Dear Future Self –
I am writing this to you at the end of my forth term in nursing school! What a journey it has been thus far. I am now 80% nurse with only 88 days left until graduation! This term reminded me of the beauty of fun…of embracing long summer days, new experiences, new friends and adventures of all kinds.
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 all about the community…community nursing, first responders, home visits, social workers, and hours spent on hold! This term showed me a slower pace in nursing, a work that’s built upon seeing beyond indecent living conditions and bad life choices, and believing that these individuals have more life to live.
This term was humbling. Walking into a home visit, where cigarette smoke overwhelms you at the door, where live cockroaches infest the kitchen counter, where your patient lies on a hospital bed in the same clothes as two weeks ago and you wonder what his story is. You wonder if it’s always been this way…you wonder when was the last time that he was checked on…and you see the potential, the ways you might be able to help, to offer what he wants and so desperately needs but what he can’t attain on his own. You dream big for these patients and believe that you can be the one to bring health and healing into their lives again. And then you make a few phone calls, wait on hold for 45 minutes, and are told “no” too many times or are told that your patient doesn’t qualify for services or benefits, that he doesn’t fit within the extremely narrow category that would qualify him, that there’s not enough resources to support a person like him…and you start to wonder how any of us make it in this world. And so, for these patients, you fight a little harder, you find and cling to any connections within the broken system, you offer to wait on hold just a few minutes more, you advocate for the broken and oppressed…and you hope and pray that you’ll be able to deliver.
And when that 10 weeks came to a close, when I had done all that I could do, when we worked to accomplish at least 3 of the patient’s goals with still several others going unmet, I still felt defeated. Like I hadn’t been able to finish the job or close the case. And then at our final visit, when we walked in and his face lit up as he told us about how he had watched the Steelers game last week and couldn’t wait to tell us a re-cap of the game, and how proud of his kids he was, and how he remembered his time in the way and how that time made him a better man…I realized that all he ever wanted was someone to care. Someone to show-up, to care about him and have invested interest in his needs and wants, to laugh and cry with, and someone to tell his stories to.
So this term…it taught me that the task list shouldn’t always be my driving force…that not everything will always get done in my timing and that I need to go slow enough to make sure I don’t miss the minor miracles around me that happen on a daily basis. Don’t ever let yourself get so caught up in your own agenda that you forget the actual needs of your patient. Whether inpatient or out in the community, each of your patients has a deep desire to know your care for them…don’t let the job distract you from remaining in that purpose and letting your patients know that you care…that you will always show-up for them, that you’ll advocate for their wellbeing and that you’ll truly listen and respond to their needs.
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.