When I first arrived at the rehabilitation center where I would be taking part in my first clinical, I was very apprehensive. I had no hands-on experience caring for actual patients and the last thing I wanted was to do or say the wrong thing. Nevertheless, I was exhilarated. This was the most substantial step toward becoming a nurse that I had taken yet. During the orientation, I was asked to explain what made me want to become a nurse. I thought of many reasons, but to keep it concise, I responded that I wanted to make people happy; I wanted to help people in their time of healing or ailing. The reason I decided to study to become a nurse was to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Little did I know I would accomplish this in my very first clinical setting.
During my third week at the rehabilitation center, I met a thirty-four year old patient who had suffered from a stroke. This woman was very talkative, and throughout my shift, I got to know her well. She told me all about the progress she had made since she arrived at the center, which was remarkable. At one point, as I was checking her vital signs, she mentioned that she still cried every day. I stopped listening to her heart and wrapped my stethoscope around my neck. We sat together and talked about how it was okay that she cried. In fact, it would be unusual not to cry. A woman of her age and with her determination in life should never have to endure what she did, and expressing her emotions was not only acceptable, it was encouraged. I also told her that even though I wasn’t there long, I had never seen such fast progress toward recovery. At this, she shed a few tears and said, “All of these patients in the rooms around me are older. I am young. I can heal from this. I am lucky”. This shocked me. I was astonished that this unfortunate event occurred and her whole life was put on hold, and she was able to recognize the positive. I told her how strong and motivated she was, and that she was an inspiration to me and I am sure to everyone else around her as well. She smiled and told me that I was going to be a great nurse someday, even if it did take me a few tries to get her blood pressure manually. We laughed together and I eventually returned to the RN who took me under her wing that afternoon.
I never really stopped thinking about that one woman, even though I had many more encounters with patients that were just as touching. The more I reflect on that encounter, the more I recognize that this young woman helped me just as much as I helped her. I realized that it was not just dressing changes and bed baths that make a difference in patients lives, but more so the conversations you have and the encouragement you can provide for them.