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Healing is an art form

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What’s it really like to be a nurse? The inspiring film “A Nurse I Am” answers that question by featuring four compassionate, caring nurse role models who are deeply committed to their patients and profession.

Every year, Cherokee Uniforms holds a scholarship program based on the film. Entrants are asked to write an essay in response to “A Nurse I Am,” and the 10 winners each receive a $2000 scholarship to put toward their nursing education. Here’s one of the winning essays.

 How healing patients is an art form

“Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s spirit?” – Florence Nightingale

Nursing is the art of healing not only physical bodies, but human souls, through experience and study. But our “masterpieces” are worth far more than canvas or marble and are often hurting both physically and emotionally. They see their nurse as the face of the fight, their fight, their refuge, and their advocate; it is our duty to nurture this vulnerable relationship to ensure holistic healing.

Nurses are blessed with the opportunity to make a profound impact on patients, because we cross paths with individuals going through difficult times. In their angst, they are quick to make judgments regarding the care they are receiving, using the medical personnel they come in contact with as a basis for this discernment. Nurses ought to make use of precious time with patients, using it to contribute to satisfaction by offering genuine concern, safety, and excellence.

Mona Counts does just that. Mona is notorious for being a selfless and humble caregiver in her impoverished community. What really stood out to me was how inquisitive she was with her patients about topics seemingly unrelated to health, constantly asking things such as, “Who do you live with?” and “Are they taking good care of you?” She spoke with one man about hiring a spokesperson to have ready to take care of any legal, health-related issues, even offering to call the bank for him. These behaviors indicate that she is genuinely concerned about every realm in her patients’ lives, even areas in which no one would expect her, as a nurse practitioner, to consider.

She realizes that patients need to have healthy and safe home lives if they are to succeed in managing or improving their health, a belief that I have adopted myself. What I will remember about Mona Counts is that she meets her patients where they are. She refuses to let their lack of finances serve as an obstacle, using simple treatment techniques and patient education to get them where they need to be. This approach is a tool I will use as a nurse to prevent distant feelings with my patients, letting them know that no matter their financial or personal situation, they will receive excellent care and I will be by their side, working through every detail to get them healthy.

Not all patients look to their nurses as wonderful, helpful, and gentle caregivers. Many times, pediatric cancer patients are incapable of understanding the healing nurses bring, which unfortunately often comes through needles and nausea. Bob Wilkinson steps up to the challenge, delivering care to both sick children and their anxious parents. He realizes the severity of each patient’s situation, yet knows when the children simply needed laughter. I watched in amazement as he used distraction techniques such as providing toys, singing, or telling stories to transform a cold, sterile hospital room into a safe home-away-from-home, equipped with a confident and joyful nurse.

It is no surprise to me that he was nominated for the Inspired Comfort Award after observing his dedication, compassion, intelligence, and skill. Chemotherapy is a ruthless process that fuels a depressed and bitter disposition, but nurses like Bob refuse to let cancer destroy their patients’ hope, or even their perception of medical personnel, using the vulnerable time as an opportunity to impress on these families just how much nurses and doctors care about their happiness, pain relief, and safety. In the same way, I have decided to be a nurse who grasps onto hope for my patients, so that they know healthcare workers can help them turn distressing situations into positive experiences.

As an artist creates their work as a means of expressing and inducing certain feelings, so I as a nurse will make it my goal to work in a way that not only brings about healing in my patients, but also provides them with an excellent healthcare experience. “A Nurse I Am” instilled in me new beliefs that will become the foundation of my never-ending journey of becoming the best nurse possible, not to bring glory to myself, but to do my part in reflecting the high standard of excellence I am held to in calling myself a nurse.

By Amy Skwarcan

Read more inspiring essays by the 2012 winners of A Nurse I Am Scholarship Program here.

Caption: Amy Skwarcan–Purdue University

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