Good evening everyone!
For the benefit of my fellow students, I’ll begin by admitting that I am currently experiencing tachycardia, tachypnea, and diaphoresis. I may have even thrown a few PVC’s. For everyone else in the audience, that translates as rapid heart rate, rapid respirations and profuse sweating. Allow me a moment to compose myself.
As I sat down to write a speech about the tornado that was my life the past 4 years, I really struggled on where to begin. Let’s make it easy and start at the beginning.
I remember the anxiety attack I had as I left orientation the first day of nursing school. I had planned my outfit. I was excited, ambitious, anxious, and with eyes as wide as a squirrel, I was ready to soak in every word the faculty had to say. Then, they started talking. Were they speaking English? Soon enough we’d learn the nursing language. Were they trying to make us break down and run as far away as possible? Nursing school is not for the weak, and they let us know that honestly and up front. With books double the size of an encyclopedia for each class, I toughened up and decided I was going to put everything I had into this and become who I’d always known I was meant to be – a nurse. Developing hands that move to heal, a heart that cares for the broken, ears that listen to what is unspoken, and eyes that see what may be hidden – I was going to be a nurse and everything a nurse is and should be.
I remember the day my stethoscope came in the mail. It was like an attachment of a new body part as I slipped the pieces into my ears and went around listening to every heart and lung in the room. Thanks, mom and Dad.
It was one of those moments where the little girl with the toy stethoscope knew she had grown up to live her dreams.
Most of the anxiety passed as we began the program, and it quickly turned into stress as we dove into the workload expected of us. I think I can speak for nearly everyone in my class who at one point or another either did or thought really hard about having a nervous breakdown. After taking Mental Health, I think we’ve all diagnosed ourselves with at least one personality disorder as well! Don’t worry, we’ve diagnosed you too!
No, but really. Familes. Friends. We know we did not get to this moment alone. Thank you for standing beside us, letting us bake dozens of goodies, run for miles, cry our eyes out, miss dinners and family events, and barricade ourselves to study whenever necessary to get through those moments. Without your sacrifice, support, and encouragement these past 4 years, we may not be standing in this room today. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.
While I’m onto “thank you’s”: Regis, thank you for not making us practice invasive procedures like catheters and IV’s on each other. What a relief when I found out an NG tube was NOT going to be dropped down MY throat nor would I be a pin cushion for my friends!
Thank you to Starbucks and Einsteins for helping us surge more caffeine into our systems than blood in order to make it through the day.
Nursing school changes a person. Suddenly, you start checking out the size of the person’s veins ahead of you in the grocery line for IV access. You start diagnosing someone with Parkinson’s or MS just by the way they walk. If they have swollen ankles, they must have a heart condition. You wash your hands for a full minute while in public restrooms and turn the faucet off with your elbows. If someone coughs or sneezes nearby, you have a very strong urge to run for cover. When someone asks you for a pen, you usually have at least three to choose from. And every one of your family members and friends begins coming to you with the slightest ache, pain, injury, and symptom fully expecting an assessment and diagnosis. Here’s your diagnosis: TMI.
If you would have walked into one of our classes during this last quarter, you would see probably half of the students faces ducked behind their computers. What we were honestly doing on those computers I must keep a secret. Nursing student code. But, I will tell you that I made good use of that computer while writing this speech and did a facebook survey to see how people might describe a nurse. To my delight, I did not get a single response that said, “overworked and underpaid” or “grouchy old lady who pokes people with needles for the sheer pleasure of it.”
Rather, I got responses like, “Compassionate” “Angels in White” “hardworking, attentive, responsible, caring, meticulous, educated, productive, intelligent, thoughtful, motivated, goal oriented, merciful, team player” and so many more positive adjectives.
But the word I want to focus on tonight is empathy. I made use of that computer for more than just facebook and looked up the word empathy on dictionary.com. This is what it says:
“Identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.”
Or yet another says:
“Vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.”
Empathy is best described, though, not in words, but in the actions of a nurse.
*Empathy is a nursing student working a 13 hour shift and forgetting to eat or stopping to use the bathroom because the patient’s needs are placed above his or her own.
*Empathy is a nursing student walking down the hall to a pediatric patient’s room every hour to collect a diaper, inspect, weigh, and chart the less-than-pleasant findings.
*Empathy is a nursing student going into the hospital the night before their shift and spending hours upon hours researching every aspect of their assigned patient to provide the best care possible the next day.
*Empathy is a nursing student who learns to hide the repulsed look their face so desperately wants to make as they change a dressing or empty a drain.
*Empathy is a nursing student who cares so much about her education, she leaves class at the end of the school day to work an overnight shift or arrives first thing in the morning for that 8am class after having worked all night.
*Empathy is a nursing student who comes home after a series of four-hour long lectures at school and still has enough homework to fill up the night, but cooks and cleans and takes care of his or her family despite their exhaustion.
*Empathy is a nurse who learns to just be silent and be in the moment with the patient who just needs someone to cry with.
*Most of all, empathy is a nurse who takes his or her profession seriously with patients’ precious lives in their hands, double checks their work, and delivers safe, professional, and holistic care. This nurse views nursing not as a job or a task, but as a service to others to ensure the patient has the best quality of life possible.
Thank you to Regis University for teaching, developing, and guiding us into this kind of nursing – one where other people’s lives are bettered because of our choice to become nurses.
Congratulations to the graduating class of 2010.