Keynote speaker Dr. Judith Balcerski, a registered nurse who served as Dean of the Barry University School of Nursing for 33 years, congratulated the “brave and privileged individuals” of SGU’s first nursing class.
My greetings to the dignitaries, administrators, and faculty members. Special greetings to the parents, family, friends, and especially nursing students.
Congratulations on being the first nursing class at St. George’s University. You are both brave and privileged to be here beginning your nursing education! You are entering nursing in the company of many outstanding women and men:
The Knights Templar ministering on the battlefields;
Catherine of Sienna, one of the first nurses of the 12th century, the patroness of nursing;
Clara Barton, the creator of the Red Cross;
Florence Nightingale who led her colleagues in a sit-down strike to improve the care of soldiers;
Mother Teresa, Nobel peace winning nurse;
women and men who rode horseback into battlefields and who served in field hospitals;
women and men who conduct nursing research to dispel myths and extend lives;
women and men who deliver and care for infants;
and women and men who sit with the person who is dying.
These heroic nurses brought nursing to where it is today.
One definition of nursing is that it’s a Science and an Art. I am going to add that it is also Sense and Heart. Science, Art, Sense, Heart.
The science part is clear because you will be caring for persons with bodies and minds. Nursing care is based on evidence rather than myth. You will learn the evidence of science in your anatomy, physiology, chemistry, microbiology, sociology, and psychology courses. You will also study nursing science and read nursing research. When you practice nursing according to evidence based science and research, rather than myth, you will be successful. Nursing is a science.
Nursing is an art because you will be caring for people. No two individual’s responses to illness are alike. While you must learn procedures in your nursing courses, frequently you will have to be creative in how you design nursing care for each individual. Your patient may not eat. Be creative. Your patient may not sleep. Be creative. Your patient may refuse a treatment because of fear. Be creative. How will you learn to be creative? Painting, sculpture, jazz, and poetry are creative accomplishments. Studying art, music, and literature in your required courses helps you to learn to be creative. You will then be more able to propose creative solutions to confounding nursing problems. Nursing is an art, a creative art.
To Science and Art I add Sense. Good sense will benefit your patient and yourself. When you make a mistake, (because we all have and you will), good sense will give you courage to tell your instructor or the Sister immediately, so that a remedy can be taken and harm prevented. When your patient suggests there is a better way to do a procedure, good sense will support you as you consider the suggestion seriously. Good sense will sustain you when you are tired or frustrated and need to step away for a few minutes to take a deep breath to refresh yourself. When you are corrected by a supervisor, instructor, or physician (and you will be) good sense will permit you to listen to their concern with an open attitude. Nursing is sense, good sense.
To Science, Art, and Sense, I add one more attribute: Heart. Heart is why you came to nursing. You already have heart for persons who are ill. You want to help them get well, or have less pain, or sleep more restfully, or have a peaceful passing when a cure is impossible. Heart is the feeling at the end of every day, that you have contributed something very important to someone’s life. Heart is what presses you to care for someone different from yourself: of another culture, skin color, intellectual capacity, or social level; to care for a criminal and the queen equally. Heart supports you to care for persons who are impatient, rude, unclean, or manipulative because they are ill and need your care. Heart compels you to care for an elder woman with Alzheimer’s as if she is your grandmother, a drug addict as your brother, an infant with Down’s syndrome as your child. Nursing is Heart.
Finally, remember these four: nursing is Science, Art, Sense, and Heart. SASH. Remember nursing as a sash, a mantle across your shoulders of science, art, sense, and heart.
If I could make an assignment it would be to require you to read the biographies of outstanding nurses. Ask nurses you meet to tell you their heart experiences. As strange as it may sound, read the obituaries of nurses recently passed in your own country. Search these stories for nursing heart.
Starting with this induction ceremony today, write your own stories. Keep a diary of the heartfelt experiences you have during your journey in nursing education and nursing practice. Your heart stories will fill your soul and spirit with a return immensely greater than a grade A on a paper, a promotion to a higher position, or even the gratitude bestowed on you by a patient. It will make you profoundly proud to be a professional nurse.
Congratulations on this beginning, and may God speed you on your journey.