1. Juarez, Maureen J.
  2. Friesen, Pamela K.
  3. Missal, Bernita E.
  4. Wessman, Joann P. PhD, RN

Article Content

Vulnerability defines big aspects of the nursing student's experience. To be a nursing student is to straddle two vastly different worlds-academic and clinical. To be a nursing student is to prepare meticulously to provide care for assigned client(s), yet at the same time to entertain the possibility of changed assignments or circumstances at the point of care. To be a nursing student is to wrestle internally with troubling questions. What if I make a mistake that causes harm? What if I encounter unexpected circumstances for which I am unprepared? Will I "hold together" when harsh words, crisis situations, or profound human hurt and brokenness hurl at me? Will I catch the infectious diseases to which I am exposed or bring microorganisms home to friends or family?

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.
Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

Vulnerability implies susceptibility to harm or injury. We intuitively know that the stakes are high, the risks are significant, and our protection in the natural realm of experience and preparation may prove insufficient. Some of the potential sources for our personal harm or injury are deep within us-high expectations for ourselves and self-concept issues, for example. Other sources of potential injury or harm to us lie embedded in the cultures of academia and healthcare such as grades, fast pacing, unpredictability, or shortages. Clearly to be a nursing student is to be vulnerable existentially and experientially, to be at high risk for harm or injury.


Over four decades I have experienced the vulnerabilities of walking a vocational path that blends both clinical and academic worlds. Most frequently I have been in the instructor role, sometimes in the student role. Sometimes I have negotiated both experiences well; sometimes I have failed. Out of these experiences I can unequivocally state that for the Christian nursing student, one can be both vulnerable and sustained, sustained in a God-connect that nourishes and protects. Only God can boldly promise despite our vulnerabilities, "I will sustain you." He has sustained me!! But I have found that the experience of my being sustained by God is enriched as I make some basic commitments. I need to release my worries and vulnerabilities to God as a deliberate act when I go into the clinical area. I need to view the clinical experience as ministry opportunity to love and give. I need to ask for God's help. I need to undertake an "attitude adjustment" on clinical days that I am simply bummed. I need to prayerfully commit the clinical day to God as an offering joyfully given. I need to seek the prayers of others when I am aware that I am at a dangerous level of falling apart... I need to "eat" the nourishment provided by God in Scripture. Am I vulnerable? Yes!! Because of God, I also am sustained. God sustains me!! Gods sustains you!!


Vulnerabilities Abound...

Browsing Google recently for "challenges of the nursing student" yielded about 426,000 hits. The following are my "top 10" as they correspond with concerns advisees have shared with me in recent years.


* Increasing volumes of available information to access and apply


* Clinical complexity and ambiguity


* Multicultural patient populations


* Expansion of medical technology


* Experience more stress than friends in other majors


* Difficult patients (and instructors)


* Being evaluated by faculty members


* Communicating with nurses about mistakes that they are making


* Costs related to clinical experiences (gas, parking, and meals, for example)


* Juggling multiple personal roles



Your top 10 list may differ from mine, but I bet it is no less intense, formidable, and scary. No one needs to convince you that in the nursing student role, you are vulnerable. You already know it. But God's Word speaks to our vulnerability.


God Will Sustain You...

"Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." - - Psalm 55:22, NIV

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

"I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the LORD sustains me." - - Psalm 3:5, NIV


Lean on God!! Trust him as you learn to cast (or throw) every vulnerability that you experience as a nursing student into the arms of a Heavenly Father who deeply loves you. Experience being sustained!!