by April Everett

Good morning. My name is April Everett and I am so grateful for the privilege to stand before you today on behalf of my accelerated option class. Wow! What a year! This year has been described as one of the most difficult yet rewarding years of our lives. I’m sure everyone here can attest to that. While each of us sitting here today has a different background, a different story, and likely a different reason we chose nursing, we are all now connected because of this year we spent together.

The accelerated option, or AO, class is very unique. This fast-paced year long program is offered to those who have successfully completed a Bachelor’s degree and have the desire to return to school for nursing. Some are fresh out of college while others were mid-career and decided to come back to school. Regardless of the reason, we all chose nursing. We all chose to spend a year of our lives together to embark on our dream of becoming a nurse. The AO program is a fast paced, intense year of study and commitment. Most of us agree that no one could have possibly prepared us for the ride we were going to embark on last August. It’s been a ride like no other and one that none of us would trade if we could. We’ve spend the last year with countless hours in front of a laptop, in a classroom, in hospitals, and away from our families and friends. We have grown united because of this and will forever be connected.

As I mentioned earlier, we all likely have a different reason that we were called to nursing. I’d like to share mine with you. My mother has a heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. In simpler terms, the muscles in her heart are thicker than they should be, which requires her heart to work extremely hard. She was diagnosed with this condition when she was 44. At the age of 45, she had open heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The doctor’s performed a septal myectomy where they removed a portion of her septum from her heart. This surgery was done with hopes that her heart would function more efficiently. And it did… for a while. Since that surgery, my mother has had multiple hospital stays and various procedures. She has had 6+ cardiac conversions, multiple cardiac ablations, a pacemaker, a defibrillator, and a diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure.

Throughout this journey, my family has spent countless hours in hospitals. We have learned the role of healthcare providers and specifically the role of nurses in patient care. Our family was reliant on the knowledge and guidance of the nurses throughout this process. I’m referring to the nurses that spent hours answering questions, most of which were probably repeated because we were tired, confused, and scared. Our nurses prayed with our family, held our hands when we cried, and gave us hope when we were lost. When I realized the impact nurses can have not only on patients, but on families, I knew it was where I belonged. I wanted to become the nurse that would impact lives. To this day, we still talk to several of my mom’s nurses, and I truly believe they are the reason my mom is here in the audience today. I’m not discounting the doctors’ amazing work… I’m thankful to them too. But, at the end of the day, it was the nurses’ that got us through the daily struggle of her diagnosis and care and continues to help us in her treatments.

Just like many of my classmates, making the decision to go back to school wasn’t easy. It was one that would require sacrifice not only from ourselves, but from our families. Each of you can agree that it hasn’t been easy. As a class, we’ve spent countless hours away from our families, our friends, and our loved ones. We’ve missed parties, meals, family events, kids’ sporting events, and social events. Throughout this year, we’ve also learned that life doesn’t stop or slow down at all. In fact, we’ve experienced and shared in joys and sorrows together. We’ve experienced the joy of new life as one of our classmates gave birth to a beautiful boy. We’ve had the joys of pregnancy, the joy of marriage, and the joy of buying our first homes and dream cars. We’ve also experienced the loss of loved ones, the sickness of loved ones where we’ve become the caregivers, deployment, and heartache. We’ve cried together: happy tears, sad tears, and sometimes tears for no reason at all. We’ve prayed together. We’ve held each other up as we stressed from test to test, wondering if we were going to make it through. Throughout it all, we grew from classmates to family. We became connected and that is something that will never change or be broken. No matter where our paths lead us, or how many miles apart we are, because of this year we are always family.

To say the words ‘thank you’ to those who have walked beside us doesn’t seem to be enough. We are grateful for the husbands, wives, children, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents and grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, friends that stood beside us. Whether we saw you daily or we haven’t seen you in a year, we are grateful beyond words for your love and support.

Thank you to our faculty. We know you work tirelessly to make this year a success and prepare us for our journey as nurses. Your efforts and work are greatly appreciated. Since ‘thank you’ can never be enough, we as a group can promise you that we will go into this world and be fantastic nurses. We will be the light for people on their dark days. We will work tirelessly to show love to those who are at their weakest points. We will be confident in our nursing and we will always strive to be the best. Maya Angelou says, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead purse the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you,” and that is exactly what we will do!

Last week, during one of my last clinical shifts on the Oncology unit, I came home feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. One of my patients who I had grown close to was declining quickly before my eyes. That never gets easy to watch. Someone I love very much knew I was having a hard time and sent me something to remind me of just how special nurses are. I’d like to share what he sent to me to you today. It’s called ‘When God Made Nurses’ and the author is unknown:

When the Lord made nurses He was in his sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.” The Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order?”

“A nurse has to be able to help an injured person, breathe life into a dying person, give comfort to a family that has lost their only child, and not wrinkle their uniform. They have to be able to lift three times their own weight, work 12 to 16 hours straight without missing a detail, and console a grieving mother as they are doing CPR on a baby they know will never breathe again. They have to be in top mental condition at all times, running on too-little sleep, black coffee, and half-eaten meals. And they have to have six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands? No way.”

“It’s not the hands that are causing me the problems,” said the Lord, “It’s the two pairs of eyes a nurse has to have.”

“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.

The Lord nodded. “One pair that does quick glances while making note of any physical changes, and another pair of eyes that can look reassuringly at a bleeding patient and say, “You’ll be alright, ma’am” when they know it isn’t so.”

“Lord,” said the angel, touching his sleeve, “rest and work on this tomorrow.”

“I can’t,” said the Lord, “I already have a model that can talk to a 250 pound grieving family member whose child has been hit by a drunk driver, who by the way, is in the next room uninjured and also be able to feed a family of five on a nurse’s paycheck.”

The angel circled the model of the nurse very slowly.

“Can it think?” she asked. “You bet,” said the Lord. “It can tell you the symptoms of 100 illnesses, recite drug calculations in its sleep, intubate, defibrillate, mediate, and continue CPR nonstop until help arrives and still keep its sense of humor.”

“The nurse also has phenomenal personal control. They can deal with a multi-victim trauma, coax a frightened elderly person to unlock their door, comfort a murder victim’s family, and then read in the daily paper how nurses are insensitive, uncaring, and are just doing a job.”

Finally, the angel bent over and rand her finder across the cheek of the nurse. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model.”

“That’s not a leak,” said the Lord. “It’s a tear.”

“What is the tear for?” asked the angel.

“It’s for bottled up emotions, for patients they’ve tried in vain to save, for commitment to that hope that they will make a difference in a person’s chance to survive, for life.”

“You’re a genius,” said the angel.

The Lord looked somber. “I didn’t put it there,” He said.

Our journey is just beginning. We will leave here today as recipients of a BSN. Congratulations to all of us for achieving this! We have another hurdle in front of us within the next 90 days with the NCLEX. I am confident that each of us will prepare and successfully complete this hurdle as we have completed so many over this past year.

As we leave here today, we will hold our heads high and confidently go into the world knowing we have earned more than a degree. We have earned the privilege to be part of a profession that is far greater than each of us. We are NURSE… what’s you’re superpower?

Congratulations Class of 2017. We did it!