2010 Winning Essay
Joelle R. Selk
University of Montana, Helena - College of Technology Nursing Department
Things are going very well as we speed through this semester. We've participated in a transition program for pregnant teens, two clinical weeks at the state mental hospital and a few days on the OB unit at the local hospital. I've gained much-needed experience in applying RN-level skills in those settings and have also been working part-time in a long-term care setting and a county health clinic. So life is very busy and rewarding these days.
"To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded" - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson's sentiment rings true for anyone who serves others in their workday life. For the nurses in "A Nurse I Am," assisting others in "breathing easier" is a calling rather than merely incidental to their jobs. Ardis Bush and Mona Counts impressed me in their personal accountability and commitment to the healing paths of their clients. They embrace each interaction as a healing opportunity for the client and a growth opportunity for themselves. Ardis and Mona tailor their environments to optimize service provisions, and they dynamically advocate for each individual to ensure high quality care. Most importantly, Ardis' and Mona's patients occupy center stage in their nursing discipline, and it is clear that each person senses their nurse's passion for quality care.
During my LPN clinical rotations, I experienced the interface between nursing theory and the realities of the field. I observed nurses who have diminished their practice into discrete tasks to complete each shift. Administration seems to encourage this suppose efficiency and discourages the investment of time to connect with patients. Ardis Bush overcomes this task-oriented tendency and retains the higher calling of nursing -- caring for the patient's whole being. She actively engages the patents with high-touch methods and comprehensively attends to their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. In one patient conversation, she advocates for the patient by saying, "You have the right to have your pain controlled while you are here." A look of appreciation crosses the client's face and one can detect a renewed sense of hope and empowerment. Ardis further embraces responsibility by stating she will discuss the topic of pain control with the nurse involved in the patient's care. In this manner, Ardis exhibits a higher level of accountability, a belief that she is responsible for the actions of all those in her charge. Ardis leverages her experience as a nurse manager to address high-tech needs which ultimately result in higher quality care and better patient outcomes. As Ardis receives her service award, it is clear she views Ben Taub General Hospital not just as a workplace, but as a community of care. Ardis manifest her own rewards through the way in which she serves her clients and peers. She has built effective teams and fostered a unit in which doctors and nurses operate with mutual respect. Ardis' example of teamwork through communication is one of the most critical nursing tasks we can learn. Relaying patient conditions in a timely and accurate fashion to other members of the healthcare team is critical to effective care. Ardis' interactions promote an effective healing environment and stand as a hallmark of exceptional nursing care.
Mona Counts impressed me with her understanding of the concepts of dignity and respect. She possesses an intimate knowledge of the rural inhabitants of Mt. Morris and intertwines humility with expertise in caring for her patients. Mona recognizes that "health is function" in a rural community. Each client's dignity and self-respect hinges on "doing for themselves." Mona encourages each person's involvement in their healing path. Her clients view her as a trusted partner in their healthcare, rather than an authoritarian practitioner. Mona's patients feel empowered to change their lifestyles in order to maintain function and improve their quality of life.
The nurses depicted in "A Nurse I Am" teach us how to retain the soul of nursing. I will aspire to emulate Ardis Bush's examples of holistic care and accountability by recognizing that each of my patient interactions can produce healing and prevent harm. Mona Counts' examples of humility and "health as function" will serve me well as I encourage my patients' participation in their plans of care. Most importantly, I will empower myself to maintain my own heath while I care for others. All too often, we devalue our own needs and ultimately undermine our ability to serve. The evolution of nursing rests on nursing ourselves and our fellow nurses just as actively as we care for our patients. Each nurse and individual will breathe easier in the knowledge that we are together striving to create a healing environment where each individual's needs are the heart of nursing care.