In the Army I learned what it meant to never give up as well as what it meant to succeed. I quickly mastered my mind and body to overcome many challenges. I learned the value of hard work along with the pride of serving my country. My time in Iraq revealed the burdens and difficulties that most people around the world face every day and gave me a deep sense of appreciation for my life. It was a time for personal growth and reflection where I discovered a joy in helping those in need.
Over the years I have learned that my joy comes from helping others and have witnessed the large impact a small gesture has. Caring for patients with compassion and kindness can transcend cultural boundaries and provide a foundation for stronger and more productive relationships. As a new nurse in the emergency department (ED) I am humbled by the opportunity to help people at their most vulnerable and difficult time. It is a very fast-paced environment where time is quite limited, but even small gestures, like a warm smile, can foster a relationship. These small gestures with great compassion can have a large impact; just as a long journey is composed of countless small, seemingly inconsequential, steps.
Mother Teresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Her passion and conviction for serving mankind through small gestures has traversed the globe and left a large impact. Her humility and helpfulness are envied by people everywhere and provide a model for anyone seeking to make a positive impact. She inspires me to find small ways, every day, to make a positive and meaningful impact. Through my efforts, I have built many strong relationships.
As a new nurse it can be overwhelming and uncomfortable to be so inexperienced in a stressful and chaotic environment. The other nurses perform their role with effortless precision warranted by years of training and experience. Their skills have been honed over many years to produce an effortless orchestration of procedures and interventions methodically carried out during the most critical moment in a patient’s life. My heart races from adrenaline, and my education and training escape my thought process, leaving me a taciturn observer in awe.
It is a humbling experience when people entrust their lives and the lives of their loved ones into another person’s hands. Hidden beneath the latex gloves are hands that compressed a heart during resuscitation, started an I.V. after a traumatic injury, and held a hand while expressing condolences to the surviving family members in mourning. The nurse’s hands have helped the helpless, given hope to the hopeless, and restored life to the dead. It is with great humility that I serve others but at times I can only do the small things (sometimes feeling insecure about the level of competence I possess), while watching more experienced nurses navigate emergencies and traumas with ease.
As a soldier, I have witnessed true sacrifice and I learned to selflessly serve others by putting their needs above my own. As a father, I learned compassion; the same compassion needed to deliver delicate news to an anxious patient. As a patient, I have learned the value of treating people, not their diseases. I have learned through all these situations that I am able to serve in the many roles, including supporter, provider, and friend…but most importantly, I realized that I am a better version of myself when I am helping others.
Eric Keller is an RN in the emergency department at Cleveland Clinic Akron General in Akron, Ohio.