Below is the speech given by College of Southern Maryland (CSM) alumna and registered nurse Amber Hutchins who served as keynote speaker at CSM’s June 5, 2020 virtual Nursing Recognition and Pinning Ceremony.
Congratulations. Congratulations to your family and friends. Congratulations to another successful semester for the Nursing Faculty and most of all, congratulations to the graduating students.
I have been absolutely honored to be asked to speak today. For those of you that do not know, I graduated from this very nursing program, with some of these faculty members. And I have come full circle to have the honor to come back and teach these young men and women. I met many of you week 1 and continued to be honored to teach and guide you through your entire first year. Some of you returned to me, visiting me in the nursing lab for guidance, questions or just to vent. I was privileged enough to offer mentorship and reassurance that it IS possible to make it through this program. I am living proof of that. And now you are too.
You made it through this grueling program. You attended lectures, read chapters, went to clinicals, passed check offs and spent hours upon hours studying, mostly panicking, but we will call it studying.” You accomplished the goal. But you need to remember what you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. And now, after all of that, it is time to set new ones. You are about to jump headfirst into the nursing community. A community that can be harsh, abrasive and headstrong. A community that will push you harder, even when you feel you can go no further. Because despite being harsh or headstrong, nursing is filled with compassion, strength, courage and tenacity. And we know you will be pushed to your edge over and over again throughout your career. And you will survive.
For the 18th straight year, Nursing has been rated as the number one most ethical and honest profession in America. 85% of polled Americans felt that our ethical standards are “high or very high.” 85%… Nursing ranked higher than physicians, dentists and pharmacists. So what does that say to you? What it says to me, as a Registered Nurse, is that I have the ability to engage and escort people through very difficult times in their lives. Sometimes it is their own illness or the illness of a loved one. But they have that trust in me to provide them with effective and accurate care. But this honor comes with some work. We have to continue to work together to maintain that respect from the community and from our peers. We have to continue to ask questions, research and learn about the most up to date and effective evidence based nursing.
You have probably heard that change is impossible to avoid in nursing. And there are no truer words ever spoken. Change is the only given in this profession. Even since you have begun nursing school, since you began your 4th semester, the landscape of nursing has changed.
The emergence of APN and other nursing roles as well as technological advances has changed the way nursing operates as a whole in a very short period of time.
Advanced Practice Nursing has brought a new dynamic to healthcare by assuming an independent role in improving access to affordable and reliable healthcare. Serving under-served communities and taking into consideration with renewed vigor, social determinants of health. So many factors impact healthcare. It is not just reliant on money. Geography, race, education, community, biology and access to affordable and healthy food are just a few of the determinants that impact healthcare so dramatically.
Advanced Practice Nursing is helping to break down these barriers and meet communities and individuals where they are to ensure an improved overall outcome in the health of Americans.
New nursing roles have emerged over the years to accommodate the ever changing landscape. We have finally embraced the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Virtual care nursing, informatics nursing, Care management and health coaching are a few examples of these new and exciting platforms in which the nursing profession is shaping the future of healthcare. The focus of healthcare has begun moving from illness based to wellness based. That shift pushes for the offensive treatment, or the prevention of disease vs providing defensive care in treating the preventable problem. This dramatically improves the quality of life, health care expenditure and overall population health. The opportunities are endless in this career and I cannot think of another profession that has the flexibility and broad reach as nursing does.
Despite all the positive changes in the world of nursing, there are also negative changes. In 2014, we were confronted with an appearance of Ebola in the United States. We adapted and found ways to isolate and prevent the massive spread of a devastating disease, all while we were not educated or equipped to manage it here in the US. Nurses were aware that they weren’t prepared, yet they still pushed through to provide care to the first known cases of Ebola in the US. Someone had to care for the patients impacted and knowing the risks, they continued to do what they needed to with what they had to work with. Ultimately two American Nurses contracted the disease.
They both recovered but the risk they placed themselves in was necessary, brave and selfless.
Fast forward…December 2019. A new form of “pneumonia like illness” was quickly traveling throughout China. Moving international over December and early January. By January 21st 2020, 33 days after the first Chinese case presented, the first US case presented in Washington State. Think back to the Ebola issue. Even though we here, in the US were not well versed in the management of the disease, there were international resources that could be tapped into for insight and assistance. With this new disease, however, there was no help, limited knowledge a whole lot of fear. The ability for news to travel and information to be shared left the world reeling in response to a new devastating form of a virus that was proving to be highly contagious, viciously virulent and terrifying.
So…What do nurses do when everyone is mandated to be hunkered down at home for fear of this new reality? They get up, put on their scrubs, comfortable nursing shoes and get to work. Just like every other day. Were we scared? Yes. We still are.
Scared for the health of these patients, with an ever present internal dialogue of “Am I going to get sick?” Will I take this home to my loved ones?” “Do I know enough to make a difference in combating a disease that no one knows much about?” But despite that dialogue nurses put on that Personal protective equipment and get in there to do their jobs. But that’s not all…Nurses always have to be overachievers right? Nurses found ways to employ other avenues of care. Use of telemedicine, phone calls, care management, social work, navigating community resources and perhaps most importantly… community education. Scraping at every resource to ensure patients had what they needed. Because that is what nurses do. They are compassionate, impactful, resourceful and innovative. And you…all of you… are now part of that community.
Again, I want to reiterate how proud I am of all of your individual successes. How proud I am of how you came together as a community of students to propel yourself to your goals. You supported and cheered each other on. Where one student lacked knowledge, another was there to help you understand. Where one student lacked confidence another was there to look you in the eyes and tell you “you’ve got this.” Nursing school is a very tiny community that prepares you mentally for the real nursing community. So as you move forward into your career, don’t forget those who supported you. The best way to honor and recognize this support is to pay it forward to others.
Maya Angelou said it best: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Amber Hutchins, MSN, RN