God Can Use Us!
By Jannina M. Londoño, a Nyack College student (May 2015 graduation), and Nursing Companion at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell
As nursing students our skills may be limited, but as Christians we can help in miraculous ways. I work as a Nursing Companion in acute care, a position for nursing students with responsibilities limited to basic patient care.
One of my first patients was an older man with Alzheimer's disease. I was called to sit with him because of his risk for falls and elopement. His wife shared their beautiful love story that spanned almost 45 years. My heart broke as I watched her pain trying to communicate with her husband who didn't know her. A physician came in to explain that the patient wasn't eating or drinking enough and could require an IV and/or feeding tube. The wife broke down and left the room.
I prayed silently for God to comfort my patient, his wife to find peace, and to use me to support them. After prayer, I encouraged my patient to eat. At first he seemed interested, but he soon became agitated and swatted my hand away. I could feel my frustration rising, and again I prayed. To my surprise, I felt the Holy Spirit urging me to sing. I had never sung for a patient before and didn't know what to sing, but “Amazing Grace” came to mind.
My patient stopped suddenly at the sound and eyed me curiously. Nervously, and still singing, I tried again to feed him. As I raised the spoon to his mouth, he looked at me, smiled, and nodded. I felt like crying for joy as he ate his entire dinner and drank two cups of water and three protein drinks while I continued to sing. Afterward he put his hand on my arm, looked past me, and stared in awe. I don't know what he saw; all I know is the look on his face was full of joy. Tears rolled down his face as he said, “You have brought me to a wonderful place.”
When his wife returned, she was amazed and asked how I got him to eat. Apprehensively, I told her I had sung hymns to calm him. With tears in her eyes, she hugged me. She told me she was raised a Christian but lost her faith when her husband was diagnosed. She thanked me, and at her request, we prayed together. She asked me to sing again, and as I began, she joined in.
It was a beautiful moment. I stood in awe of God's answer to prayer and his power in praise. My patient continues to struggle with Alzheimer's, but he eats and drinks. His wife returned to church and rededicated her heart to God. We cannot underestimate God's capability to use us.
Music and Dementia
Familiar music touches something deep inside us. Neuroscience research supports that music decreases anxiety and agitation and improves mood in dementia. Discover the Music and Memory project (http://musicandmemory.org/), which provides personalized music via iPods to bring meaning and connection to those with dementia. Also see Alive Inside (http://www.aliveinside.us/#land), a documentary about the power of music in Alzheimer's disease.
Nursing School is Rigorous!
Try these tips for success, inspired by a nursing professor (Kersey, 2013).
1. Organize/prioritize. Put all tests, assignments, and study time on a calendar, and prioritize. List what and when you will read, complete assignments, study with others, and prepare for exams. Include breaks, exercise, and family. Leave time for the unexpected.
2. Discover how you learn best. Use strategies from your past, but also test yourself at regular intervals. Testing is proven to help you remember content, determine what you understand, and apply learning (Brown, Roediger III, & McDaniel, 2014).
3. Ask questions. Knowledge as you go through school becomes more complex. Ask questions to clarify.
4. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy food, exercise (see #1), maintain your relationship with God, and have some fun. Nursing school is a long-distance marathon; wholistic health is important!