Service Is a Privilege
I believe service is a privilege, not just an obligation. Taking care of my sick parents in my teens inspired in me a dream of becoming a doctor to serve the patients. However, growing up in China during the famous “Cultural Revolution”, I could not attend schools as I desired. It was not until 1977, schools in China resumed sort of normalcy, and the colleges started to base enrollment mainly on scores of Entrance Exams on many subjects. I was admitted to Beijing Normal University as that type of universities was the only option for students who were already teaching. Having studied in the U. S. for a few semesters at the English as a Second Language Program in University of North Texas, I came close to my passion by first becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse, and then a Registered Nurse. Strange to say, I found it more intense studying in nursing programs than in the ESL Program. Over the years, I also obtained a Texas Educator Certificate. Nursing, compared with teaching, can be more unpredictably challenging at times; I deem it as an honor to be entrusted with the responsibility of patient care. In that spirit, my job has not been a chore or a burden, but the fulfillment of my mission. The accomplishment of my work at the end of the day adds gratification to my feelings.
I will never forget how traumatic the care and treatment I received from some of the nurses in “the old China” in 70s. At my child’s birth, I was not even informed of its gender. When I asked, a nurse grudgingly told me “ A male”. Naturally I wanted to see him and hold him, but I was not even given a look at him despite my request. Unable to rest for hours, I sneaked into the unattended newborns’ room to steal a look at my son, with no clue which one was mine. I wandered apprehensively among a large group of the newborns, one of whom had obvious lip deformity, until I finally located my indicative hospital-bed number at the side of a crib. I was not able to find out my son’s birth weight either, as the scale was out of order during my hospital stay. Acknowledging that kind of arbitrary treatment was what we were all getting, I launched no protest, though I felt chilled to the bones. Working as a teacher in those years, I was not sure whether it was the general practice of obstetrics in China then; nevertheless, it would sound appalling to any nurses I have worked with.
From my perspective, nursing is not just a job we perform, but rather a humane touch we deliver when a patient needs it most at his or her relatively vulnerable moments. Conscientious and competent nurses can ease patients’ emotional or physical pain, enhance their self or general care, alleviate their bodily distress and maintain their human dignity. Nurses are often present in patients’ most private spaces and share their extremely personal experiences. I still remember when one of my patients finally agreed and asked me to stay after my shift to manually assist her with the elimination of her constipated bowel movement, saying that I would be “gentler” to her, I considered it as an honor of trust, rather than an addition of task.
At nursing school, we were asked to each write our nursing philosophy as mission statements. I wrote the following:
A nurse is a nonjudgmental therapist, a considerate sister or brother, as well as a helping angel.
He or she has dexterous hands, flying feet, a quick mind, a cool head, and most importantly, an empathizing heart. Nursing is a sacred profession that witnesses the birth, the suffering and the ending of human life. A nurse should not be hardened by the cruel reality of life, but softened by the powerless nature of human beings. The core of nursing experience is the act of caring. With caring comes prudence, humility, common sense, intelligence, and even wisdom. A good attitude and continued education are essential in being a conscientious and competent nurse.
I remember stating at the Graduation Ceremony that attending nursing school or working as a nurse could be very demanding, but I would not regret my choice. Now I am even encouraging my son to go to nursing school too. In many cases, the quality of our service can directly impact the well-being of the people we serve. After being a nurse or case manager for over 14 years, my practice has actually strengthened my conviction that nursing is also a privilege. Only with such a belief, are we motivated to tackle the root causes of the problems or go beyond the call of our duties.
In fact, in a broader sense, all services, where I attend to the public, either waiting on table or waiting upon patients at bedside, are privileges as well as duties.