together. I held the hand of a man who had had a trach and therefore had not been able to speak for months following an acute exacerbation of an autoimmune disease…I held his hand and reassured him when they ‘capped’ his trach and gave him the ability to speak again…’Good Morning- it’s a beautiful day!’…those were his first words spoken after months of being stuck in silence. I compassionately cared for a pregnant mother withdrawing from heroine at 32 weeks gestation. I looked into her eyes and saw the brokenness deep inside, the hurting and wondering and wanting to be noticed. I cared for the rape victim who birthed her baby without even knowing she was pregnant to begin with…I watching this mama who had been beaten and battered by life, I watched her embrace new life and see it’s beauty even in the acuity of her story. I cradled and prayed over NICU babies who were hooked up to tubes and machines and I watched their tiny bodies cling to hope and fight for life.
And every time I would reflect on my day, the patient’s I cared for, the people I worked with, and the stories I heard, I realized….these patients, they were really the ones caring for me. The old lady recovering from hip surgery- she reminded me to tell my story, to share wisdom and to accept grace for myself when it doesn’t turn out like I hoped. She reminded me to learn to laugh at myself and to acknowledge that our lives are a reflection of how we approach ordinary, everyday situations and make them extraordinary. And the man with the trach, he reminded me that being ‘stuck in silence’ can sometimes be a gift, because it causes you to go slow, to see the world from a different perspective, to truly learn the art of listening, and to see each new morning as an opportunity to accept the beauty that God has created for us. The withdrawing mom- she taught me compassion and helped me see that the brokenness inside each of us has to be acknowledged in order for us to grow past the hurt of being forgotten and hurt. The mama who was a victim of rape, she taught me strength amidst arduous circumstances, and she taught me that new life can come from that which is beaten and battered. And finally, those NICU babes, well, they taught me the gift of touch, the miracle of life, the perseverance that is required to cling to hope and fight for life…they taught me true vulnerability and they touched my heart in a unique way.
As you read these stories and reflect on what these patients taught you through their stories, may you be reminded that this journey in medicine is not merely a career, a paycheck, a degree…this journey in medicine is a lifelong learning process where you help facilitate healing for your patients and sometimes where your patients help facilitate healing for you.
This term showed me the depravity of this world and yet, the beauty that is found in redemption. As you continue on in the journey, may you never lose sight of this- the beauty that is found in redemption. When your soul gets weary and your body is tired, remember this beauty and God’s hand in all things.
And above all….
Don’t let yourself ever forget the honor and privilege that you have in partnering with people…in loving them and caring for them in their weakest moments. You’re going to feel like quitting. You’re going to struggle. You’ll have days where you’ll wonder, “what’s it all for?” You’ll have days when people attempt to break you down, or challenge your intelligence, skills and right to be where you are. You’ll have moments when you question your own abilities, and perhaps your sanity- but You Will Rise. You’ll rise because your strength as a nurse is not determined by one grade, one shift or one job- it’s an ongoing journey of learning, honor, humility and a chance to make even the smallest difference in the lives of your patients, sprinkling the love of Jesus in every interaction you have.
Be Brave. Be Thankful. Choose to See the Gift of Extending Kindness to a Hurting World.