Department: STUDENT VOICES
EVEN AS A CHILD, I wanted to become a person who makes a difference in the world, and I've always wondered how exactly to do that. Fast-forward many years later, when I found myself at the University of North Dakota working toward a second bachelor's degree, this time a BSN. Getting my BSN has taught me that nurses are exactly the type of people who can change the world—not only with their hands, but with their hearts too.
Remembering the person...
Not long ago, I took care of a patient who had rapidly advancing esophageal cancer. My first day spent with him went well. I thought to myself, “Okay, I can do this, it won't be so bad.” The second day I cared for him, he'd shaved his very thick beard and gotten a haircut, revealing his gaunt face, hollowed eyes, and pale skin. When I saw the sadness and desperation in his eyes, I realized no, this wasn't going to be so easy.
Truthfully, I wasn't sure how to even begin taking care of my patient. I noted his gastrostomy tube feedings had been recently discontinued and he was resuming oral intake. He hadn't tasted anything for over 6 months, so food was something he'd fallen back in love with. Since a love of food is something many of us can relate to, I thought I could start there.
...not just the patient
Over the next few hours and days, he told me many beautiful stories about his life through the medium of food: childhood memories of his mother baking peach cobbler for him; being the only boy in his home economics class who could make edible dishes; putting himself through college by working at a pizza place (and perfecting the handmade dough he created); and going on road trips to the South with friends whenever he got a craving for some good, old-fashioned barbeque.
The nurses and I made sure that this patient had no shortage of good food during the many long, lonely days he was with us; in fact, we even brought him some homemade peach cobbler. At the time, I felt as though this was such a small act in the midst of such a devastating diagnosis. But one of the nurses reminded me that when you treat a disease, you may win or you may lose, but when you treat a person, you'll always win no matter what the outcome.
Golden rule of nursing
As I sat talking with this patient on my last day taking care of him, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said: “Even though I'm dying, it has been the nurses along the way who have reminded me that I'm indeed still living. It has been the nurses who have reminded me that I'm still breathing, still feeling, and still capable of being seen not merely as a patient, but also loved as a person.” In this moment, I found myself exactly where I wanted to be in life. I found myself in a profession that can truly change the world, starting by making a difference in the lives of the people under their care each and every day.
Remember, live like you're on borrowed time, and practice nursing as though every patient is, too. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted, so practice nursing not only with your hands, but with your heart as well.