A Time of Discernment Margo Schlichter University of New Hampshire English 17 February 2011

Schlichter 1 A Time of Discernment He was lying unresponsive on the hospital bed, with a flatline steadily running across the monitor. The crash cart was brought in and we tried to resuscitate him in any way we could. There was the ubiquitous hospital smell of antiseptic in the air, and the calm hum of the fluorescent lights overhead. I was doing chest compressions with an anxious feeling in my stomach. My hair was falling all over the place and I’m sure the expression on my face was not a pretty sight, yet none of that seemed to matter. I continued with the compressions for minutes, but it seemed more like endless hours. Somehow knowing that someone’s life was at stake seemed to make all the trivial things in the room leave my consciousness. Finally, relief flooded the room when a steady heartbeat could once again be heard from the monitor. This moment, which was filled with a feeling of both accomplishment and exhaustion, is when I decided that I wanted to become a nurse. Of course, since I was still a high school student at the time, the man on the bed was not a real person, but a very life-like simulation doll named Frank, and I was working under the leadership of two other certified nurses. But this fact didn’t make the moment any less significant for me. This decision, which changed my future, was one that I could have never made if I had not attended the Summer Nursing Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. Armed with curiosity about the field of nursing, I entered the Summer Nursing Institute at the University of Pennsylvania in July, 2010. I used this experience to determine whether nursing was the career I wanted to pursue. At this time, I was a shy soon-to-be senior in high school who had never been away from home for more than three days. My family gave me not only a

stable upbringing, but the love and support that I always needed. My parents always reminded me that as an aging, close-knit family we share a connected past, a safety net for the future, and a bond that can never be broken. However, I now found myself living in the unfamiliar city of Philadelphia on my own. I remember watching my parents driving away as other cars whizzed by on the crowded city street. At this moment I quietly started questioning myself for making such an impulsive decision. To say this was the biggest adventure I had ever taken in my life would be a major understatement. Luckily, my worry seemed to quickly fade away as I almost immediately became comfortable in the new environment. I met my roommate and two other girls who were in the nursing program with me, and we quickly became close friends. Not only did I get to make friends, but at the beginning of the program we were given a few days to explore the city. We saw the Liberty Bell, had a famous Philly Cheesesteak, walked along South Street, and visited Independence Hall. I remember these first few days as a crazy whirlwind that never seemed to end. After exploring the city, we entered into the nursing aspect of the program. We met our instructor named Joan, had a few days of introductory courses describing different types of nursing, and then quickly began the clinical days. The clinical days were, by far, my favorite part of the program. Each day, I would go to a different hospital and shadow a nurse in each of the different departments. The emergency room, the GYN floor, and the intensive care units were just a few of the many floors I had the opportunity to experience on these days. I would shadow nurses as they gave out medical care to the patients, which is when I realized that nursing was much more than I had originally thought. The patients rely on the nurses to give them information and to teach them about their conditions, but they also rely on them for the basic moral support needed to get through a hospital stay. After

each clinical day, we would meet up with our nursing class the following morning and we would each say a few words about what we encountered on the previous day. This gave me the opportunity not to learn from my own experiences, but also those of the girls in my program. This schedule continued for the remainder of the program and continued to hold my interest the entire time. As I was working in the emergency room in the Bryn Mawr Hospital, I was able to see a very wide range of patients. My nurse would go from caring for a patient that was having minor back pain to someone that had just been in a severe car accident. You would think this transition would be drastic, yet each nurse that I was with handled every situation in a very calm and direct manner. This gave me the opportunity to see how versatile this career could be. I also followed a nurse on the GYN floor who was very kind and optimistic. She was motivated and I could tell she put in a huge amount of effort in her work, even though her son was suffering from cancer himself. Her struggles at home never hindered her work ethic. As we dealt with patients that were often going through extreme hardships, including ovarian cancer or miscarriage, this nurse always kept a positive attitude in every situation and remained a strong support system for the patients. Her strength and optimism was very inspiring to me. The day had come when I had my final clinical experience that was on the oncology floor of the hospital. As I was approaching this day, I could not think of a floor that I would want to work on less. Not because the nurses don’t do great work on the oncology floor, but because I imagined it to be a sad and depressing place. I could not have been more wrong. I hesitantly walked onto the floor and was assigned to a bright and cheery nurse with a generous-looking smile. We introduced ourselves, she told me that I was in for quite a day, and then we jumped in to see her first patient. He was a boy, not much older than me at the time, who had been suffer-

ing from cancer for the last five years. He had been in and out of hospitals for the duration, and while you would think this would make a person depressed or pessimistic, the boy acted in the opposite way. He seemed to always be smiling, or cracking jokes while the nurse was checking his blood pressure or giving him a physical examination. Throughout the day, I learned more about his case through my nurse. He had a rare form of cancer and they were coming close to having no other forms of treatment for him. Once this happened, he would have a limited time left in this world. When I asked if the boy knew about all of this information, the nurse assured me yes. I was baffled that the smiling, exuberant boy that I had just met knew that he was ultimately dying, yet still acted so positive and happy. His optimism in the face of such adversity truly inspired me. It was such a great clinical experience to end on because it not only surprised me but also reinforced the fact that nursing was the perfect career for me. As shown to me by my family, I learned how important it is to do something that you love and makes you feel complete. By being a nurse and helping others, I will feel a sense of accomplishment in my daily work schedule. It is because of my family that I know who I want to be and how I want to get there. I know how important faith, values, and morals are in relation to my everyday life. This is why nursing is the perfect career for me. I can combine service and values all within one job that I have a passion for. Working as a nurse, your days are full of triumphs and struggles; taking care of sick patients can be both rewarding and emotionally draining. This is why I believe that most importantly, nurses need to be strong, courageous, and passionate in their work if they want to be successful. By just talking briefly to the nurses I shadowed everyday, I could tell after a few minutes into the conversation how much all of them loved their jobs and how proud they were to work everyday. This inspired me and I hope that someday,

I can be the nurse working on the floor, teaching others just how rewarding a career in nursing can be. As I reflect on my summer in Philadelphia, a certain image comes to mind. It is a photo where I’m standing with my three close friends in front of the UPenn School of Nursing building. I remember that while taking the picture, the four of us had a hard time keeping a straight face and not laughing together, which is what we spent most of our time doing. The four of us formed a bond of friendship that has stayed strong even with the time and distance that separate us. As seen in the picture, the four of us appear extremely small compared to the large nursing building in the background. Somehow this seems to reflect how we all felt at the time. We were young and unsure of what our future would hold, yet we all had big goals and dreams that seemed to bring us together. I left Philadelphia with not only a sure sense of what I wanted to do in the future, but also with a better idea of who I was and how I wanted to live my life.

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