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TAKING CARE OF my sick parents as a teenager, I dreamed of becoming a healthcare provider to serve patients. But growing up in China in the 1960s during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, I couldn't attend school as I wished. Instead, I pursued a teaching career and had a child.
Eventually my path took me to the United States where I first became an LVN, then an RN. I deemed it an honor to be entrusted with the responsibility of patient care. In that spirit, my career hasn't been a chore or a burden, but the fulfillment of my mission.
From my perspective, nursing isn't just a job to perform, but a humane touch we deliver when a patient is at her most vulnerable. After my child's birth in China in the 1970s, I was treated coldly. When I asked if the baby was a girl or boy, a nurse grudgingly told me, "A male." Naturally I asked to see and hold him, but that wasn't allowed.
Later I sneaked into the unattended newborns' room to steal a look at my son. Not knowing which infant was mine, I wandered apprehensively among the newborns until I located my hospital-bed number at the side of a crib. I launched no protest, though I felt chilled to the bones by this experience.
After moving to the United States and studying in the English department at the University of North Texas, I entered nursing school. When we students were asked to state our nursing philosophy, the traumatic memories surrounding my son's birth shaped my response:
A nurse is a nonjudgmental therapist, a considerate sister or brother, and a helping angel. He or she has dexterous hands, flying feet, a quick mind, a cool head, and most importantly, an empathizing heart.
Nursing is a sacred profession that witnesses the birth, the suffering, and the ending of human life. A nurse shouldn't be hardened by the cruel reality of life, but softened by the powerless nature of human beings.
The core of nursing experience is the act of caring. With caring comes prudence, humility, common sense, intelligence, and even wisdom. A good attitude and continued education are essential in being a conscientious and competent nurse.
As nurses, we're often present in patients' most private spaces, sharing their most personal experiences. Nurses who are conscientious and competent can ease patients' emotional pain, alleviate bodily distress, and maintain their human dignity.
When I graduated from nursing school, I remember saying that nursing can be very demanding, but I'd never regret my choice. And I never have. Now I'm encouraging my son to go to nursing school too.
After being a nurse for over 14 years, I've found that my practice has only strengthened my conviction that being a nurse is an honor. Only with such a belief are we motivated to tackle the root causes of problems or go beyond the call of our duties. All service I give my patients is both a duty and a privilege.
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