Friday, June 1, 2012

The Art and Science of Nursing

      My desire to be a nurse came about eight years ago when I was hospitalized on a pediatric floor for three weeks. I was the crazy kid who wanted to go back to the hospital when I came home because I missed “my nurses.” I remember the nurses who comforted me and listened when I was scared, and the nurse who told me “honey, crying isn’t going to help anything.”  After my experience as a patient, I knew I wanted to be a nurse who made a difference. I strive to be a genuine nurse of integrity and compassion, a life-long learner dedicated to collaboration and teamwork so that I can provide the best quality care possible.
      Jesus has called me to love the people around me—“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34).” He has also blessed me with a love for science and a longing to understand how the body functions so complexly. Being a nurse is one of the most tangible ways I can think of to love others using the characteristics and talents God has given me. Nursing is both an art and a science. To be a nurse is to care for the whole person—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. A nurse cannot adequately care for a patient unless he or she considers all aspects of care; being a nurse is not merely the ability to start an IV, remove sutures, or administer a medication.
      I firmly believe I can be the “smartest” nurse, but if I do not have compassion and know how to care for the whole person, my patients will suffer. Knowledge is important. Keeping up with research and being able to explain the complexity of a patient’s health status to the family is essential to nursing care. However, nursing is also about comforting the family of a dying patient, celebrating the little milestones of a stroke victim, and holding the hand of a crying child.
      I remember my first day of nursing clinicals, just two years ago. I was terrified to give a bed bath. Looking back I think, “Wow! Look how far we’ve come.” I remember my first patient; her name and diagnosis but little else. When I first started nursing school, I was so focused on disease and trying to make things perfect. Now I look back to more recent experiences, and I remember something different.
      I remember an older gentleman who was scared out of his mind for a complex surgical procedure he would be undergoing the next day. I remember seeing fear in his eyes, and seeing that fear eased when I simply asked if he wanted to go for a walk. With a smile on his face he said, “If I get to go on a date with you, then ABSOLUTELY!” I remember his wife, and how all three of us joked around about me “stealing” her husband to go on “walking dates.” We talked about his fears, and he told me about his faith in God and how it was the only thing that was going to sustain him. Yes, I learned a lot about his disease process, but I remember more than his diagnosis. I remember his family and his stories and his faith, and I remember praying for him every time I entered his room.
      Ultimately, nurses see patients at the best and worst moments of their lives, yet accept them the way they are. Nurses acknowledge the uniqueness of each patient by individualizing care, and through this they integrate knowledge and research with compassion and love. A nurse of integrity is a lifelong learner, someone who recognizes he or she is not all knowing, and one who is willing to ask questions of others in the clinical environment. A nurse realizes that he or she is just one part of a patient’s plan of care, and strives to interact with the entire healthcare team in order to provide patients with the best quality care.
      After graduation I will be starting a new career as a pediatric intensive care nurse. Nervous? Yes. Excited? Absolutely. I know I am starting out in one of the most challenging places in nursing. I am going to have days when I feel like I do not know anything. I am going to be placed in situations where I do not have the perfect words to say. But this is what I do know: GOD IS GOOD. He has given me this opportunity to love children and their families, and to grow as a leader. Ultimately, nursing combines the science of the human body and research with the art of communication, compassion and love, and I am blessed to be part of it.
           - Caitlin Leimbach is a recent graduate of South Dakota State University, and currently working as a nurse in the Sanford Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Sioux Falls. Caitlin is also a graduate section leader for our SD IHI Open School chapter.

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