Whether nursing students are learning about safe patient handling, isolation precautions, or bowel elimination, there is always something that I have learned that applies to building my character as I continue in my career of becoming a nurse. This has taught that no matter what we learn, the true point is to shape our character to provide the best care possible.
The idea of strengthening values and building character also influenced my actions in my clinical experience [last] semester. I had the opportunity to work at a nursing home and dealt with many patients who had a variety of health problems.
One week, I was working with a patient. (I’ll call her Katie.) I was nervous to work with this patient as a new student nurse. Not only did she suffer from hemiplegia and paraplegia, which severely limited her movement, she also could not speak.
She had suffered a stroke a few years back and had lost her ability to talk. Her only speech was three nonsensical syllables that she would say over and over again. She communicated by the tone of her voice saying those syllables and by moving the one arm that she still had control over.
Nothing in nursing school had prepared me for this. How was I supposed to help someone that could not even express to me what she needed? I spent over an hour looking for her glasses that first day. She became upset with me, and I left at the end of the day feeling extremely frustrated.
That weekend I completed my mid-semester evaluation where one of the categories was evaluating my caring ability. I rated myself on how I met my client’s biopsychosocial needs in a caring and compassionate manner. I knew this was something I needed to improve and I remembered back to my N295 Fundamentals class, where the professor would explain that the important lesson was not just the knowledge that we learned but how it contributed to our character and values.
I went to the care center the following week with a renewed resolve on how to care for my patient.
Since this was the second week caring for Katie, I knew more of her daily routine. I was able to get her ready for breakfast, but we arrived 20 minutes early, and preparation for breakfast was underway.
I saw a piano in the room and asked if she had ever played the piano. She nodded that she had, and then motioned to ask me if I knew how to play. I responded in the affirmative and she pointed at me again to go to the piano as if she wanted me to play.
I knew accompaniment was not in the scope of my duties as a student nurse. However I had promised myself to do all that I could to care for her, so I sat down at the piano. The only book on the piano was an LDS hymnal; I knew she was LDS, so I started playing for her.
The amazing thing was that even though she could not speak, the stroke did not affect the area of her brain that dealt with singing. She sang the notes of the melody to every song I played. I have never seen someone happier than Katie at that moment. For a brief time, I even had the whole room singing a hymn with me.
When finished, even though she could not fully express it, I knew she was thankful that I played the piano. I appreciate the opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and do my best to be sensitive to Katie’s needs, even though what I did was not a normal nursing duty.
The next week at the care center I found out that Katie had passed away. I am thankful that I took the advice of my professor and worked attentively to meet Katie’s needs and lift her spirits. I am blessed to know that in her final days, I was able to provide the best care possible.
Winner of the college’s annual essay contest, Claire Hunsaker is a third-semester nursing student from El Dorado Hills, California.