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.

Annemarie Swartz

Messiah College

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Mahatma Gandhi

This is exactly how Mona Counts lives her life. Exceptionally caring, focused, and engaged, Mona serves the rural Mt. Morris community as a Nurse Practitioner. Mona's job is not easy. Many of her patients come from low-income families and have chronic illnesses that produce a low quality of life. There is little fame and glory in rural nursing; it is not like nursing in a large research hospital with cutting edge technology and superiors offering praise and promotion. Yet Mona has chosen this path because the small victories and quiet successes in the lives of her neighbors and friends are worth every bit of her sacrifice. Undaunted of the messy lives of her patients and the hectic life of her own, Mona willingly embraces each person. She is real; there is no hiding behind medical diagnoses or shielding herself from pain by standing aloof. She sits with her patients and listens, humble, gentle, and fully present. She visits patients in their homes and shares in the joy of their health victories. The concern of the patient is the concern of Mona, whether she is on or off duty.

How can she give herself every day to the needs of others and not grow weary or hardened to the sufferings of others? Caring for others has become more of a job for Mona; it has become her life and her passion. Mona has not allowed illnesses, treatments, and care plans to become the center of her work. Always people and their needs are the core of her caregiving. And this is where she garners the strength to continue. Her exceptional skill in nursing is a gift that she employs on the behalf of others. Her knowledge is not grounds for pride or patronization but rather a basis for teaching and empowering others. Mona tirelessly gives because she recognizes that her abilities are gifts that she should not guard closely but instead impart to all who are in need. Diagnoses and medical treatments are not the extent of a person. Patient education, varicose vein stockings, or an Alzheimer's test to ease a patient's worrying are only the means to giving an opportunity for a life well-lived. It is this second chance at quality living that Mona strives to provide to her community. Each person, regardless of condition, deserves compassion and attentive care.

Mona stands as a great example for me as I seek to pursue a career in nursing in East Africa. Poverty, need, and disease are not where a person's story ends. Every patient must be cherished as a whole being, complete with emotions, dreams, fears, and needs. Nursing is not about treating illness but caring for the whole person behind the illness. As I move forward in my education and towards my career, I will strive to give of myself as generously as Mona has. I will endeavor to love each person I meet and provide quality care and compassion, always keeping people at the center of my practice. And when I begin to grow weary, I will remember that my knowledge, skills, and compassion are gifts that are not for me to hoard, nor are they an excuse for conceit or indifference. They are gifts to be shared wholeheartedly with all who are vulnerable and in need. Believing that each person is unique will help to guide me as I devote my life to serving others with undaunted love and compassion. Only in this generous giving of myself will I find that I have more of myself to give.

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