I have the pleasure of teaching in the classroom and leading nursing students through critical care clinical rotations. For some, it is their first experience with the death of a patient—and I must help them through it.
During one shift, an elderly woman was admitted with no one accompanying her. The patient’s status deteriorated rapidly, and she coded. The students remained professional, working alongside the nurses to perform emergency interventions. After coding several times, the physicians decided that when her heart stopped again, no additional resuscitative measures would be performed.
This moment was a profound experience. The students stood silent, displaying a curious mix of emotions on their faces. With confidence, hiding the sudden twinge in the back of my throat, I asked, “What can we do to make her more comfortable?”
The students quickly responded and acted. Explaining what happened is difficult to put into words. They washed her face and changed her into a clean gown. Like me, the students seemed honored, yet humbled, to be doing this for her. Even though our clinical day was over, the students did not want their patient to die alone. We sat, quietly holding her hand, until she passed away an hour later.
Afterward, the students asked me, “How can you handle this all of the time?” I shared that my strength comes from understanding that I work on this side of heaven. Life and death are ultimately in God’s hands. When a situation is particularly tough, I recall 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (NIV).
As a nurse, I value both nursing science and caring practices. I also believe nursing is an expression of God’s love, knowledge, and power. As I prayerfully care for patients and teach nursing students, I am discovering God is not only doing something through me, he is doing something in me.
Success is not about what I do in the classroom; rather, it is about what I can inspire my students to accomplish as nurses, because of God’s love and dependence on him. I want to encourage and inspire them to reach their full potential.
April Trenary, MS, RN is a clinical instructor at Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center. This excerpt is from the article, “From the Other Side of the Podium,” Journal of Christian Nursing July-September 2017. Find more articles for nurse educators in the JCN Topical Collection, Called to Teach.