“Put your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” ~ Swami Sivananda.
I always wanted to be a nurse. I had two dress-up outfits as a child. One was a cowgirl outfit. It came with the sheriff’s badge, a waistcoat, skirt and holster with gun. Oh yes, and a hat. Somewhere there is a photo of me standing proudly, a cowgirl with a smile. My mother had taken us to see the movie Calamity Jane, one of my early memories. I also recall that I had been mad with her about something, and had spent much of the movie crouched behind the seat, refusing to look at the screen. But the action must have been enticing. At the end of the movie I asked if we could stay and watch it again! (If you know my mother, you will know that the obvious answer was ‘no’ – she was not to be manipulated by sulking children!)
But it was nursing that had my heart. I knew that nursing was about bandaging, so I bandaged everything within sight. My mother had a first aid book with diagrams of different bandages and styles, so I tied my dolls up in the old muslin strips we seemed to have in an assortment of shapes and sizes. Amazingly, I can’t say that I spent a lot of my days when I was in direct patient care applying bandages! In fact, before I started my career I had a different vision of what a nurse did. I could see myself hovering over a patient who had a fever, with my cool hand placed on the patient’s brow. The doctor was (in my vision) at the other side of the bed asking me “What do you think we should do, nurse?” Another ideal that never actually happened!
As a teenager I was given a beautiful book by one of my older sisters who was already nursing. It was a full size glossy coffee table style book of the human body in all its glory – each body system drawn in exquisite detail, with blown up side boxes described at the cellular level. Page after page of fascinating drawings: kidneys and brain and muscles and lungs. Nephrons and alveoli and neurons and blood cells. I was hooked.
Even though my two ideas of nursing never came to fruition (bandaging and fevered brow), I was never disappointed. Each day of being a student nurse gave me something new to learn. Each interaction with a patient taught me something different. But it was not just the mechanical operation of the human body that engaged me, not just the signs and symptoms of disorders, the recognition of impending crisis. It was the observation of the power of the human spirit, the amazing qualities displayed even at the worst of times.
The nurse is privileged to be witness to the best and worst of human behavior. She (he) is a part of beginnings and endings, she is with patients through mundane and embarrassing situations, through bad news and good news. She has to be the voice of reason and calm even as it looks as if all hell is breaking loose. When I was in labor with my fourth child, a weird thing happened. My contractions ceased. And since this coincided with his heart rate slowing to an unhealthy level, my room became filled with doctors, residents, medical students, anesthesiologists crowding in on me. The doctor in charge was yelling at me to get the baby out! I was thinking that maybe he should do something! Without contractions I couldn’t see how I was going to push this baby out. In the midst of this madness, in walked a midwife (coincidentally, a Jamaican) who took my hand and calmly told me I was going to do it. I heard nothing after that but her calm voice. It was as if there was only the nurse and me in the room (and yes, the baby made it!).
But what has been the most humbling experience for me as a nurse is to be an observer to the art of living. I have seen people handle pain, terminal diagnoses, and tragedy with such grace and dignity that I have been in awe. I have experienced situations where the patient who is suffering, is more concerned about her family, or even the nurse in the room, at a time when the sole focus should be the patient’s own wellbeing.
I learned in my early years in nursing, that there are people who own their own health and ability to heal. I am sure we all own it, but most of us do not activate it. We depend on pharmaceuticals, on the interventions of others, rather than trusting our own bodies to know what to do. For we are all born with an intrinsic impetus to self-healing. We can see it when we get a cut, that amazing ability to control bleeding, to knit cells back together.
But beyond that the research is beginning to support the hypothesis that the human organism has healing power deep within, cells which carry messages of healing and instructions to repair damaged or even cancerous cells. I have recently been reading the inspiring words of a friend (whom I have only met on Facebook) as she battles cancer. She has been treated with the best (and worst) of modern medicine, but she has also taken control of her own healing, by researching and trying alternative remedies. She has shared her stories and with an online community of fellow warriors, and in doing so has helped to inspire and empower those people to activate their own self-healing power. She has added love, humor, nature, and laughter to her daily routine, with amazing results. The human spirit at its best.
This Friday morning I hope you will send messages of appreciation to every cell of your hard-working body. Imagine sending impulses of love and gratitude to those organs and systems that support your life everyday whether you notice them or not. And if you are thinking of becoming a nurse, please recognize the privilege that you will have, and try to learn as much about the human body, mind and spirit as you can. You will gain far more than you can give.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!