Nursing students will always have a special place in my heart.
I used to be one, so I know what it feels like to observe and soak in your surroundings. Coming to clinical prepared, while clad in crisp white uniform pants and top, wearing white Nursemates and decorated with the most colorful stethoscope around your neck, I recall the butterflies of uneasiness in the pit of my stomach that would eventually float away. Being a minority in a private university, I had no choice but to work even harder to attain my goal: B.S.N., Bachelors of Science in Nursing.
So I recognize the newness of a student, arriving to her clinical to learn about what dialysis does to the body. I am prepared to give my lesson on hypertension and diabetes and how they cause kidney failure. And how my job is to help save lives. See, that’s what I do. I hook my patients up to a machine that is calibrated to remove fluid and damaging electrolytes in the body. My machine does for the dialysis patient what our kidneys do for a normal, healthy person: it removes toxins from the body by way of excreting urine.
My students for the day include two young women of Bowie State University’s Nursing Program and my goal is to help them understand terms such as dry weight, dialysate, bicarbonate, and dialyzer, just to name a few. The inquisitive mind of Mikkel and the humble spirit of Tiphany make it even easier for me to explain what I do. These women maintained professionalism and expressed a genuine concern for patients.
Before Tiphany arrived, I was able to give one-on-one attention to Mikkel and explain to her the portion of fluid removal and how the “new” weight affects the dialysis patient. I also made sure to let her know that it is very important to inform the doctor if there are any changes or if you feel there is cause for question.
“You must always document what you do. Because if it isn’t documented, then it wasn’t done.”
“Never take someone else’s information as gospel. Always follow up.”
Tiphany arrived late, due to unforeseen circumstances, but her spirit never appeared broken. She asked appropriate questions, and listened attentively as I explained the answer. As we talked throughout the morning, I learned of her mother’s recent death, just one month prior. She was still able to maintain her composure as she talks about it with Mikkel. And she was in the right mindset, in spite of her tragic loss.
“I feel cursed,” she says.
I turn to her. “It is just the devil trying to get in your way. You have to move on.”
She nods and says, “I know.”
“What would your mother say to if she were here?”
“She would tell me to finish school.”
I smile and reply. “And that is what you will do.”
I learn of Mikkel’s Nursing Program funded by the Navy that allows her to gain education while still receiving military benefits, and I smile as I recall my days in the military. Both of these women have touched me in a way I would not have thought, and I am so excited to be able to share with them what someone once shared with me.
You see, it’s about opening doors for others. Passing on knowledge and sharing stories that will impact someone in their career. Someone allowed for me to attend Dialysis Nursing Course while in the Army, and my training has allowed me to be where I am today (along with the grace of God.) Being able to share with others to help them along the way is what I do. I like to see others succeed, and if I have something that will make the difference in their world, I will share it with them.
It makes my heart smile and it becomes just as contagious as laughter.
As Tiphany and Mikkel prepare for post-conference with their clinical instructor, I am inclined to share with them my email address, as I want to keep in touch with these impressionable women, in hopes of attending their graduation from nursing school one day. I turn to both of them and wish them well, and Mikkel writes down her email address, followed by Tiphany. I let them know that they are going to be fine, and I tell Tiphany, “You will have some valley moments, but you know you can get through them. You KNOW why you have to do this.”
She smiles and says, “Yes, I know.”
They say their good-byes and head off to complete their day.
(note: This is one of the short stories that will appear in my next book on dialysis nursing.)