This I Believe – Being a Nurse
June of 2008 will mark the 30th anniversary of the beginning of my career as a Registered Nurse. I believe that being a nurse for more than half of my life has had the most powerful influence on who I have become. This career has, all at the same times, left me feeling humbled and awed, burnt out and inspired, hopeless and powerful, resented, respected, and mostly, loved and appreciated. In the same way as hearing an old song places us in a particular setting and experience, I can identify every event of my life, including marriages, divorces, having children, relocating, losing parents, and falling in love, with what type of nursing, and where, I was doing at the time.
Nursing has allowed me to touch people just by being myself. What greater gift could anyone ask for in a career? A constant chance to learn about myself and grow with every interaction. To gain perspective on what matters most in my life, by watching others struggle through illness to discover the same about themselves. To receive instant feedback on the effect that I have on a vulnerable person. To see, firsthand, the healing, comforting benefits of smiling, touching, listening, caring, and to witness that these are the things that really matter to people.
Every year, I get a card from the mother of a patient I gave chemotherapy to for testicular cancer when he was 21. I went to his wedding a few years later, and he is doing fine now. His mom thanks me for saving his life. Every year! I believe that not too many people get a holiday card like that!
I have seen things that most people never get a chance to see; patients struggling with unimaginable medical and social problems, losing loved-ones, facing death themselves; and these experiences have given me the gift of being nonjudgmental in so many situations. I now know that absolutely no one, rich or poor, is immune to physical, mental, and/or emotional disease, even addiction. We are all so alike, despite our superficial differences, and I completely identify with the expression, “…there but for the grace of God, go I”; for me, it means remembering to appreciate every minute, and every nuance, of my life.
I believe that this essay has given me the chance to say “thank you” to all the people who have allowed me to care for them over the years. It has been, and will continue to be, an honor and a privilege.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.