2011 Winning Essay

2011 A Nurse I Am Scholarship winners were asked to answer the following: Which of the attributes of the nurses who appear in the film would you like to emulate - and why?

Christina Cooper

Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College
Saint Louis, MO

I very much enjoyed watching “A Nurse I Am” in our nursing leadership course. It was a particularly advantageous time to watch the documentary since I have just begun the job application process; therefore I have been doing a lot of self-reflection to prepare for those dreaded interview questions. I have learned from friends who have recently graduated nursing school and/or gotten a new nursing job that one question will always be asked: Why do you want to be a nurse? It may be phrased differently such as “Why would you be a good nurse?” but the gist remains the same. Potential employers want to know what attributes applicants encompass that will benefit them as nurses on the floor and will contribute to the organization. Fortunately, three attributes certainly made an impression on me as I watched “A Nurse I Am.”

Of all the positive attributes demonstrated by the nurses who appeared in the film, the attribute that I admire and would most like to emulate is the overwhelming drive to enhance a patient’s quality of life regardless of prognosis or circumstances. Bob Wilkinson really left an interminable impression on me in the way that he interacted with his patients – he not only provided nursing interventions that would minimize nausea, pain and the everyday rigors that accompany a cancer diagnosis, but he also lifted their spirits by singing songs, telling stories, and making jokes in a lighthearted and friendly manner. Even though it would have been easier to remain emotionally detached from the patients and to simply go through the motions, Mr. Wilkinson took the time to make each patient feel loved and valued. Mary Holt Anthony, chief nursing officer, in the film pointed out that nurses must have skills and be competent in the workplace, but being a great nurse requires so much more than medical proficiencies.

Additionally, I observed that the nurses featured in “A Nurse I Am” possessed extraordinary communication skills. After all, effective communication is at the root of all effective nursing interventions. The documentary demonstrates Angela Bytheway’s strength as a patient advocate, performing actions on behalf of her patients such as providing letters to medical professionals, employers, and insurance companies. In order to be a useful and successful patient advocate, a nurse must first hold patient communication in high regard. Without knowing and understanding the patient’s concerns, wishes, and feelings, a nurse would not be able to accurately articulate actions and decisions in the patient’s best interest. Primary care nurse practitioner Mona Counts commented that if you focus and really listen, the patient will always tell you what is wrong, even if it is not in proper medical terms. If a nurse really gets to know a patient, he or she will be more likely to detect when problems arise an when medical intervention is necessary.

Finally, I would most want to emulate the attribute of beneficence as exhibited by each and every nurse in the film. Beneficence goes beyond just wanting to do something positive in the world; it is a way of life. Beneficence is an unremitting determination to make a difference, to do the right thing in each and every situation. Ardis Bush made a statement that reflected her innate beneficence. Ms. Bush said that she expects to do the very best as a nurse because becoming a nurse was her choice; no one made her become a nurse. In other words, she strives to do the very best job that she can because of her inborn sense of virtuousness and not because she is fulfilling someone else’s dreams or trying to impress anyone. Mona Counts also displays beneficence each and every day in her family practice. Despite the long hours and the comparatively low salary to other available opportunities, Ms. Counts pours her heart and soul into the care she gives to every single patient so that they may be as healthy and happy as possible.

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