13 May 2011

Celebrating the pomp and circumstance of Nurses Week

This is Nurses Week and a fitting time for celebration and merriment. This week also marks a major achievement in our household. Our daughter was pinned and graduated with her BSN—an amazing event and a very proud moment for her and for us, her family.

There was a moment during our daughter’s pinning ceremony when the glory of the pomp and circumstance threatened to burst the lump in my throat; it was when the dean of her school asked all nurses in the audience to stand and be recognized. As a nurse of many years, of course, I stood to join the others, and then the dean said, referring to the new graduates, “Please welcome our newest colleagues into the illustrious profession of nursing.”

All of a sudden, I was struck by a flood of emotions. No longer were we bound only as mother and daughter. We were now colleagues in a profession I have cherished for more than three decades. It was a very special and unforgettable experience to step onto the dais to place the nursing pin on our beautiful and talented daughter. What a thrill!

This evening, students from our own school of nursing at Boise State University will be pinned, and tomorrow they will march at commencement. It is such a festive and joyous time for gathering and celebrating. Tonight, we bear witness to a new generation of nurses, and tomorrow the pageantry and grandeur of graduation under sunny skies against the backdrop of mountains, still scantily covered with snow, will provide a grand stage to showcase our brand new graduates.

As I reflect on our new graduates at Boise State, at our daughter’s school, and on graduates from around the country, I am reminded of an ancient Chinese saying that goes like this, “The creation of a thousand forests begins with a single seed.” This saying suggests to me that every person—indeed, every nurse—isgifted with the unlimited capacity to help others grow and reach their greatest potential, and thus has the unique ability and infinite capacity to make a difference.

Helping others gives our lives purpose, meaning, and importance, and defines the essence of nursing. My friend and colleague, Marty Downey, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, calls it the “butterfly effect of nursing,” meaning that one nurse begins by touching a life, and that life touches another and another and another, causing a ripple effect into the community and throughout the world.

This touching of lives involves exercising our voices and our power, both individually and collectively, as nurses, and using our unique gifts to make a significance difference in someone’s life. This is a grand plan, and one that can not be done without taking care of oneself and nurturing the spirit.

It is important to savor quiet moments and spend time with the people we love and those who love us back; to be gentle with ourselves as we provide care to others because, while we belong to a caring profession, it is also a demanding one. Our new graduates have all worked very, very hard, but, in some ways, their work has just begun. They are clearly up to the challenge, and we honor them as they continue on their paths to “creating a thousand forests.”

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.