2011 Winning Essay
Point Loma Nazarene University
San Diego, CA
I’m a sophomore in the nursing program at Point Loma Nazarene University. Already we are working in the hospital one day a week. This is a fascinating place to be in, as we get to see the image of a nurse from so many different angles. We get our professor’s ideas, our patients’ ideas, and the nurses and doctor’s ideas. We see inside, outside, and all around the picture of what a nurse should be. It was not until I watched this documentary on the Cherokee award-winning nurses, however, that it all started to fit into place in my mind. These nurse’s stories have shaped what I think it means to be a nurse, perhaps even more than my classes or clinical experience so far. This is not to say that what I have learned till now is wrong, far from it. I have been taught the importance of critical thinking, a caring presence, and the dedication that it takes to be a good nurse. I understand the need to care for each person as a whole, rather than just a patient. I have also seen how difficult this can be. It gets frantic at a nursing station, each nurse responsible for several patients at a time. They must assess, medicate, care and relate to them all, while still being careful to document everything they do. To mere mortals, this is an impossible task to do perfectly. How are nurse supposed to go about caring for each person as a whole, not considering each patient as just another task, when your days are inescapably dedicated by tasks? What these award-winning nurses showed me was that this act of caring for each person beyond the to do list – the listening, comforting, laughing, crying aspects of holistic care – was only possible when it was made a top priority.
Bob Wilkinson was inspiring in multiple ways, but what I noticed most was his attention to every aspect of his patients. He could have simply followed protocol, performed his tasks, and wished them good luck. Instead, he stayed with them. He felt their pain as his own and did everything he could to comfort them. Whether it was physical or emotional pain, if Bob could relieve it, he did. The purity of his selflessness was heartwarming to watch and had the power to move the most apathetic student to use each moment, not only to learn and succeed, but to truly care for each patient and all that that entails.
Ardis Bush defined not only her career, but her life by caring for people. She cared for her sick family members. She cared for her well family members. She cared for her patients to the extent that she went to their homes after they had been discharged. She listened without giving advice or making comments, just sitting and listening. In a garden, she let one of her patients cry about life with cancer. Bush inquired about her life and listened to her son play the piano. She could have been back home with her own family, relaxing and shedding the stress of the day. Instead she sought to take away some of her patient’s stress by simply being a friend in an attempt to give her hope and peace. Ardis Bush proved that it only takes a little effort to care for your patients beyond the hospital room.
Mona Counts never stopped being a nurse. She went so far to encourage her patients that she sat on the floor at their feet and talked to them, allaying their fears and educating them. She went to their homes, building a relationship with them, first as fellow humans. Then she used that opportunity to attend to their health. She focused on each person as if she had the entire day to spend only on them, not letting her busy schedule and endless to-do list get in the way of being with her patients. Her life of service shows me that sending patients the message that they are worthy of getting better is one of the best ways to heal.
The lives of Bob, Ardis, and Mona teach me as much about what nursing means as any course or program can. The knowledge a nurse must have and the tasks a nurse must accomplish are only part of the picture. Without the deep desire to better another person’s life, without actively prioritizing holistic care, without giving time to make relationships with patients the other aspects of being a nurse are meaningless.