To the college freshman who just decided on nursing,
I know why you want to be a nurse.
Nurses are important. Nursing seems fun and exciting, and you don't think you'll ever be bored. The media glorifies navy blue scrubs and stethoscopes draped around your neck, and you can't go anywhere without hearing about the guaranteed job placement. You passed AP biology and can name every single bone in the human body. Blood, urine, feces, salvia -- you can handle all of it with a straight face. So, you think that's what being a nurse is all about, right? Wrong.
You can search but you won't find the true meaning of becoming a nurse until you are in the depths of nursing school and the only thing getting you through is knowing that in a few months, you'll be able to sign the letters "BSN" after your name...
You can know every nursing intervention, but you won't find the true meaning of nursing until you sit beside an elderly patient and know that nothing in this world can save her, and all there's left for you to do is hold her hand and keep her comfortable until she dies.
You'll hear that one of our biggest jobs is being an advocate for our patients, but you won't understand until one day, in the middle of your routine physical assessment, you find the hidden, multi-colored bruises on the 3-year-old that won't even look you in the eyes. Your heart will drop to your feet and you'll swear that you will not sleep until you know that he is safe.
You'll learn that we love people when they're vulnerable, but you won't learn that until you have to give a bed bath to the middle-aged man who just had a stroke and can't bathe himself. You'll try to hide how awkward you feel because you're young enough to be his child, but as you try to make him feel as comfortable as possible, you'll learn more about dignity at that moment than some people learn in an entire lifetime.
Every class will teach you about empathy, but you won't truly feel empathy until you have to care for your first prisoner in the hospital. The guards surrounding his room will scare the life out of you, and you'll spend your day knowing that he could've raped, murdered, or hurt people. But, you'll walk into that room, put your fears aside, and remind yourself that he is a human being still, and it's your job to care, regardless of what he did.
Each nurse you meet will beam with pride when they tell you that we've won "Most Trusted Profession" for seventeen years in a row, but you won't feel that trustworthy. In fact, you're going to feel like you know nothing sometimes. But when you have to hold the sobbing, single mother who just received a positive breast cancer diagnosis, you'll feel it. Amid her sobs of wondering what she will do with her kids and how she's ever going to pay for treatment, she will look at you like you have all of the answers that she needs, and you'll learn why we've won that award so many times.
You'll read on Facebook about the nurses who forget to eat and pee during their 12-hour shifts and swear that you won't forget about those things. But one day you'll leave the hospital after an entire shift of trying to get your dying patient to eat anything and you'll realize that you haven't had food since 6:30 A.M. and you, too, will be one of those nurses who put everything else above themselves.
Too often we think of nursing as the medicine and the procedures and the IV pumps. We think of the shots and the bedpans and the baths. We think all the lab values and the blood levels that we have to memorize. We think it's all about the organs and the diseases. We think of the hospitals and the weekends and the holidays that we have to miss.
But, you're going to find that nursing isn't really about the medicine or the assessments. Being a nurse is so much more than anything that you can learn in school. Textbooks can't teach you compassion, and no amount of lecture time will teach you what it truly means to be a nurse.
So, you think you want to be a nurse?
Go for it. Study. Cry. Learn everything. Stay up late. Miss out on things. Give it absolutely everything that you have.
Because I promise you that the decision to dedicate your life to saving others is worth every sleepless night, failed test, or bad day that you're going to encounter during these next four years. Just keep holding on.
The nursing student with just one year left.
Five weeks, excluding finals and that's it. No more classes, first-day icebreakers, Pub Wednesdays, or game days at the Pepsi Ice Skating Rink. You. Are. Done. Crazy right?
In just a blink of an eye, your four years here at Illinois State University have flown by. It's heartbreaking because I know how much you love being here with your friends, enjoying every minute of living your best life, and not worrying about "adult" responsibilities. I can see how hard it is for you to fully accept that these next couple of weeks are your last weeks here.
You look at me with those eyes every time I mention how close the graduation date is, but I can't help but express my excitement and how proud I am even though I know for a fact that my senior year won't be the same without you here. Questions like who would I grab Panda Express on a weekly basis with? What about Sunday grocery trips? Or simply calling you and having you right at my door in a matter of minutes.
It's sure going to be different not only for me but the guys too. Why? Well, there's going to be no one to make random noises or say random things. All I can say is, you have made strong friendships with people you consider your lifelong friends — ones you'll stay in contact with until the end of time. It's amazing how much of an impact you have made on your friends, peers, and me. Everyone has so many nice things to say about you. I know you're smiling and shaking your head right now, but I have videos to prove it! Thanks to your family for creating and influencing that amazing heart of yours. They really did raise such an amazing person.
I am truly lucky to witness the good times and bad times with you these past two years. Those experiences have made you who you are today. From partying every weekend to getting your grades up to becoming captain of the hockey team, then struggling to find internships, to finding one, and finally in a couple of weeks...stepping into that stadium and on that stage to receive your diploma. I have so much much faith that you'll be nothing but successful, however, YOU have to believe in yourself as well.
In just weeks, you'll be considered an alumnus. Don't be sad, be happy about all of the memories you hold in your heart — all the friendships you've made, all the games you've led and won. I'll be waving, cheering, and, most likely, crying from the stands as you walk and receive your diploma. Be proud and walk with pride.
Here's to a great four years — the end of chapter 16 and the start of a new one.
Congratulations, baby, you did it!
P.S. Don't forget to come back and visit me and the guys!