March 6, 2019
No doubt about it: nursing school is demanding. The academic requirements are rigorous, the clinical experiences require intellectual, physical and emotional fitness.
Ursuline nursing major Valerie Koch has found that thinking of the patients who have inspired her helps keep her motivated through it all. During finals last year, she took a break and wrote an essay titled, “To the Patients that Remind Me Why I Started.” She recently learned that essay will be published in an upcoming issue of Imprint, the magazine of the National Student Nurses’ Association.
“I was so ecstatic when I found out my essay had been accepted for publication,” said Valerie. “Since the start of nursing school, I have enjoyed reading reflections from nursing students from across the United States in the magazine. I made it a goal of mine to submit a piece to Imprint before I graduated.”
Goal accomplished. Valerie is set to graduate in May with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Before that though, in April she will attend the National Student Nurses' Association Annual Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah and serve as a delegate for its upcoming election.
Patricia Sharpnack, DNP, RN, dean of Ursuline’s Breen School of Nursing, said, “Valerie is an outstanding student and a real leader who has given back to community in many ways. As president of the group, Student Nurses of Ursuline College, she has helped organize blood drives and a major fundraising and educational brunch, among other volunteer efforts. Her essay thanking the people she has encountered gets to the heart of why we practice nursing. I am confident Valerie will be a competent and compassionate nurse, in the Ursuline tradition.”
After graduation and licensure, Valerie looks forward to working as a registered nurse in either oncology or cardiology. Her essay is written in the form of a letter to patients.
To the Patients That Remind Me Why I Started,
Now, as I find myself in my final year of nursing school, I have decided to reflect back on the patients that have made a difference in my life. I chose nursing because I wanted to impact the lives of others. I did not realize how much the lives of others would impact me until now.
Nursing first became a part of my life when I signed up to volunteer at a local hospital in high school as a comfort runner or as some patients would say, “candy striper”. I could not perform any direct patient care skills, since I was not certified. I was there to stock the floor with supplies, refill water cups, talk to patients, and lend a helping hand in any way that I could. I cared for patients in a different way, by listening to them and comforting them. It was in that hallway, on an orthopedic floor, that I found my purpose in life. To the patients that remind me why I started, these words are for you.
I can still remember some of the conversations I had with the patients I met while volunteering as a teenager. One woman told me stories of her children. She was so proud of her daughter who decided to travel the world and chase her dreams. The woman said to me, “The greatest investment you will ever make in life is your education. No one can ever take away from you the knowledge that you have gained.” Her words have always stuck with me, especially while I am studying for an exam.
The next patient that I will not forget is someone I took care of as I began my last year of college. I took care of him multiple times over the course of a few months. He was always smiling, even on his worst days. I enjoyed talking to him and he always seemed to enjoy seeing me. I remember leaving the room one day and before I walked out, I asked if there was anything else I could get for him. He looked at me and said, “Yeah, there is one more thing, I would like a ticket to your graduation.” He was so sweet. We would go for walks in the hallway on days he felt stronger. I can also remember the last time I saw him. He was leaving the hospital in a wheelchair and his face lit up when he saw me. I was not caring for him on this day, but I still went over to say hello. We gave each other a fist bump and I said see you later, except this time I would not be seeing him again. He has since then passed away. This patient was at first a stranger and then he became a person that was so very proud of me for being a nursing student. To the patient that asked for a ticket to my graduation, I hope you know that I will be thinking of you as I walk across the stage to receive my diploma. Thank you for leaving me with words that have encouraged me to finish strong. Thank you for reminding me that I am here for a reason.
Moments like these remind me to take a step back and remember why I am choosing to live the rest of my life as a nurse. Sometimes a bad day can make us doubt ourselves. To know that there are people in the world rooting for me, even when I cannot seem to find a reason to root for myself, has helped me to continue to foster my dreams. One of the best parts about nursing is that once you become a nurse, you are a nurse for life. Nursing school has definitely been the greatest investment of my life.
My days spent working in a hospital have taught me how great fresh air smells, how important hugs are, how vulnerable our lives can be, and most importantly how to live with a grateful heart today and every day. I am thankful for discovering a career path that allows me to experience a life filled with human beings helping human beings. It is a humbling experience to be there for others during their most vulnerable times. To the patients that allowed for me to perform skills on them for the first time, whether they knew it or not. To the patient that wished for me to cut the umbilical cord after she had given birth to her first child. To the patient’s hand that I held while they were on their deathbed. To the patients that have put out their hand to shake mine, and have said to me, “I am so glad that I have met you.” To the patients that have told me how much they have enjoyed talking to me. To the patients who have asked me not to leave since they would miss me. To the patients who have thanked me for taking care of them. It is my turn to thank you for reminding me why I started chasing this dream. To have touched the life of someone who was once a stranger, is a glimpse of what it means to be a nurse.
Valerie M. Koch, SN