2011 Winning Essay
Columbia University School of Nursing
New York City, NY
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to help people. In elementary school I wanted to become a doctor so that I could help people get better. During high school I decided I wanted to become a teacher so that I could help people learn. And then in college I realized I could do both; I wanted to become a nurse. The nurses in the film “A Nurse I Am” are leading the way as role models in the field of nursing and they exemplify in many ways what it means to be a great nurse. They are smart, they apply critical thinking, and they are compassionate. Although all of these are essential components to great patient care, the attribute that I most want to emulate is holistic care.
It was during college that I began to explore the option of becoming a nurse and several college experiences enabled me to realize that a fulfilling career would have involve not only meeting the physical needs of my patients, but also their mental, emotional, and spiritual needs through personal interaction. I had the opportunity to volunteer for an extended period of time in a level one trauma center during my senior year. I loved the fast-paced, adrenaline-charged environment, but I was consistently disappointed by the lack of compassion that my colleagues showed to our patients. I was always ready to help in the ways that physicians and nurses needed, but my main goal became showing the patients that I cared. Whether it meant asking how they were feeling or offering water or a warm blanket, it was these small gestures that brought a smile to people’s faces. Form this time on I made a resolution that I would always provide my patients with not only the best medical care, but also everything else that they needed.
During my youth I also had the privilege of providing extensive help to close friends and family members through their trials and extended hospital and home care. These experiences served to solidify my passion for nursing and substantiated my belief that personal relationship with patients and holistic care is of utmost importance. My cousin was diagnosed with a rare fat storage disease that caused him to be incapacitated until the time of his death at age three. His younger sister was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and her condition led to nine months of hospital stay over the course of three years and four open heart surgeries. While the importance of the expertise of well-trained physicians and nurses who comforted one cousin and saved the life of another was undeniable, it was those who took the time to make personal connection with our family that made the biggest difference in our lives.
Now that I have begun my own journey down the path of becoming a nurse, I am amazed each day by the positive effect that holistic care has on the patients that I serve. As confirmed by the stories shared in the film, each patient is so much more than just a diagnosis. Every individual brings to their experience emotions, expectations, and beliefs and even a simple acknowledgement of these can make a big difference. How do you feel about what the doctor just told you? When do you hope to return to work? What is the most important support system for you and is it easily accessible? Over and over again I have seen nurses overlook these types of questions and patients have been left to deal with all of this on their own. I will not be that nurse.