2016 Winning Essay

The 2016 A Nurse I Am Scholarship winners were asked to address the following:
As nurses continually interact with sick people, they may develop "compassion fatigue" over time and become hardened to the reality of difficulty and pain in patients' lives.
(1) Describe how one of the nurses in the "A Nurse I Am" videos overcame this challenge.
(2) How did their view of their patients help them maintain their compassion?
(3) Explain how you plan to maintain compassion in your nursing work over the long term.

Saundra Snow

University of Louisville

For some in this life, being a nurse is more than simply a career. It is a calling. Bob Wilkinson's work as a pediatric oncologist nurse at Kosair Children's Hospital serves as a perfect example of a man answering his calling to serve others. One can only imagine the emotional toll that must come from working with children who have a diagnosis of cancer. The term "compassion fatigue" seems like an inept attempt to quantify that which caregivers must cumulatively endure. However, Bob has overcome the development of this condition by remaining focused and dedicated to delivering the type of care that he would want his own children to receive. He views each of his patients as if they were a member of his own family.

In today's nursing school, students are taught not to identify too closely with the people we are being trained to treat. It is considered a hazard of the profession which can cloud our clinical judgment, and therefore, negatively affect our patient's outcome. However, I believe Bob has demonstrated how important it is to connect with each patient individually. It is his ability to view his patients as people that has made him unique. In a world where we have all become increasingly isolated and neutrality is the norm, Bob has provided humanity to his patients and to their families, and this has made all the difference.

The Bible states, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Possessing the capacity for empathy is part of what makes us human. Caring for another as you would for your own is what makes you a nurse. I believe that I will maintain my compassion for others because I too, possess deep empathy for others. I will maintain my strength because I know what it is like to be in pain. I know what it is like to be hurt and afraid. I know what it is like to have a parent in the hospital. I know what it is like to lose a loved one to cancer. I know what love and loss are because I have experienced both. Like many others, I have faced some difficult times in my life. But for the Grace of God, I did not have to face those situations alone. Just as I had people who cared for me, I will now care for others. It is my turn to give back. It is my calling to help those who are in pain, or are hurt and afraid. It is my turn to help those dealing with illness, injury or loss.

You see, my plan for battling "compassion fatigue" is to remind myself daily that at any given moment, I could be my patient. In any split second, someone I love could be the one dependent upon a stranger for comfort or care. And it is my sincerest prayer that if ever they do find themselves in need, they will land safely in the hands of someone who has maintained their capacity for competent, compassionate care.

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