I often feel like I’m still more of a non-nurse than a nurse, that my patient assessments are merely elaborate acts or my official “Johns Hopkins School of Nursing” scrubs belong to someone else, someone who knows more about all of this than I do. And I sometimes wonder that patients and their families are so brave to trust their care to us, complete strangers who aren’t even done with school yet. They trust us to bathe them when they can’t do it themselves, to advocate for them, to be there when they are at their most
Photo by Rita Yau
vulnerable. They trust us to support them during their first few steps after a major surgery, to be there when they hear that the diagnosis is as devastating as they had feared, and to help during the birth of a child.
But then I remember that though we may not yet completely deserve this trust, it is also not wholly unmerited. To each patient’s bedside, we bring years of experience in fields from case management to finance to teaching, understanding of what it’s like to be in unfamiliar and unsettling places, and our own compassion and sensitivity. We bring what we’ve learned from patients, peers, and nurses about maintaining and holding sacred that trust. We bring our knowledge that a good nurse constantly assesses for ways to help patients and is keenly aware of the power of a healing touch or sincerely spoken words: “I will be here for you.”
I hope I can be such a nurse one day, and there is so much to learn. But for now, I know I understand how to make patients feel comfortable, safe, and—perhaps most importantly—heard. The confluence of our abilities and their needs can be beautiful.
Nursing school is preparing me to be a nurse, but it’s also preparing me for the present. It’s teaching me how to embrace the strange delight and burden of being human. By drawing on what I’ve learned in the hospital, I think I’m better at dealing with uncomfortable and distressing situations. I can more easily understand how to communicate in ways that are honest and empowering. I can more skillfully and intuitively anticipate the needs of others, and I know the significance of self-care.
As I graduate from school in December and move into my career, I hope I never forget how unique our roles are. I hope this knowledge is always humbling and never a source of unhealthy pride.
That I can enter a patient’s room for the first time at seven in the morning and, over the course of our brief time together, be allowed to enter into their life—that is an incredible gift.