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The unexpected skills of a top-notch nurse

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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.

The unexpected skills of a top-notch nurse

“Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.” – Chinese Proverb

The quote “Those who can’t do teach” does not apply to the nurses featured in the documentary “A Nurse I Am.” On the contrary, Mona Counts and Robert Wilkinson “can do” and because of their interpersonal and observational skills both end up teaching patients better healthcare alternatives.

Mona and Robert’s talent in care and interaction with patients is not the product of schooling. They gain trust and respect from their patients because they choose to listen and learn from them. There is a great pleasure in learning for the sake of learning. But there is even greater fulfillment in applying what is learned in ways that improve the lives of others. With each interaction, Mona and Robert form bonds with patients that extend beyond medications and mistakes.

Mona teaches that despite appearances, patients can inform a nurse what is troubling them even when they are unable to verbalize their ailments. She advises if a person really listens to the patient the story will unfold. Her interaction with Roxy is a fine example of active listening. Mona made sure she was at eye level with her patient and her calm demeanor established a good rapport that revealed Roxy’s detailed medical history. Trust was developed and because of that trust Mona better understood her patient’s illness and made a proper diagnosis. Mona maintains she would like to educate her patients well enough to “make good choices regarding their quality and how to maintain it or achieve it.”

Even with years of experience in his field, Robert never stops being a caring and dedicated professional who empathizes with his patients and their families. Whether it’s singing a song for his patient or comforting a concerned parent, Robert’s actions make it clear patients are not only his job requirement, but his personal priority.

The part in the documentary that was profoundly poignant for me was the care he extended to an emotionally distraught teenage girl who was depressed following chemotherapy. His concern for her well-being and desire to alleviate her pain was something of great value to him. He spoke with her as though he was her friend rather than her nurse.

The nursing profession is an intricate network of pharmacology, psychology, and science. During the nursing program, school feels like a means to an end. You graduate from the program, obtain your license, find employment, and maybe pursue an advanced degree. The program is as mentally stimulating as it is challenging and after a few semesters, you anticipate reaching the finish line. School provides basic tools necessary to perform your job well. In the long run, however, it is up to the individual to continue their education. Learning is constant and the successful nurse always prepares to question and seek answers.

I am a lifelong learner. I strive to always question and do my best to look for answers in order to provide patients with the best care possible. My education will not end once I have earned my degree. It will, in many respects, have just begun.

Like Mona and Robert, I will use multiple methods to determine what is acceptable to my patients. I will learn what form of communication, even when nonverbal, my patients require. I will learn when my patients need me to be silent. Through my patients I will learn how to alleviate their pain and worries, therefore making their hospital stay more comfortable. My textbooks and supervisors have shown me the principles and procedures important to nursing. Mona and Robert have proven that those who can do can teach. And patients can be the best educators to nurses willing to learn.

By Sandra Kasha

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

Caption: Sandra Kasha–Macomb Community College

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