1. Zimmerman, Ellen MSN, RN

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AS EDUCATORS, nursing faculty have a responsibility to impart wisdom, develop critical thinking, and encourage learning. This is our job, and we're committed to performing it without becoming unduly involved with our students' personal lives. Sometimes, however, circumstances change our roles.


My student's name was Mrs. B. We were close in age and she was in nursing school as a second career. Many students are motivated to become a nurse by personal experience or circumstances. Mrs. B's motivation was her husband. Now in his 70s, he resided in a long-term-care facility and was quite ill. We spoke often of his medical condition, and she offered insights in class based on her personal experience.


As the school year progressed, Mr. B required frequent hospitalizations. I could see the emotional toll this was taking on his wife as she continued to meet the demands of school. She'd spend hours studying at his bedside just to be with him.


Beginnings and endings

The beginning of senior year, Mrs. B's beloved husband passed away. She came to me and quietly cried in my office. She knew the day was coming but that didn't change the magnitude of his passing. I asked her if she thought she'd be able to continue with school. Through her tears, she nodded yes, that's what her husband would have wanted. We spoke for a few more minutes. When she got up to leave, I gave her a hug. I told her anytime things became difficult, my door was always open and she could come in and talk with me.


As the semester progressed, Mrs. B would show up at my door once or twice a week and we'd talk. Sometimes she'd just stand there and I'd give her a quick hug. It broke the rules about teacher/student contact, but it didn't matter. It was a simple gesture and it helped Mrs. B cope with her sadness.

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As the year continued, it became an understanding among the small student body that when Mrs. B saw me in the hall, she'd get a quick hug. There was no issue as everyone loved and supported her and knew how difficult getting though the school year was for her. We teach compassion and caring, but showing it with a gesture sometimes says more than words.


That May, Mrs. B graduated and I stood and applauded as her name was called. Of course, I gave her a hug after the ceremony.


More than words

Spring became summer and summer became fall. The new school year started with 100 fresh-faced students.


One day late in the semester, Mrs. B came to visit. She was doing quite well and had returned to school to pursue her BSN. We spoke for a while and she handed me a gift bag and left.


I had a busy afternoon, so the bag sat on my desk unopened until the end of the day. When I reached inside the bag, I found a beautiful box. I was surprised to find no card with it. Baffled, I carefully opened the box.


What I found in that box told me more than words on a card could ever express, and I immediately knew that I'd made the right choices in my support for Mrs. B. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I gently pulled away the tissue paper and saw what was inside.


Lying in the box was a beautiful red crystal heart.