2007 Winning Essay
Erin A. Loskutoff
Yale School of Nursing
I sucessfully passed the NCLEX in March. I have antoher school year to complete before I graduate with an MSN, but in the meantime will be traveling to China as a Downs Fellow through the Yale Committee on International Health. I will be in Changsha, Hunan Province from Mid-May through Mid-August, conducting a research study that I designed (along with the help of a very dedicated faculty member at Yale, Dr. Juliette Shellman). The study is about the Meaning, Patterns and Functions of Reminiscence in Older Chinese Adults. (http://nursing.yale.edu/Centers/International/Announce/)
I also co-authored a journal article with my preceptor and medical director (at one of my clinical rotation sites). I believe the article will be published later this month, in "The Consultant."
I was invited to join Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society for Nursing earlier this spring. I believe it's the Delta Mu chapter at Yale.
Though only a novice nursing student, I have already enjoyed a myriad of poignant interactions with patients. I cherished the feeling of exhilaration when I completed my first smooth vitals signs assessment, after struggling with proper placement of blood pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters so many times previously. I savored the satisfaction of being able to concisely, accurately, and almost fluently give a mini-report to my clinical preceptor about a patient. And I humbly did the best I knew how when caring for a patient receiving hospice care, providing comfort measures only to her. It was such a privilege for me to care for her and interact with her family as they reminisced about her life and shared their loving memories of her with me.
And then there are the times when I still feel like an imposter, despite my scrubs and lab coat, a stethoscope dangling around me neck. How can I expect patients to trust my nursing skills when I can barely do so myself? Despite my compassionate nature, I still put my foot in my mouth more times than I care to count: After explaining to an adult patient that I was going to use my stethoscope to listen to his “tummy” in an effort to downplay the significance of routine assessment, I felt embarrassed when my preceptor reminded me that a patient might find my use of such words condescending. And I was absolutely horrified when I bounced into a patient’s room, asked him how he was doing in a bubbly manner, only to learn that he had been diagnosed just that afternoon with cancer.
At the time when I saw A Nurse I Am, I had been in nursing school for less than a week. In fact, I believe we watched the film in class on Day 2. I did not yet have a realistic idea of what nursing would encompass for me how my feelings and thoughts about becoming a nurse would evolve during the course of my first semester. I couldn’t estimate how many triumphs I would celebrate, or how many blunders were imminent. But I held fast to the portrayal of nurses as everyday heroes, sources of inspiration and reassurance to people during their times of profound vulnerability. Nurses have the privilege of forming rapidly intimate relationships with their patients, some of which extend beyond the duration of the patient’s illness. Upon truly realizing this, I embrace it as an inherent responsibility to professionally nurture trust between my patients and myself.
I see nursing not as a “job” or something done “at work”. “Career” doesn’t even seem quite appropriate; the essence of nursing isn’t entirely captured in the term. Nurses don’t forget patients as soon as assignments are concluded. Though we may attempt to separate ourselves emotionally as well as physically from a difficult shift, patients linger in our minds; they are teachers, lessons they impart invaluable, though we may not believe it in the moment. A nurse I am? Not yet in qualification, but always in spirit.