1. Rubel, Kathryn

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Some may remember when freshman students received their nurse's cap in a formal "Capping Ceremony." Gone are the days of nurses' caps. Instead of a Capping Ceremony, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) College of Nursing has a "Stethoscope Ceremony" for first-semester nursing students. This ceremony is a right of passage that formalizes the student's entry into nursing.


Kathryn Rubel is a fourth-semester student at the MUSC College of Nursing. She was the keynote speaker at the last Stethoscope Ceremony. Her remarks were superb. Sometimes we need to be reminded why we chose this profession of nursing. Read Kathryn's message and I hope you will find that renewed sense of purpose.


-Marilyn Schaffner, PhD, RN, CGRN



This week marks the beginning of the journey that you have chosen to take to become a nurse. I know at this point you are probably overwhelmed and feeling that you're barely keeping your head above water. You may be thinking, "What on earth have I gotten myself into?" When I first started this program, I read a quote somewhere that said, "If you want to take a break from having a life, become a nursing student." It's true, but I promise it gets better.


You were chosen for this program because the faculty and staff of the college knew that you could handle it. They chose you because you are the best of the best. You will hear this over and over again, but it's the truth. They saw qualities in you that made them think that 1 day you would be a good nurse-a solid work ethic, diligence, empathy, and compassion. They chose you because of the variety of experiences and backgrounds that you have to offer. This diversity will provide a rich learning environment in which you end up teaching your peers as much as you learn from your professors.


I'd like to tell you a little bit about why I chose nursing as a career. I grew up in a family of healthcare professionals, both doctors and nurses, who all expected that I would choose a career in healthcare-an idea I resisted and resented for a long time. As I grew up, I began to realize that healthcare had all the qualities I desired in a future career-things I'm sure many of you found appealing as well: a way to make a difference, give something back, and an exciting and versatile career path. I wanted a career that would allow me to have a wide range of experiences and options. I wanted a career that I would be as happy with at age 60 as I am now at 24. I wanted a career where I could find the niche that best suited my interests and talents, be it medical-surgical, pediatrics, obstetrics, or gerontology.


Throughout high school and my undergraduate education, I was sure that medical school would be the path for me; however, through a series of events involving my immediate family, I saw that nursing was a better fit. I saw the compassion and dedication of the nurses in the hospital and decided that this was the job I wanted to do.


I came to MUSC with expectations of nursing school and a career in nursing. Most of my expectations had to do with what I would be doing for other people and the difference that I would be making in people's lives. What I didn't know is I would get even more back in return. I had expectations about what I would learn in my classes and in the hospital (e.g., how to change dressings and hang intravenous lines and pass medications). I had no idea that I would learn more about people and the human spirit than in the other 24 years of my life combined.


You may think that the biggest part of nursing is the impact that you have on another person's life. You will be surprised to discover the impact that nursing will have on you. Every patient will be more than just an academic experience. Yes, you will learn about a variety of illnesses and diseases as well as many medical procedures and techniques, but you will learn leaps and bounds about humility and the grace of interacting with a person who is at their most vulnerable state. You will learn to look past what is right in front of you-a body lying in a hospital bed. You will learn to understand each patient in the much larger context of his or her world outside the hospital-as a father or mother, son or daughter, or member of their community. You will learn that the person you see for a few days or weeks in the hospital brings background and experiences with them that we may not fully discover. Understanding this allows us to treat a whole person-body, mind, and spirit-rather than just a primary diagnosis.


You will learn how to take care of patients, but you will learn even more about how to be a better person. The lessons you learn in the hospital will soon extend to your personal life. As you learn to look at the whole story behind a patient, rather than just that person's medical complaints, you will also learn to look at the whole picture in other situations you come across. You learn to listen, not just to the words that come out of a person's mouth, but to really understand what he or she is saying. A patient complaining about a broken television really just wants to have an ounce of control over some aspect of his life. You learn that even when you feel terribly awkward in a situation and at a total loss for the right thing to say, just being there means more than any words that could come out of your mouth. You will learn even if the world inside the hospital is NOT like the one portrayed in the television shows ER or Grey's Anatomy, it is no less full of life-changing drama and emotion; you have the power to make a difficult situation less painful for a patient and their family. You will learn that while you may not realize it today or next week or even next month, the rewards that you will gain from this career will greatly outweigh whatever sacrifices are required of you. Somewhere in the middle of the hectic schedules and the mountains of paperwork and preplanning until 2 AM, you will realize that nursing isn't about those things. It's about making a difference in people's lives everyday and the difference that they will make in yours.


Healthcare is full of discoveries and ideas that grew from their conception to revolutionize patient care. Take for example, the stethoscope that you will be receiving tonight. In 19th-century France, a physician discovered that heart sounds could be heard by placing a tightly rolled piece of paper to a patient's chest. From these humble beginnings, the stethoscope has become one of the most valuable tools for evaluating the universal indicator of life-the heartbeat. As you wear your stethoscope, remember its evolution from a simple paper tube to the sophisticated instrument we use today. Know that you too are an irreplaceable tool in the care of a patient.