Student Remarks Nurse Pinning 2016
Elaina De Mello
Good morning Dr. DiSalvo, Brother Isaac, Dean Cronin, Dean Gustafson, Abbot Matthew, members of the monastic community, Dr O'Reilly, faculty, family, and friends of the class of 2016, and thank you all for being here today to help us celebrate our pinning ceremony. Many of my classmates and I sit here today in anticipation of our nursing degrees at commencement, but in even more excitement to finally start pursuing our dreams. For many of us, the decision to become a nurse has been engrained in our hearts since we were children. Between caring for sick loved ones, experiencing hospital stays of our own, or just the sheer desire to love and care for those who are hurting, we discovered that nursing is more of a calling than a profession.
Before we officially became Anselmian's, many of us sat in the lecture hall in Gadbois on accepted student's day, anxiously waiting to meet some of our future professors. On that day, professor Fournier asked us to explain nursing in one word. After a moment of silence, one of us worked up the courage to utter the word "love". Many more words were spoken after this, but the word love is what continued to run through my mind and has stuck with me these past four years. When we decided to deposit our money and join the Saint Anselm Nursing class of 2016, we made the decision to learn how to love in a way that only a Saint Anselm nurse can.
During our time at Saint Anselm, we have been challenged in many ways to explore what nursing is and what we want to bring to our own nursing practice. On the last day of intro to professional nursing, we were asked to fill out a worksheet, titled, "Philosophy of Nursing." I remember sitting before that sheet of paper intimidated by the task. I felt so small. I had never even taken care of a patient before and somehow I was supposed to define what nursing meant to me. I knew in my heart that it meant to be love but I couldn't figure out how to translate these feelings onto paper. Three years later, we received these worksheets back. On my paper I had written: "I believe the core focus of nursing is caring for the physical, mental and spiritual needs of a person. Nursing is about giving love to those who need it most and helping those who cannot continue alone. It is about building relationships and making people feel like they are worthy."
After spending countless hours in the classroom, sim lab, and at clinical, I have had the opportunity to learn that nursing goes far beyond this. Our professors taught us the art of holistic nursing, but until we were given the opportunity to put this into practice, we were never able to fully appreciate the beauty that can be found in caring for another life. A lot of what I now believe to be at the core of nursing cannot be defined but rather it has to be felt and experienced. During clinical, I have been blessed with so many experiences that have shown me what it means to be a nurse. To be a nurse means to be present with your patients. It means you take the extra five minutes to sit at the bedside of an elderly man who is being admitted into the hospital and is crying because he is afraid for what is going to happen next. To be a nurse means to meet people where they are at. It means when a prisoner is escorted to your care by guards that you treat them with the same love and respect as your other patients, because you may be the only person that entire day who treats them with dignity. To be a nurse means you share in your patient's sufferings. It means when you meet a man in an elevator, crying because his baby just passed away, that you share one of the most raw and meaningful hugs you have ever given another human being. Part of nursing is being vulnerable, knowing that taking the responsibility to love and care for those who are sick and suffering can be the most joyful or heartbreaking decision you can make every day.
But most importantly, I have learned that to be a nurse means to love. Throughout the course of my clinical rotations, I have been lucky enough to spend time working in the emergency department. The high paced nature of the emergency department sometimes makes it hard to remember to put love into all of your actions. It took me a while to make this connection though. Somedays I would leave clinical and I wouldn't feel satisfied. I felt as if I was not providing my patients with the care they deserved but I could not figure out why. However, I experienced something that finally broke the walls down around my heart and forced me to put love into my actions. I witnessed my first pediatric trauma. Upon arrival, we received a child in cardiac arrest. As a student, I didn't really have a place in this code other than to observe, but the longer I stood there, the more my heart broke and the more helpless I felt. All I could hear was the father desperately crying out for his child. I have never heard a more heartwrenching sound than that of a parent mourning the loss of a child. In that moment, I knew my place was not in the corner of the trauma room. Slowly, I approached the father and laid a hand on his back. I'm not sure if he even noticed my presence, but I couldn't bear to watch him suffer alone. It took all of me not to cry in pain with him, so I prayed. I prayed feverishly to God to please let this little child's heart start beating and to please hold the broken hearts of the parents. I prayed for a miracle. As a team, we did our best to save this child's life, but in the end, God called this child home. For weeks, the scenes of that day kept rushing though my mind. I found myself feeling guilty that I was so upset when it wasn't even my child who passed away. However, as emotional as this experience was for me, it finally made me realize what I had been forgetting - I was forgetting to love. The sense of loss I was experiencing wasn't something to feel guilty over; it was beautiful reminder that I finally allowed myself to love the patients I was caring for. I'm not going to lie and say the next time I went to clinical I was ready to be vulnerable and love with all my heart. In all honesty, I was afraid to have my heart shattered again. Since that day, I have challenged myself to act with love upon arriving to clinical every morning, and I have never left feeling happier or more fulfilled than I do when I can honestly say I provided patient care laced with love. As nurses, we are blessed with the responsibility to care for people's lives and journey alongside them in their sufferings during some of their most vulnerable moments. For a brief second, we enter into their worlds and I believe if we enter with love we have the ability to provide healing that goes beyond simply caring for their physical needs. This is a gift.
I truly believe that our time here at Saint Anselm has taught us how to love and care for our patients in a very special way, and it is my prayer for all of us that we will never forget to bring this love wherever our careers may take us. These past four years have been filled with stress and anxiety, with some fun in between, but these experiences showed us that being Anselmian means you never make the journey alone. Between the love and support from our professors and one another, I know in my heart that when days on the floor are tough that we can always look to one another for the support of our Anselmian family. Even though we are leaving the Hilltop to pursue our dreams, Saint Anselm will never leave us and I hope we can wear that badge of honor proudly as we serve our patients with love. C. S. Lewis once wrote, "To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." To love is a gift. Thank you to everyone who has shown me over these past four years what love truly means. And thank you to all of our professors who have taught us what it means to love.