2008 Winning Essay
University of Pennsylvania
I am now in my junior year of Nursing school at Penn. I am the Vice President of the Minorities in Nursing Organization at Penn and am applying for membership to Sigma Theta Tau, the international honor society of nursing. I have survived Med-Surg and am now onto my obstetrics and pediatric clinical rotations. I am in the midst of looking for nursing externships for the coming summer, which has not proven to be easy. Because of the current recession, it seems that several hospitals have not been able to support their nursing externship programs. Therefore, it is extra competitive to get a spot this year. However, fortunately, I have a couple interviews lined up. To prepare, I have made appointments at Career Services on campus to go through mock interviews with a career counselor. The career counselor has been truly helpful and I feel much more prepared for my interviews, even though I am usually a nervous wreck for them.
On campus, I am now working as a Research Assistant in the School of Nursing's Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research. It involves a lot of reading, critiquing, coding, and literature searches. I have learned a lot of valuable knowledge regarding the components of nursing research.
This summer, I was fortunate to become involved with the Office of Minority Health, HHS on their A Healthy Baby Begins With You campaign to bridge the racial gap in infant mortality. I was certified as a Preconception Health Peer Educator and returned to campus to hold training sessions in order to certify my peers as Preconception Peer Educators as well. We are now in the process of holding a health fair to reach the West Philadelphia community and disperse important preconception health messages. I look forward to a nursing externship, if I am lucky enough to get a spot, so that when it comes time to apply for RN positions after graduation, I can return to the hospital where I worked the summer before.
A question that I have been struggling with for quite some time is, “What exactly is a nurse?” I have been a nursing student for almost 2 years now and with all the preconceived notions of bedpans, impacted bowels, and burnout, quite frankly, sometimes I am both scared and unsure of what I may have gotten myself into. But there seems to be something that keeps me holding on, something that tells me that there’s more to it than what everyone else sees nursing to be, a key ingredient to the essence of nursing that everyone seems to forget. I’m still in the process of figuring out exactly what that is, but this 62-minute documentary has surely guided me in the right direction in my journey to finding the answer.
In my opinion, nurses aren’t angels. They don’t go hand in hand with hearts and rainbows. Nursing is about providing care, yes, but that does not entail that nurses’ only purpose is to be a compassionate hand to hold on to. Nursing integrates science and care. Nurses take the knowledge they have gained from their education as well as their experience and apply it each and every day, all while, being there to comfort patients in their times of need, whether what is needed is an IV, pain medication, or an ear that will listen. Like it said in the documentary, a nurse takes advantage of opportunities, faces daily challenges, and most importantly in my eyes, is a powerful advocate for the patient. Watching this video enlightened me to the most significant responsibilities of a nurse. I’ve realized that a nurse is the liaison between the doctor and the patient. They ensure that the patient fully understands what is happening to them in their most vulnerable states. Nurses are responsible for patient education and for making sure the patient understands what the doctor tells them. Ardis Bush said just a few words that really clarified what being a nurse is all about. She said that nurses treat the whole person, someone with feelings, someone who may cry – not just the diagnosis. In other words, doctors cure, but nurses heal. Ardis really helped me understand the difference between a doctor and a nurse. Nursing facilitates more meaningful patient interaction. I don’t want my patients to be just a statistic. I want to remember them and how strong they were emotionally when they weren’t strong physically. This video showed me that being a nurse will allow me to do just that.
Watching Ardis Bush in the documentary and reading about her accomplishments made me proud to be a nursing student because I now have the opportunity to be as innovative and compassionate as she is. Ardis is the epitome of a nurse who integrates science and caring into her daily life. She found a way to lower the rates of cardiopulmonary arrests on her unit as well as grant a dying man his last wish of being baptized. If anyone was to become a nurse, they should do so for the right reasons. Like Ardis said in the documentary, a nurse does not seek fame or fortune. However, what you do receive from nursing are intangible gifts, gifts that have no nominal worth. You receive the gift of knowing that at the end of the day, you will go home, and know that what you did all day at work truly mattered. Nursing will provide you with these invaluable gifts of life. Yes, you will be on your feet, battling a full bladder, enduring the consequences of rampant nursing shortage and dangerous staffing, but these things won’t seem to matter in the midst of it all because being a nurse will be eternally fulfilling.