I’d like to share a little bit about my transformative summer through OSU’s Second-year Transformational Experience Program (STEP). During the last summer of my OSU undergraduate education, I felt the overwhelming need to give back to the Columbus community that has shaped my life and career goals. With the help of STEP, I was able to work as a Patient Care Assistant (PCA) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH) and Wexner Medical Center, while also volunteering in the Infusion Clinic at NCH. Additionally, I shadowed a Family Medicine Nurse Practitioner in Circleville and a Registered Nurse in the Emergency Department at Grant Hospital to continue learning about the career I will soon be entering upon the conclusion of my fourth and final year here at The Ohio State University.
Initially, I entered my STEP signature project with the idea that I had to achieve outstanding success–I had to be the employee that is known by all, the volunteer that units request, and the student shadow that asked the most intellectual questions. I wanted to learn how to be successful in pediatric and postpartum nursing as I hope to pursue these areas after graduation. As I continued to work with children, young adults, new mothers, and newborns at these two very established and innovative hospitals, I realized that I have chosen a career and life in which I will require compassion and selflessness rather than a need for recognition. This was a summer experience in which I realized how little my achievements and my previous success matter to real members of a community. What do I mean by this? When I was feeding a newborn or taking a child’s vitals, I was not asked to share my GPA or letters of recommendation. When I was walking a patient through the hallways, they did not wonder what achievements were listed on my resume. They only saw me–my character, my compassion, and my kindness.
Now, let me clarify. In no way am I saying that the achievements and success I have worked hard to obtain are meaningless. Rather, I learned through this experience that the way I use my past success to represent my knowledge, school and community is what will truly matter in my career as a nurse. Whether we realize it or not, we all play an integral part in caring for others (no matter how small it may seem). At the beginning of the summer, I valued my future role as a nurse far above my role as a PCA because I felt that learning how to be the best nurse and achieving success as such was the only way I could make a difference in the lives of my patients. Throughout the summer, however, I learned that each and every member of a healthcare team works their absolute hardest not for their own recognition, but because they find value in seeing their patients achieve the best possible outcome.
And that is what I value too.
So what led me to this revelation? The relationships that I formed with my patients and co-workers. To see how hard every individual must work to keep a patient safe, comfortable, and cared for is astounding. I quickly found the importance of my role as a PCA, but noted all summer long how it differed from that of the nurse, nurse practitioner, respiratory therapist, and so on. Seeing how these individuals worked independently as well as in a team setting was truly inspiring. On the particularly hard days, I was able to learn how to push through and keep my spirits up just as the nurses did during their 4 or 5pm “lunch” breaks. I saw how they were not only involved in their patients’ lives but in the lives of each other as well.
Through these observations, I quickly realized that in my career, I am never alone–my success is not my own. Instead, I will forever have the honor of sharing my successes with others; I will always work alongside a caring team to achieve great outcomes for our patients. This idea carried me for a majority of the summer, before a devastating loss. A long-term patient on our unit passed away–my first experience with hospital death. While I had not worked on the unit long enough to personally know the patient, I saw the strength of those who were now sharing not only in their success, but their grief. Again, I realized that sharing in compassion would take me much farther than a pat on the back and prize for a job well done–something I saw reflected in the attitudes of my summer co-workers.
Recognizing this change in myself has opened my eyes to a life of possibilities. No longer consumed by a need to impress (a need to be successful), I am prepared to work hard and share in joy and grief with many others. I’ve realized that being obsessed with glory and recognition has kept me in my own “safety net” afraid to venture out into the unknown. If you had asked me at the beginning of the summer where I pictured myself in ten years, it would have been exactly the same as my life right now. It would include the comfort of Ohio, the familiarity of Columbus and its wonderful hospitals. And while I know that I could lead a successful, happy life continuing to serve the Columbus community, I am no longer afraid to leave Ohio and learn from other health systems.
Living on my own and focusing on my work and shadow experiences, I was able to provide care for patients in my own Columbus community while learning the skills necessary to care for patients all across the country with similar experiences. I was able to communicate with patients, nurses, and healthcare team members. Through all of these shifts and scheduled hours, often in the middle of the night, I found myself thinking about the organization and administrative policies that are set in place to protect all of these individuals. I became extremely proud of the work we were achieving, and found a valuable life skill within myself: flexibility. Healthcare is always adapting, much like my life. In just a few short months, I will be graduating from college–hoping that I have the correct set of tools to take on life’s next challenges. This project showed me that even at my most prepared, I will still rely on the knowledge and strength of others to achieve success. I am ready to move beyond my comfort zone to meet new people and learn from their experiences while sharing my own. As I near my graduation in the Spring, it has been an important discovery to understand that success is not based on my own praise and recognition, but rather it is based on my ability to share my strengths and depend on others in my weaknesses.
Thank you to all of those that have impacted my life this past summer. I am grateful to have learned these lessons. I am ready to venture out, and I am hopeful that my return to Ohio in the future is marked by shared successes that can further strengthen the Columbus community and our knowledge of health, wellness, compassion, and bedside care.