From the Other Side of the Podium
Starting out as a new nurse educator reminded me of the first few months of nursing school. I studied unendingly for the challenging courses. In the practice lab, I performed each nursing skill until I got it right. During clinical, I asked numerous questions to learn more. While starting an intravenous line during one medical-surgical clinical, a patient's projectile vomit landed in my face and all over my scrubs. Wiping my eyes, the words of the virgin Mary whispered in my heart, “I am the Lord's servant” (Luke 1:38, NIV). Tending to this patient, I recognized that nursing allowed me to use my gifts in service for others. Whether a student, novice nurse, or educator, I can be in the right place at the right time.
These days, I am on the other side of the podium. I have the pleasure of teaching in the classroom and leading students through critical care clinical rotations. During one shift, an elderly lady was admitted, with no one accompanying her. The patient's status deteriorated rapidly, and she coded. The students remained professional, working alongside the nurses to perform emergency interventions. After coding several times, the physicians decided that when her heart stopped again, no additional resuscitative measures would be performed. This was a moment of profound experience. The students stood silent, displaying a curious mix of emotions on their faces. With confidence, hiding the sudden twinge in the back of my throat, I asked, “What can we do to make her more comfortable?”
They quickly responded and acted. Explaining what happened is difficult to put into words. They washed her face and changed her into a clean gown. Like me, the students seemed honored, yet humbled, to be doing this for her. Even though our clinical day was over, the students did not want their patient to die alone. We sat, quietly holding her hand, until she passed away an hour later.
Afterward, the students asked me, “How can you handle this all of the time?” I shared that my strength comes from understanding that I work on this side of heaven. Life and death are ultimately in God's hands. When a situation is particularly tough, I recall 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (NIV).
As a nurse, I value both nursing science and caring practices. I also believe nursing is an expression of God's love, knowledge, and power. I still have much to learn about being a nurse educator.