My remarks are based on an address by President Thomas S. Monson entitled “Be Thou an Example.” The underlying theme of President Monson’s talk is threefold. “Fill your mind with truth; fill your heart with love; fill your life with service.” Today I want to focus briefly on these three points and how they not only embody the principles of discipleship in Christ, but also the principles of the Healer’s Art.
At the Brigham Young University College of Nursing, we follow a unique vision that defines our goals and aims in nursing. It is taken from Hymn 220 “Lord, I would follow thee” and it is the phrase “I would learn the Healer’s art.” Striving to learn the “Healer’s art” and apply it to nursing practice is a profound and often daunting task. However, as the graduating class of 2016 can attest, “Learning the Healer’s art” has offered some of the greatest blessings that nursing school can provide and has set us on a road to provide Christ-like care to our future patients.
So first, returning to President Monson, “Fill your mind with truth.” Through the gospel, we learn the great truth of human identity which is that each patient is more than an ID number and a diagnosis. In truth, each patient is a son or daughter of God, with divine and limitless potential. The call to serve a child of God in a moment of greatest distress and vulnerability gives us the opportunity to practice and apply the Healer’s art; which includes the Christ-like attributes of empathy, compassion, love, patience, understanding, and reliance on our Heavenly Father. As we strive to develop the attributes of Christ and to acknowledge the divine identities of those we serve, our minds will be filled with truth.
Second, President Monson instructs us to “Fill our lives with service.” In so many ways, nursing is defined by the service we provide to patients in all varieties of situations. Service also is key to discipleship in Christ. Nearly three years ago, Kent Blad, the undergraduate associate dean, shared this profound thought with us at a celebratory dinner as we entered into the nursing program. He said “Nursing is one of the only professions where you get paid to serve.” Some may argue that receiving a wage for service defeats the purpose and even negates the blessings of that service. But I believe that it depends on the degree in which we apply the Healer’s art to our service. The Healer’s art helps us see that true Christ-like service is more than just providing nursing care, it is a mentality of compassion and the intent to love that powers and motivates the care. True love and true service lead us to Christ.
Finally, President Monson invites us to “Fill our hearts with love.” I believe that a “heart filled with love” is the inevitable outcome of a “mind filled with truth” and a “life filled with service.” As we always strive to remember the divine identity of our patients and strive to serve them with Christ-like love and compassion, we find that the love of Christ takes hold of our hearts and guides and directs our work. We are transcended to a higher plane of nursing where we are filled with the Healers art and become the hands of God in blessing the lives of His children. I have seen those hands in a student nurse massaging the aged and cracked feet of an elderly man. I have seen those hands in a student nurse wiping the dampened brow of a mother delivering her first child. I have seen those hands in a student nurse lifting the feeble spirit of a man with depression. It has been a blessing to me to be among my peers as they have, in their individual ways, blessed the lives of those around them.
In conclusion, I would like to share one personal experience when I had the blessed opportunity to be the hands of God during one particular clinical experience.
Over the course of a four-week period, I had the opportunity to care for an elderly man with acute pancreatitis who lay in a coma. Now, you might wonder what it is like to care for a patient who is unable to speak or even respond to your words, to your nursing cares, or even your touch. While caring for this man, I learned a deeply valuable lesson about the Healer’s art.
One day while providing oral care to the patient, my nurse observed my technique and stopped me. She looked at me and said “Deven, I know that this man is unconscious, but you cannot allow that to change the way you treat him. He is still here, and still deserving our best and most compassionate care.” At that moment, I suddenly saw this man as a child of God in a moment of deepest need and vulnerability.
From then on, my care changed. I was more caring, more loving, more intent to provide loving service to a man who never could respond to thank me for my actions. A few days later, he died, leaving behind a profound appreciation for life instilled in me. As I have reflected on this experience, I am so grateful for the chance I had to be the hands of God in applying the Healer’s art while caring for this son of God and I have sought to apply this same lesson to all the patients that I care for.
Now, I would be amiss if I did not take a brief moment to express gratitude on behalf of the graduating class.
First, to the faculty. It is almost difficult to say faculty because at this point we see our teachers more as mentors and friends. We will be forever grateful for the guidance and care you have provided us over the course of these past three years. You have helped to shape and mold our nursing practice in such a way that I know we will be forever grateful for.
Second, to the staff at the college, those who sit behind the scenes and allow the programs to operate successfully, we thank you.
To the dean and associate deans, we are grateful for your inspiring messages and your caring words that have been provided to us along every step of our undergraduate journey.
To family and friends, we are forever grateful for the love and support you have provided by loving us, praying for us, and cheering us on during this both difficult and rewarding adventure.
To the graduating class of 2016, I am thankful for the wonderful times we have shared, for the invaluable lessons you have taught me, and for the deep friendships we have developed together.
And to my dear wife, I will always be in
debted to you for you love and kindness and patience with me as I have spent many hours dedicated to my education and research over the past few years. Thank you for your unwavering support and love.
As we move forward into the great profession of nursing, may we never forget what it means to learn the Healer’s art. May we strive to be filled with Christ-like love and compassion. May we strive to be the hands of God in caring for the brokenhearted and downtrod. May it ever be said of the graduating class of 2016 that we “filled our minds with truth” that we “filled our lives with service,” and that we “filled our hearts with love” as we went forward from this place to practice the Healer’s art.
By Deven Jennings—A recent BYU College of Nursing undergraduate program graduate that spoke during the April college convocation on Friday, April 22.