Mind/Body/Spirit

A multifaceted gem

After 35 years in nursing, Susan Wilcox Stelton, MSN, APRN-BC, CWOCN, has come to see the profession as “a precious gem with many facets.” Susan is a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Adult Health and Certified Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind. She is also Vice-President of the World Council of Enterostomal Therapists (WCET). For one of WCET’s educational outreach projects, she taught courses in wound, ostomy, and continence to nurses in Turkey.

When not occupied with nursing activities, Susan enjoys traveling, making wedding cakes, crafting jewelry, and writing short stories and poetry. “By its nature,” she says, “nursing is a left-brain profession. I began to try to balance my life by engaging in right-brain activities. Writing is one way I can express my passion for nursing and life.” She wrote the poem featured here to capture the many facets of nursing in words.

The Difference:
Reflections on the many facets of nursing

When did I first know that I made a difference?

Was it when I puffed and breathed and coached the laboring first-time mom and experienced the intimate, miraculous moment of birth?

Or, was it when I helped the psychiatric patient turn the corner between despair and hopelessness and to again know a sense of life’s worth?

Was it when I held and rocked a frightened ill child and watched him drift off into peaceful sleep?


Or, was it when I unconditionally accepted the teenage mom and helped her grieve the baby she knew she could not keep?

When did I first know that I made a difference?

Was it when I fought the urge to do things for the stroke patient and coached him toward independence, then applauded as he walked with a cane back into his life?

Or, was it when I sponged, positioned and medicated the patient with terminal cancer, then later shared hugs and tears with his best friend and his wife?

Was it when I put my long-practiced CPR skills to work, the first on the scene at a code blue, later to catch a glimpse of the patient and family in the hallway on the day of discharge?

Or, was it when I held her hand when it was time to take that first look after cancer claimed her breast, then taught her how to cope, go on and look and feel her best?

When did I first know that I made a difference?

Was it when I called that gruff physician one more time to let him know that the patient needed more pain medication, then saw the trauma patient sleep for the first time in days?

Or, was it when I got creative and searched for just the right pouch for her ostomy and saved her from discomfort and embarrassment?

It might have been when I came back into the patient’s room even when there were no more ordered tasks to do, because she seemed scared, but more importantly, because I cared.

Or, it might have been when I got up in the morning not feeling one hundred percent, and mustered the energy to be there at work because I knew I had a large share in how things went.

When did I first know that I made a difference?

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