Thank you all for coming to celebrate this incredible day. The last time we were all in this sacred space together, we excitedly lined up in our brand new navy scrubs for the first time to have our hands blessed before entering the clinical setting. Since that day, all of these hands have done countless beautiful things. We have been trained to perform medical tasks: find pulses, take blood pressures, and do other medical procedures. We have also been given the gift of holding hands or grabbing shoulders of people who need something to ground them as they receive terrible news. What makes our program different from most is that we have learned how to integrate both the technical and spiritual aspects of nursing into our practice. I once tested a newborn's grasp reflex, and realized that my hand was the first one she ever held. I will never forget feeling her tiny fingers wrap around mine; a blessed connection in her very first moments in the world. These same hands have rubbed lotion onto the hands of a 104-year-old woman in the final hours of her life. As I cleaned her fingernails for the last time, I thought of how many people have held those hands before me. Her children, her husband, her mother- all those who loved and knew her through her whole life. Here I was, as a 21-year-old student, the last person to ever share that connection.
The patient I remember most vividly from our Intensive Care rotation will stay with me for life. The unconscious person in the bed was barely older than myself. Along with his many cuts and bruises, he had a dauntingly unknown amount of damage beneath the surface. I placed both my hands in his and said his name, asking him to squeeze them. I realized that while testing neurological status, level of consciousness, and muscle tone, I was also giving him something safe to cling to in that moment. I got to know the rest of his family that day as well, so as I continued caring for this man through the shift, I felt like I had known him. I knew his life and the people he loved and cared for. I watched his wife sit by his bed all day long, clinging to his hand as if it was the last physical connection between him and reality. I saw her pain as he laid in the hospital bed, connected to countless tubes and wires leading in and out of his body, keeping him alive. As we finished the shift, the resource nurse approached me, asking if we could speak for a minute. Of course, my mind started racing, trying to think back on if I had made a mistake. But the sad look on her face told me it was something to do with his status. She then informed me that his most recent MRI had shown severe brain damage to the point where if he ever left the hospital, he would be wheelchair bound, unable to speak, and may not even recognize his family for the rest of his life. I carried him in my heart until our next shift at the hospital, where I expected to see him still laying in bed, potentially with a hole in his throat in order to survive. I was also prepared for the fact that the family may have decided to withdraw life support, and his bed would be occupied by another patient. I walked onto the unit, my heart heavy, and I turned the corner. I saw him. He was holding the hands of two nurses, he was putting one foot in front of the other. Walking. This man who they were convinced might never wake up, was walking toward me on the unit, looking into my eyes. I have never expected to see a miracle, but this was pretty close. I felt a deep sense of true, nearly tangible joy that day that I will carry for the rest of my career.
Each of us has grown so much over the past few years, and I still can not believe we are about to end our time at Saint Anselm. We have survived countless study sessions, late nights, and seemingly endless hours of adaptive quizzing. We have shared our fears and dreams, and encouraged each other when planning for the future. As a class, we have formed a tight bond as well as a healthy competition, and are now more than prepared to take on the world of nursing as professionals. I believe I can speak for all of us when I thank our professors as well. You have challenged us and shown us what it means to be nurses, and we will remember that forever. We thank each of you from the bottom of our hearts for answering every one of our questions, for hugging us through the inevitable tears, and for encouraging us in our success. Thank you for pointing out strengths we did not even know we had, and for helping us improve in areas where we need growth. You have truly touched us, and we can only hope to have that same power in what we touch as nurses. So for all of our future patients, and all the things our hands will perform and heal in the future, I am thankful for the education the Nursing Class of 2017 has received together. I am endlessly grateful for all of you, and the support we have been able to give each other in this program. Thank you.