The Honor of Being a Nurse

This is one of the speeches from the recent convocation ceremony for the BYU College of Nursing, given by Aubrey Sandberg.

My friends, congratulations! We made it to graduation! We survived clinicals, pre & post assessments, tests, simulations, pass-offs, 5 am drives to Salt Lake, crazy amounts of traffic, care plans and NCLEX questions. We’ve pushed through blood, sweat, tears and all the other bodily fluids found at clinical. We’ve seen birth and death and everything in between and we made it! And for some of us that is a literal miracle. Thanks to our cohort, amazing professors, family and friends—we are here today. But most of all it is thanks to our Savior and His love and grace.

Many of you who know me know that I am obsessed with grace. My two mottos in life are “B is for Balance”—which is a speech for another day—and “Grace is Real.” Like many of you, I have been battling some intense health challenges all throughout the Nursing Program, and I know that it is only through His grace that I am literally standing here today. I really do love our nursing theme, “I would learn the Healer’s art” and the song Lord, I Would Follow Thee. I especially love the first verse where it talks about taking the time to help others and “finding strength beyond our own” as we strive to do so. I am a personal witness that this literal strength and help – or grace – is real and I am so grateful for my Savior because of it.

President Uchtdorf said, “When I think of the Savior, I often picture Him with hands outstretched, reaching out to comfort, heal, bless, and love.” And I, like many of you, have been a recipient of that comfort, healing and love. My favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon is 3 Nephi 17, when Christ is visiting the Americas and heals the sick and blesses the children.

Christ is about to leave for the night when he sees how sad the people look and says, “Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy… [The Savior] did heal them every one.”

Sister Esplin quoted this passage in her April 2016 talk. She explains  how wonderful it will be when Christ comes again and how she imagines it will be very similar to this passage of scripture.  However, she said until He comes again “He asks us to be His hands.” President Uchtdorf likewise said, “As we emulate the Savior’s perfect example of love and service our hands become His hands”

As nurses, we have the unique opportunity to be instruments in the Hands of the Master Healer.  In the New Testament, most of the Savior’s time and miracles were spent healing others. We have that same opportunity today. While it is a daunting and emotional task at times, it is so rewarding. In Sister Esplin’s talk she said, “Don’t think of your task as a burden, think of it as an opportunity to learn what love really is.”

I have noticed there is a 100% correlation in my happiness/fulfillment as a nurse and how close I am to the Savior. On days where I am distant from Him for whatever reason, I find myself burned out. And nursing is hard! Besides the 13-hour shifts, holidays, weekends and nights-it is emotionally draining. It is hard to stand there when a patient is diagnosed with terminal cancer, it is painful to listen to children talk about abuse, we naturally ache when a woman is sobbing about her miscarriage and her fears about never being able to have children. And the only way I have been able to get through those emotional times is through the Savior. I love the quote from Preach My Gospel that says, “All that is unfair about life will be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

As nurses we see a lot of the unfair. However, we also see a lot of the joy: a mother’s face when you place her newborn in her arms, the look of relief on family member’s face when a surgery goes well, the day a NICU baby finally gets to go home, and the list goes on and on.

One specific example from my life happened when a patient got to ring the bell after cancer treatment. I did my capstone rotation on the Cancer/Transplant Unit at Primary Children’s and it definitely had its shares of ups and downs. However, one of the most rewarding experiences is after a child finishes their cancer treatment they get to ring a bell before they go home. I was there one day when a patient got to leave after a bone marrow transplant. This particular patient had relapsed and her prognosis did not look good. However, after months of being in the hospital, she finally was healthy enough to go home. So, when her mom made an announcement that she was going to ring the bell everyone came! Her extended family, the clinic employees, the pharmacist, the team of doctors, every nurse and tech and a lot of families on the unit. The hall was packed! She thanked everybody for coming and for our help, we sang her a song and she got to ring the bell three times loudly. Sobbing she immediately ran to her primary nurse and doctor they hugged her for a long time. I hardly knew the patient but I was sobbing too! It was one of the most rewarding and spiritual experiences of my life. I am grateful for both the hard and rewarding moments in our career because they provide us the opportunity to stay close to our Savior and maintain an eternal perspective in life.

One of my favorite quotes about nursing is by Thom Dick. He said, “You are going to be there when a lot of people are born. You are going to be there when a lot of people die. Such moments are regarded as sacred and private, made special by a divine presence. What an honor it is to be a nurse.”

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of BYU’s Nursing Program. I truly do believe it is an honor to be a nurse. I know if Christ was here, He would spend time healing and serving the sick. But as Sister Esplin says, “For now, He asks us to be His hands.”

Thank you.

Aubrey Sandberg

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